When the weather warms up, motorcycle riders get the itch to get out on the open road. While this is a popular recreational activity for many, it’s important to follow the rules of the road and safety precautions. The National Safety Council reported more than 80% of all reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death. It’s critical to know your machine and continually educate yourself on rider safety.
Motorcycle Safety Tips
- Dress for safety
Although Wisconsin does not have a helmet law, unless you are under 18 or have a learner’s permit, a helmet is the most critical safety measure. A full faced helmet is recommended to offer the most protection. When purchasing a helmet, look for the DOT sticker, which guarantees the helmet meets safety standards required by law. If you do not have a full faced helmet, it is required to always wear eye protection such as goggles or glasses to protect your eyes from wind, debris and sun. Make sure your clothing appropriately protects your body from rocks, road debris and the outside elements. A jacket not only keeps you warm, but motorcyclists often wear leather because it is durable and abrasion resistant, providing good protection against injury. Many jackets are made of fabrics that are wind-resistant, waterproof or have high-visibility properties, all important to riders. Also, wear boots that cover your ankles and long pants. This not only protects your legs from debris but also from hot exhaust pipes.
- Be visible
- Wear reflective clothing to increase your visibility on the road.
- It is required to always have your headlight on at all times, day or night.
- Always use your turn signals.
- If possible, avoid riding at night as it’s harder for other drivers to see you and you risk increased deer movement.
- Be aware when riding in rain, fog or inclement weather where your visibility would be reduced and road conditions could be slippery.
- Always drive sober
According to the National Safety Council, approximately 28% of all motorcyclists killed while riding were alcohol impaired. Even low, legal limits of BAC increase your risk while riding a motorcycle as it slows your reaction time and impairs your decision making ability. When driving a motor vehicle, always stay attentive and avoid being impaired in any form which also includes being tired.
- Riding in proximity to other cars
Motorcycles are relatively small and easily overlooked by other cars. It’s important to drive defensively at all times, especially in intersections. Avoid riding next to another car unless you are passing. This includes staying out of their blind spot. A good rule of thumb is to leave two car lengths following distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you in case of an abrupt stop or change in movement.
- Be Alert of Road Hazards
Use the Search-Evaluate-Execute strategy (SEE) to assess and respond to hazards. Be aware of your surroundings and constantly be scanning the road for potholes, bumps and foreign objects. Watch the car patterns ahead of you and note any movements if they are swerving to avoid something but keep in mind cars can drive over an object in the road that a motorcycle cannot.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers safety booklets, downloadable Rider Course handbooks, videos, quick tips and more. They also can help you find a motorcycle safety course near you.