As we enter the month of May, it is a time when many riders are getting back on their motorcycles and hitting the road. But it isn’t just riders that need to think about their safety, drivers also play a part in motorcycle safety. We all share the road and must all keep an eye out for each other.
According to Brake, on average, a cyclist or motorcyclist is killed or seriously injured every hour, on British roads. There were a total of 9,740 deaths or serious injuries in 2017 or an average of one bike death or serious injury every hour.
Drivers must remain alert when driving, to help keep motorcycle riders safe. Motorcyclists are also reminded to make themselves visible to drivers that aren’t looking out for them. Both riders and drivers must be aware of their surroundings at all times. Checking blind spots, mirrors and using turn signals are necessary when changing lanes and when passing but these are only the beginning of motorcycle safety.
What Drivers Need to Know About Motorcycles
- There are a lot more cars and trucks on the roads than there are motorcycles. Always keep an eye out for motorcycles, especially when checking traffic at an intersection.
- Due to their size, motorcycles can often appear farther away than they actually are. It is also hard to judge how fast they are going. Always assume that they are closer than they look.
- Motorcycles can easily be hidden in your blind spots. Take a few extra moments to thoroughly check traffic before turning or changing lanes.
- Motorcyclists will often slow down by downshifting or simply rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds.
- Turn signals on a motorcycle are not usually self-canceling. Some riders, especially beginners, may forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change.
- Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind.
- Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can’t always stop quickly.
Safety Tips for Motorcycle Riders
1. Understand Your Motorcycle
Each motorcycle is different. Take the time to get accustomed to the feel of a new or unfamiliar motorcycle before heading out on the road. You should know how to handle the motorcycle in all conditions and if you plan to carry cargo or a passenger, be ready and prepared to make adjustments to the tires, suspension, and placement of the load.
2. Check the Motorcycle Before Riding
Before getting on the motorcycle and riding off you need to take the time to check it over and make sure that it is safe to do so first. Things to check include:
- Tire pressure
- Tread depth
- Hand and foot brakes
- Headlights and signal indicators
- Fluid levels
- Check for any leaks
- If you’re carrying cargo, secure and balance the load. Adjust the suspension and tire pressure to accommodate the extra weight.
- If you’re carrying a passenger, they should mount the motorcycle only after the engine has started, sit as far forward as possible, and should keep both feet on the foot rests at all times. Remind them to keep their legs and feet away from the muffler. Tell them to keep movement to a minimum and lean at the same time and in the same direction as you do.
3. Protective Equipment
Protective clothing is made for a reason. It is to minimise injury if you come off the bike. If you have a serious accident, a good helmet could literally save your life and you must wear it any time that you are on the bike.
Any helmet worn on British roads must meet one of the following requirements:
- British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI Kitemark
- UNECE Regulation 22.05
- A European Economic Area member standard offering at least the same safety and protection as BS 6658:1985, and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark
If you ride with a visor or goggles they must either:
- Meet a British Standard and display a BSI Kitemark
- Meet a European standard offering at least the same safety and protection as the British Standard and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark (UNECE Regulation 22.05)
There is no law about wearing other protective clothing, but specialised motorcycle gear is highly recommended as it could save your life.
In the US, you should look for the DOT (Department of Transportation) symbol on the outside back of the helmet which shows that the helmet meets the DOT standard.
- Never leave your helmet behind on short trips, it may prove to be a fatal mistake.
- If your helmet doesn’t have a face shield to protect you from wind, rain, insects, dust, and stones, be sure you wear goggles.
Keep your arms and completely covered when riding for extra protection. Boots or shoes should be high enough to cover your ankles, while gloves allow for a better grip and help protect your hands in the event of a crash. Wearing brightly colored clothing with reflective material will make you more visible to other vehicle drivers.
4. Responsible Riding
Keep to the laws of the road at all times. A smart rider would never take unnecessary risks. Obey all traffic lights, road signs, speed limits, and lane markings, and always leave plenty of room between your bike and other vehicles. Be aware of other road users at all times and make the proper checks and use of signals before turning or changing lanes.
5. Be Clear-Headed
It is common sense that you should never ride your motorcycle after consuming any alcohol or drugs. You also have to be very careful about any prescription medications that you take as some of these can negatively affect your judgment, coordination, balance, throttle control, and ability to shift gears.
Have fun, ride smart, be safe!