Let’s start off by stating the absolute truth: there is no safe way to ride a motorcycle. No matter how safe you ride, how many precautions you take, and how much equipment you have, you cannot stop an automobile or truck from running you over. That is the unfortunate truth about riding. As motorcycle riders, we are invisible to much of the driving world. Even when they are paying attention they simply do not see us. When you’re riding, the first rule you must always remember is to keep “your head on a swivel“ and recognize that you are invisible to everyone around you. Always be aware that a driver can pull out even after you have made eye contact with the driver. If you keep that in the back of your mind at all times it will help to keep you safe.
After just one ride on a motorcycle, not only will you be addicted to the freedom, sense of adventure, and lifestyle, but you’ll also recognize that riding a motorcycle is much different from driving a car. It requires a different more active skillset. It is a more sophisticated activity and requires greater mental acuity as well as athleticism to do the job well. If you develop the right skills and you wear the right equipment you can minimize your risk make motorcycle riding safe and fun.
Here are a few motorcycle safety tips:
- Number one: make an investment in the best protective gear you can find. This includes a full face shield and/or protective goggles. We recommend you wear the face shield with your helmet for the best protection. By wearing a great helmet you will minimize your risk and do the best job protecting your most important asset, your brain! Do you realize that you are 500% more likely to sustain a serious injury without a helmet? It’s true!
- Your clothing should minimize skin exposure and maximize protection. Leather is an excellent choice, even though in Florida it can be hot. Wearing protective boots with souls that will not easily slide off the foot pedals is very important. You should also consider gloves to protect your hands. Much of the expensive gear on the market today have reflection properties built into the gear itself. However, if you do not have this additional light-reflective gear you should purchase some reflective tape and attach it to your clothing so that surrounding drivers have a greater opportunity to see you at night.
- It is incredibly important to follow traffic rules while driving a motorcycle. There are many individuals who ride their motorcycles in an extremely responsible manner. It is unfortunate that the minority who ride irresponsibly, exceeding the speed limit, cutting in and out of traffic or in between traffic (crazy), give all of us a bad name. This is not only incredibly dangerous but prejudices the public against motorcycle riders and makes it difficult for us to lobby for pro-motorcycle rights.
- Always remember the faster you go the longer it takes to stop. You may believe your perception/reaction time is fantastic, but in truth, everything involving speed, time, and distance is a simple math formula. No matter how quickly you want to maneuver your bike, those factors that the laws of physics will always apply. Beware of the consequences of driving irresponsibly.
- As we noted earlier you must always ride in a sensible matter. Always assume that every driver on the road does not see you. The statistics are staggering. Over 67% of motorcycle accidents are caused by the car or truck violating motorcycle driver’s right of way. In almost all of those instances, the driver testified that the motorcycle “came out of nowhere.” Be aware when you are driving or riding in a blind spot. Cars driving in blind spots are hard enough to see, motorcycles are almost impossible. When you are near a car either pass them or stay behind them. But do not ride along the back 2/3 of any vehicle or you are likely in a blind spot.
- You should also always keep your headlights on. Riding without a headlight makes you all the more invisible. Even with the headlight, you are not well seen. Having a double headlight does help. Having them separated across the front of the bike helps even more. It does not look “cool” but it helps drivers see you. Regardless, always keep your headlight(s) on. Always use your turn signals as well. That may sound silly because you probably use them without this advice. But you would be surprised how many motorcyclist riders enjoy maneuver a turn without using their signals. It makes no sense but it happens too often. Please don’t do this. It looks erratic to car and truck drivers on the road around.
- Before riding a motorcycle make sure you are properly educated and trained to do the job. Practice off main streets before taking your bike out for a spin around town. Make sure that you undergo a training course that teaches the rules of the road and works on the skills you need to safely ride your motorcycle. Once you start riding, keep up your skills. You cannot put your bike in the garage for seven months and expect to have the same skills when you get back on the bike. It is not what the old proverb “ just like riding a bike again.” Take some time and practice the skills before going back out on the street. Also, keep your license up to date.
- Make sure you are always alert, awake and sober when riding a motorcycle. There are many people who go to a bar drink a beer or two and drive a car home safely. I am not condoning this behavior but it is far easier to drive a car home with two beers under your belt compared to a motorcycle. Do not drink and drive. Do not smoke marijuana/pot and ride! Do not take any prescription pain medication and ride, this includes not only narcotics but muscle relaxants as well! If you are in pain for any reason do not ride your motorcycle. This is an athletic endeavor. It takes muscle strength, coordination and balance to properly ride a motorcycle. If you are hurt, tired, or drunk you are bound to get hurt or hurt someone else!
- Check your equipment before you ride! Motorcycles are more temperamental than cars. When things go wrong it is usually far worse for the operator of the motorcycle. Check your tires once a week. Look for any defects or worn spots including bulging areas or cracks in the tire or tread. Make sure your tire pressure is correct. Low-pressure tire causes tremendous damage when they blow. Make sure your motorcycle is not leaking any fluids, including gas or oil. Make sure your headlights and taillights are all functioning properly including your turn signals.
- Complete a short equipment checklist before you pull away on your motorcycle. It will help ensure all the functions of riding the motorcycle are working properly. First make sure your mirrors are properly placed, tight and won’t move or become blown off-center by the wind. They need to hold tight so that you can constantly see around you. Make sure that your clutch works properly as well as your throttle. Make sure that your brakes are also working well. They should not squeak, bounce, wobble, or in any other way underperform. Check your horn as well.
Only after going through all of the steps can you minimize the risk of riding your motorcycle. This may sound onerous, especially at the beginning of learning to ride. But once you are good at going through your checklist and making sure you have the proper equipment and training, and your motorcycle is in good working order, you can truly get on and enjoy the incredible pleasure of riding your motorcycle. I promise it’s well worth it!
A final bit of advice. Make sure you have adequate insurance. Not only should you buy “bodily injury” insurance, but always get “uninsured motorist” coverage as well. Most drivers in Florida do not have adequate insurance to cover their injuries. I would suggest a minimum of $100,000 of uninsured motorist coverage. If possible purchase an umbrella policy that includes an uninsured motorist rider. If you have questions or need help understanding insurance do not hesitate to call our office.
Have fun and stay safe out there!!!