Our Los Angeles motorcycle lawyers understand that most riders are alpha males who dislike being cosseted. We also appreciate riding your motorcycle feels like freedom. For many men who served in the military, in particular, the cool breeze running through their hair and the warm sun bouncing off the pavement can feel like paradise. However, motorcycle riding can be quite a dangerous hobby for even the most experienced motorcycle rider. And no man is indestructible.
Distracted driving and overreliance on vehicle safety technology are real problems for bikers. According to the Hurt Report, published by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration in 1981, at least 75% of motorcycle accidents were caused because other motor vehicle operators failed to see the motorcycle. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proclaimed that motorcyclists were 28 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than people riding inside a car. Brain injuries and wrongful death are far more likely to happen when riding a motorcycle than inside a bus, truck, or passenger car.
With statistics like these, novice and experienced motorcycle riders must obey the speed limit and take unpredictable riding situations seriously. Two wheels are far less stable than four, but riding a motorcycle also has safety advantages in avoiding an emergency, according to the experts we hire.
SPECIAL TIP: At the outset, we can’t stress enough how vital correct tire pressure is and warming up tires in extremely cold weather riding. Don’t allow a motorcycle safety course and appropriate safety gear to give you a false sense of security, and follow these tips if they apply to the harsh reality of the situation.
Here are 10 motorcycle safety tips to help motorcycle owners make driving motorcycles less dangerous:
1. Inspect Before Motorcycle Riding
You have to inspect your motorcycle each time you hit the streets regularly. This step remains a critical safety practice to help ensure your bike runs properly. This process also helps riders identify and address serious problems before they become deadly.
Here’s a breakdown of the critical components for a motorcycle rider to include in their pre-ride checklist:
- You really have to test your headlights, taillights, and turn signals to ensure they function correctly. Good visibility is essential for both you and other road users.
- You must always check your tire pressure at least once a week, as tire pressure can affect handling and stability. Consult your motorcycle’s manual for the recommended tire pressure.
- Always inspect your tires for wear, including sidewall cracks, bulges, frayed, exposed steel belts, or worn-out treads. You have to replace worn or damaged tires right away or risk being killed from a blowout!
- Fluid Leaks:
- Take some time to peer underneath your motorcycle for oil or gas leaks, which means your engine or fuel system may have to be fixed.
- Hydraulic and Coolant Fluids:
- Check the levels of hydraulic fluids (such as brake and clutch fluid) and coolant regularly since low fluid levels harm your motorcycle’s performance and safety.
- Ensure that these fluids are clean and free from contaminants. Dirty or discolored fluids may need to be flushed and replaced.
In addition to these checks, here are a few more items to consider when inspecting your motorcycle:
- Test your brakes to ensure they are responsive and effective. Check both the front and rear brakes. Listen for any unusual noises or vibrations when applying the brakes, as these can be signs of brake issues.
- Inspect your suspension components for any visible damage or signs of wear. Proper suspension is essential for stable and laid-back riding.
- Chain (if applicable):
- Check the chain tension and lubrication if your motorcycle has a chain drive, as this remains crucial for you to enjoy smooth and safe riding when you hit the streets.
- You must take steps to ensure the throttle, clutch, and brakes operate smoothly and without any resistance, as this could become a real safety issue on your next road trip.
- Adjust your mirrors to provide a clear view behind you, keeping mirrors adjusted right to help you see your surroundings.
- Horn and Horn Switch:
- Test your horn to ensure it’s working correctly. A functional horn can be a valuable safety tool to alert other road users to your presence.
2. Always Wear a Helmet with Protective Eyewear or a Face Shield
Wearing a helmet with protective eyewear or a face shield is crucial for motorcycle safety, and it’s a point that cannot be stressed enough.
Here are some additional points related to helmet use:
- Choose a DOT-Approved Helmet: I think a full-face helmet can help protect far better against flying objects like broken asphalt, cement, or gravel. However, in super hot or warm weather, they can be stifling. DOT-approved helmets are a primary safety feature for riders, providing significant protection in an accident. The statistics you provided from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) highlight the importance of wearing helmets. Look for the DOT sticker or label to ensure it complies with Federal and State safety regulations.
- Properly Fit Your Helmet: A helmet that doesn’t fit properly is not proper protective gear. Ensure it fits snugly and securely on your head without being too tight to restrict blood flow. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for fitting.
- Replace After a Crash: If you’re involved in an accident where your helmet is impacted, even if it doesn’t appear damaged, it is evidence for your insurance claim, and it must be secured in a safe area to protect the chain of custody. Helmets are designed to absorb impact energy, and their effectiveness can be compromised after a crash, so you can never wear them again.
- Use Protective Eye Wear or a Face Shield: In addition to the helmet, protective eyewear or a face shield is vital to shield your eyes from debris, insects, wind, and other potential hazards that can affect your vision while riding.
- Helmet Visibility: Not all traffic rules require you to light up like a Christmas tree while riding. But it would help if you bought a motorcycle helmet with high visibility or added reflective elements to enhance your visibility to other motorists, especially during low-light conditions.
Remember, unlike some riding gear, wearing a helmet isn’t just a matter of personal choice; it’s often a legal requirement in many regions.
3. Wear Other Protective Safety Gear
We have all seen biker movies where some riders wear padded leather jackets and thick riding boots. Wearing protective gear, no matter how hot or cold the weather, is crucial for motorcycle safety and musn’t be overlooked. While it can be tempting to wear lighter clothing in hot weather, the risk of injury or death riding a motorcycle is too high to skimp on purchasing the best protective gear.
Here are some additional considerations:
- Hot Weather Gear: Specialized motorcycle gear for hot weather in San Bernardino, CA, will not be the right gear for winter riding in New York state. Accordingly, if you ride in SoCal, look for equipment with breathable fabrics, mesh panels, and venting to help keep you cool while protecting your motorcycle ride.
- Layering: You can wear moisture-wicking base layers underneath your protective gear to help manage sweat and stay cozy in hot weather.
- Full Coverage: Ensure your protective gear covers all vulnerable areas, including your arms, legs, and body. Combining leather, armored textiles, or other abrasion-resistant materials can provide the best protection.
- Proper Fit: Make sure your gear fits well. Ill-fitting gear can be uncomfortable and provide inadequate protection in an accident.
- Boots and Gloves: As you mentioned, proper boots with nonskid soles and protective gloves are essential. Boots should provide ankle support and protection, while gloves should offer palm and wrist protection.
- Dress for the Slide, Not the Ride: Motorcycle safety experts have said wearing gear protects riders from road rash and other injuries during a slide-out.
- Consider Cooling Vests: We already know if you choose to ride in sweltering conditions, cooling vests and related apparel with evaporative cooling built in can help regulate body temperature, preventing you from tiring or dehydrating quickly.
- Stay Hydrated: Unfortunately, riding motorcycles in hot weather can and does lead to dehydration. This can affect overall concentration and accident response reaction times. So you have to know that drinking plenty of water before and during your ride remains vital, taking rest stops, etc.
Following these above tips can significantly increase rider safety and well-being.
4. Motorcycle Riders – Stay Inside Your Comfort Zone
Don’t assume you are a Hell’s Angel with years of experience riding unless you really are! Riding within your comfort zone is a fundamental principle of motorcycle safety. Bike fit, chosen route familiarity, and riding at your own pace are all essential considerations for a safe and enjoyable ride. Follow traffic rules and stay out of other driver’s blind spots, for crying out loud! Always have an escape route for the riding conditions and change lanes carefully.
Special TIP: And don’t forget, although lane splitting is legal in CA, it is illegal in states like Nevada!
Let’s explore these ideas further:
- Proper Bike Fit:
- Ensuring your motorcycle fits you well is just as crucial as protective clothing from my perspective as a personal injury attorney. You should be able to reach the ground with both feet when seated comfortably.
- Handlebars, foot controls, and mirrors should be adjusted to your liking to ensure you have complete control and visibility.
- Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are pretty standard on many newer bikes, but other safety features like a windshield can help you better see the road ahead and should also be considered. Your riding course instructor will have additional safety tips every rider should take to heart to help stay out and avoid drivers’ blind spots.
- Bike Weight:
- The weight of your motorcycle should match your strength and comfort level. An overly heavy bike can be challenging, especially at low speeds or when parking.
- Consider the riding you plan and choose a bike that suits your needs and skill level. If you are in an M/C, you will want a bagger for long road trips; if you are a street racer, you will want a ricer bike, Cathay racer, etc.
- Route Familiarity:
- Riding a motorcycle requires skill and not just balance. It means taking time to meditate on your route. Depending on familiar ways allows you to focus more on safety and less on navigation.
- If you’re riding in an unfamiliar area, take your time to study the route for road hazards like potholes, and consider meeting up at a parking lot with fellow riders and using a GPS or a map to help with navigation and highway safety efforts.
TIP: Pay attention to breezy weather, especially in areas on the way to Nevada, where truck tipping over or jackknifing is risky. Consider leaving the highway when safe until it is clear or less windy outside.
- Group Riding:
- Riding with fellow riders can be enjoyable, but you must never feel pressured to keep up with others, especially on a floodplain in wet conditions. Everyone has their own comfort level and riding experience.
- Group leaders and road captains should set a safe and reasonable pace, and riding at your speed within the group is perfectly acceptable.
- Adjust to Changing Conditions:
- There is no umbrella for an open-air motorcycle on the move. Additionally, road conditions, including rain, sleet, snow, and traffic, can rapidly deteriorate during a ride. Constantly adapt your riding style to match the requirements.
- If you’re uncomfortable with the conditions (e.g., heavy rain or strong winds), consider pulling over and waiting until it’s safer to continue. Pay attention to puddles that could conceal potholes. Evaporation takes time, especially during the winter.
- Regular Skill Development:
- Continuously work on improving your riding skills through practice and training. The more confident you become, the greater your confidence as a rider.
- Listen to Your Instincts:
- If something doesn’t feel right during a ride, trust your instincts. It’s better to err on caution and promptly address any concerns.
Most of all, motorcycling should be enjoyable, safe, and fun for all involved. So try to be calm, clear your mind, and take the necessary precautions to foster a positive and secure journey as you venture out.
5. Check the Forecast
Checking the forecast before you go for a motorcycle ride is an intelligent and safety-conscious practice. Inclement weather can significantly increase the risk of accidents and make riding conditions extremely hazardous.
Here are some safety tips for your motorcycle riding routine:
- Check the Weather Forecast:
- Before you head out for a ride, take a few minutes to check the forecast for your planned route. Pay attention to not only the current conditions but also the forecast for the duration of your ride.
- Avoid Riding in Extreme Conditions:
- If the forecast predicts rain, hail, ice, snow, or other extreme weather conditions, postponing your ride for a more suitable day is best.
- Riding in crappy weather can mean reduced traction, compromised visibility, and an increased risk of accidents for all types of riders.
- Plan for Shelter:
- If you’re already on the road and encounter unexpected lousy weather, seek shelter immediately. This could be under an overpass, at a gas station, or any other suitable location.
- Please do not attempt to ride through severe conditions, as it can be hazardous.
- Carry Rain Gear:
- If you anticipate encountering rain during your ride, consider carrying waterproof gear, such as a rain suit or rainproof covers for your equipment and luggage, or simply take an automobile instead of riding your bike.
- Stay Informed During the Ride:
- Weather conditions can change quickly, so stay informed while on the road. Use your smartphone or a GPS device to check for updated weather alerts or radar information if necessary. There are assistive devices to allow you to do this safely.
- Exercise Caution After Rain:
- Even after the rain stops, road surfaces may remain slippery. Be cautious when riding on wet roads, as they can be treacherous until dry.
- Wind Considerations:
- Strong winds, especially crosswinds, can also affect motorcycle stability. Be extra cautious when riding in particularly windy conditions, storms, and dust storms.
TIP: In a monsoon or sandstorm, pull as far off the road as you can, as big trucks and cars pulling over will not see you.
TIP: Stay hydrated, especially in states like Nevada and Arizona, as you can get heat stroke and drop your bike.
6. Each Motorcycle Rider Must Stay Defensive
Riding defensively is one of the most critical motorcycle safety skills. Motorcycles are less visible than most passenger vehicles, and taking proactive measures to protect yourself on the road is crucial.
Here are some critical defensive riding strategies to keep in mind:
- Keep Your Headlights On:
- Even during the day, riding with your headlights on increases your visibility to other motorists, significantly mitigating the likelihood of tragic road accidents.
- Stay Out of Blind Spots:
- Avoid riding in the blind spots of cars and trucks. These are areas where the drivers may not see you in their mirrors.
- When passing a vehicle, do so quickly and ensure you can see the driver’s face in their side mirror. This usually means you are visible to them.
- Signal in Advance:
- Use your turn signals well in advance of any maneuvers. Signaling early gives other drivers more time to react to your intentions.
- Maintain a Safe Following Distance:
- Keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you. Motorcycles require shorter stopping distances than cars, but you still need enough space to react in case of sudden stops or hazards.
- Anticipate Turning Vehicles:
- Watch for turning vehicles, especially at intersections, since some car drivers who may not see you and unsafely turn into your path.
- Avoid Riding in Poor Weather Conditions:
- Avoid riding in adverse weather conditions whenever possible, as reduced visibility and road traction make defensive riding more challenging.
- Use Defensive Riding Techniques:
- Always be prepared for the unexpected. Scan your surroundings constantly and be ready to react to potential hazards.
- Plan escape routes in case you need to evade a dangerous situation.
- Maintain a relaxed grip on the handlebars and keep both feet on the foot pegs for better control.
- Stay Informed and Educated:
- Continuously improve your riding skills through education and training, and take an advanced motorcycle safety course. Steps like this can enhance your defensive riding skills even in old age.
- Assume You’re Not Seen:
- Ride with the assumption that other drivers might not see you and stay alert and proactive in avoiding accidents.
- Wear High-Visibility Gear:
- Always wear high-visibility clothing, helmets, and accessories to make yourself more noticeable to other road users who could run you over.
If you adopt these defensive riding habits and stay vigilant, you can significantly reduce your exposure to potential accidents caused by other drivers’ mistakes or inattention, so do it.
7. Obey All Traffic Rules
At the outset, it is important to stress that loud pipes save lives. But like Jake Brakes, law enforcement may ticket you if they are too loud. Obeying all traffic rules and regulations is fundamental to safe riding.
Here are some key points to emphasize:
- Speed Limits:
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (NHTSA), in 2009, 48% of rider deaths were due to drivers and bikers going faster than the speed limit.
- Always obey posted speed limits. Excessive speed reduces your reaction time and increases the severity of accidents.
- Adjust your speed based on road conditions, traffic flow, and visibility. In adverse or dangerous riding conditions, such as rain or fog, reduce your rate or pull over as necessary.
- Traffic Laws and Regulations:
- Familiarize yourself with and adhere to other local traffic laws, rules of the road, and regulations specific to motorcycles.
- Be aware of any special rules for motorcycles in your area, such as lane-splitting laws (where applicable), helmet requirements, and noise restrictions.
- Follow Road Signs and Signals:
- Pay special attention to road signs, electrical traffic signals, and lane markings. They provide valuable information and guidance for safe navigation.
- Use Turn Signals:
- Always use your turn signals well before turning or changing lanes to indicate your intentions to other road users.
- Stop for School Buses:
- Observe school bus laws, including stopping when a school bus picks up or drops off children. The last thing anyone wants is to run over a child or older adult in a crosswalk, right?
- Yield Right of Way:
- Understand and follow the right-of-way rules at intersections and when merging onto highways. Yield to other vehicles when required.
- Respect Pedestrian Crosswalks:
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and be prepared to stop if someone is crossing the road.
- No Distracted Riding:
- Avoid using mobile phones or engaging in other distractions while riding. Focus all your attention on the road.
- No Impaired Riding:
- Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Impaired riding significantly impairs your judgment, reflexes, and overall riding abilities.
- No Reckless Riding:
- Avoid aggressive or reckless riding behaviors, such as weaving in and out of traffic, excessive lane changes, or tailgating.
- Observe Special Zones:
- Be aware of and adhere to speed limits and rules in special zones like school zones, construction zones, and residential areas.
- Continuous Learning:
- Keep yourself updated on changes in traffic laws and regulations. In fact, some of our law firm’s most deadly cases involve railroad tracks and defective roads with grooves that can trap motorcycle tires and throw a rider. So you have to always be on the alert.
8. Ride Your Motorcycle Sober
Riding a motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in most places and extremely dangerous as you will need a high mental and physical focus. Accordingly, any mental impairment can be deadly.
Here’s why riding your bike sober is essential:
- Impaired Judgment and Reaction Time:
- Alcohol and drugs impair your cognitive abilities, including judgment, decision-making, and reaction time. These impairments can significantly increase the risk of accidents and motorcycle deaths.
- Reduced Coordination and Balance:
- Riding a motorcycle demands precise control, balance, and coordination from losing balance and compromised motor skills. Obviously, being drunk makes it hard to operate your bike safely.
- Impaired Vision and Perception:
- Alcohol and certain drugs can affect your vision and perception, making it challenging to assess distances, speed, and obstacles on the road.
- Decreased Inhibitions:
- Impaired riders often engage in other risky behaviors like riding at an excessive speed, reckless maneuvers, or ignoring traffic laws altogether.
- Legal Consequences:
- Riding under the influence can result in legal consequences, including fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment. Another reason driving wasted is bad is that a DUI/DWI conviction can increase your insurance rates and even keep you from getting hired at certain jobs.
- Endangering Others:
- Riding impaired puts your life at risk and endangers the lives of other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.
Responsible choices can save lives and prevent tragic accidents on the road, so think before you freakin drink.
9. Carry a First-Aid Kit
Carrying a basic first-aid kit in your saddlebags or backpack is an excellent precautionary measure, as it allows you to provide immediate care for minor injuries or wounds.
Here’s a more detailed list of items for use in your motorcycle first-aid kit:
- Disinfecting Wipes or Antiseptic Wipes:
- Use these to clean and disinfect wounds and the surrounding skin to prevent infection.
- Assorted Bandages:
- Include various sizes of adhesive bandages (Band-Aids) to cover minor cuts, scrapes, and blisters.
- Gauze Pads and Adhesive Tape:
- Use gauze pads to cover more extensive wounds and adhesive tape to secure the gauze.
- Sterile Dressing:
- A sterile dressing can cover and protect wounds and be particularly useful for more significant injuries.
- Disposable Gloves:
- Wearing disposable gloves can help prevent the spread of infections when providing first aid to yourself or others.
- Hand Sanitizer:
- Maintaining good hand hygiene when treating injuries is essential, so carry hand sanitizer to clean your hands before and after providing first aid.
- Tweezers and Scissors:
- Tweezers can help remove splinters or foreign objects from wounds, while scissors help cut gauze, tape, or clothing if necessary.
- Pain Relievers:
- Bring over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen in your bug-out bag for minor pain or discomfort. Don’t bring prescription meds unless they are in the original bottle and NOT expired. You can go to jail if you do!
- Emergency Contact Information:
- Include a card with emergency contact information, including your name, blood type, allergies, and any medical conditions you have.
- Personal Medications:
- If you have any specific medications you need to take regularly, carry a small supply in a waterproof container.
- Emergency Blanket:
- An emergency blanket can help keep you warm in case of cold weather or shock exposure.
- CPR Face Shield or Mask:
- If you are trained in CPR, having a face shield or mask can help protect you and the injured person during rescue breathing.
- Emergency Whistle or Signal Device:
- In case of a more serious accident or injury, an emergency whistle or signaling device can help attract attention and call for help.
- Daytimer, Notebook and Pen:
- You should always make your best efforts to record important information about any injuries you suffered due to your crash, including the time, date, and place of the incident. Your doctors and your lawyers will surely thank you later.
Ensure that your first-aid kit is stored in a waterproof and durable container, and regularly check its contents to ensure everything is up to date and in good condition.
10. Take a Safety Course
Enrolling in a motorcycle safety course is required to get a motorcycle license in California since they offer valuable training, knowledge, and hands-on experience.
Here are some reasons why rider instruction courses remain essential:
- Structured Learning: Safety courses provide riders with a comprehensive curriculum about the fundamentals of safe motorcycle riding, the rules of the road, and specific safe riding techniques.
- Instructor Guidance: A certified instructor can provide riders with valuable feedback on riding skills and help them identify and correct any bad riding habits or weaknesses before jumping on the road.
- Hands-On Practice: Courses typically include practical riding exercises in controlled environments, allowing you to practice essential skills like braking, cornering, and evasive maneuvers.
- Safe Environment: Safety courses occur in safe and controlled environments, reducing the risk of accidents during training.
- Confidence Building: As you improve, these classes can help boost your confidence as a rider, making you better prepared for challenging or unexpected situations on the road, which is what you need to develop that sixth sense.
- Insurance Benefits: Completing a rider’s course may make you eligible for discounts on your motorcycle insurance premiums.
- Legal Requirements: In some regions, taking a safety course is a legal requirement for obtaining a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license.
- Refresh and Update Skills: Even experienced riders can benefit from periodic safety courses to refresh their skills and learn about the latest safety practices and technologies.
- Community and Networking: Safety courses often provide opportunities to connect with other riders and share experiences and knowledge.
- Lifelong Learning: Motorcycle safety is a lifetime commitment, and safety courses help encourage lifelong learning and continuous improvement to get you to and from your destination safely and in one piece.
Just like horse riding, gear and helmets alone can’t prevent an accident. Before enrolling in a course, check with local motorcycle safety organizations, community colleges, or accredited training centers to find an approved program in your area. Completing a motorcycle safety course can contribute to a more enjoyable and secure riding experience and keep others safe too.
We sincerely hope you remember these suggestions and stay out of the other driver’s blind spot. When you drive a car, make eye contact, let the motorcycle rider see them, and be courteous as you hold their life in your hands when operating an automobile.
View our other excellent motorcycle riding safety articles, including Motorcycle Types and Purchasing One for Safety, here to protect everyone using our roadways with motorcyclists, even famous people.
- Real-Life Stories from Excessive Heat Victims
- Is Riding a Motorcycle Worth the Risk? | The Shocking Truth
- How to Ride a Motorcycle Defensively to Prevent Accidents
- Most Common Road Hazards for Motorcycle Riders
- Motorcycles, Speeding, And Personal Injuries 101
- Motorcycle Collision Risks & Construction Zones
- What Is the Number One Cause of Motorcycle Accidents?