May is just a day away, and with motorcycles taking to the roads in ever larger droves, it’s no surprise that the month is designated as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Drivers of cars have been used to having the roads to themselves for awhile, and thus it’s important to emphasize safety even more than you might during other times of the year. To that end, Consumer Reports has provided a handy checklist of pertinent safety tips that should be followed by motorcyclists across California.
Your first step should be seeking out adequate training before you start riding again. If you’ve already taken your motorcycle out of storage for the summer, please don’t ride again until you revisit your training regimen. Your best option might be the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. A full 2,700 courses are offered across the country, so you should have no excuse not to find a certified instructor near you. This also has the added benefit of qualifying you for insurance discounts and reduced prices on your purchase of a new motorcycle.
If you are buying a new motorcycle, then opt for one that has antilock brakes. Thanks to their ability to provide the driver with control when a sudden press of the brakes is necessary, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that this one component can cut down on your risk of being killed in a crash by 37%. It might cost you a couple hundreds dollars more, but it’s going to be worth it thanks to the safety benefits.
The other device that can drastically reduce the chance of being involved in a fatal collision is a helmet. Although wearing one is law in California, some states are taking an opposite approach and repealing laws they’ve had on the books for years. Not surprisingly, this has also led to an increase in fatalities. Arkansas experienced 21% more deaths after the repeal of their law, and the rates were even worse in Texas, where a 31% jump occurred. Invest in a helmet, preferably a unit that covers your entire face, and protect yourself from the more serious head injuries that can otherwise occur.
Automobile drivers take for granted road conditions that can prove disastrous to motorcycles. A small smudge of gravel in the lane wouldn’t do anything to a car, but it could be enough to send a motorcycle reeling. As a motorcyclist, it’s up to you to be ever-vigilant of such threats. Keep your eyes forward and circumvent the obstacle if you can do so safely. If the hazard is unavoidable, slow down and continue straight through the spot without swerving. Any maneuver in the middle of an obstacle could cause you to lose control.
Finally, put ample distance between yourself and other vehicles. Stay back, be alert for persons with a phone glued to their ear, and always look ahead to upcoming intersections for inattentive drivers.