Motorcycles are fun, thrilling and super exciting to ride. It is a thin line between exciting and dangerous with these machines. Riding, even for experienced riders, is an adrenaline spiking affair that could end up as the official seal on your death wish. Learning the risks and knowing how to mitigate them should be every rider’s bible, cast in stone in their minds.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the number of motorcycle fatalities is 29 times more than car accident fatalities. Quite an alarming statistic but which has served in tightening of safety measures for motorcycle riders. Florida and Texas are leading the number of motorcycle deaths.
Contrary to popular opinion, motorcycle riders are not just a bunch of reckless speed junkies trying to show off on the road. They are cautious drivers who follow traffic rules but are disadvantaged by the fact that they ride on two wheels, without the cover and protection of a metallic body, unlike car drivers.
What are the most common causes of motorcycle accidents?
Accidents are just that sometimes, accidents. Caused by nothing in particular but sometimes, they can be pinned to specific causes. In the case of motorcycles accidents, there are some common causes across different states.
When motorcycle riders and cyclists ride between two lanes of cars that are held up by traffic or are slow-moving, that is what is termed as lane splitting. In some states, it is illegal, as it should be. It is also a major ingredient in the motorcycle accidents cooking recipe. In California, lane splitting is allowed but only if done safely and prudently. Safe and prudent would be relative and differently perceived by the traffic police, rider, and judge in case of an accident. In case of an accident, it is highly likely that a motorcycle rider will be liable if he was lane splitting.
Untrained and Inexperienced Riders.
Owning a certificate in motorcycle training and safety is not enough. It is mandatory but it is not enough. Every motorcycle rider must follow traffic rules to the letter and stay alert all through. Riding requires high levels of mental focus and you have to exercise your smarts to stay alert always. Riders require almost superhuman reflexes because those could save you from losing your life, a limb or from the most horrific of accidents.
If you have to ride a motorcycle, you must be in good physical shape. Keep fit and work out as often to build your strength.
Driving under the influence.
Drinking alcohol and riding motorcycles is almost a guarantee of death, in case of an accident. Alcohol impairs judgment and slows down your reflexes, two things you cannot afford to tamper with when riding. If you survive a crash while riding under the influence, it is highly unlikely that you will get any compensation.
Speed kills, and with motorcycles, the risk of fatal accidents is increased. High-performance bikes are especially at higher risk of speed-related accidents. Deaths from superbike accidents are four times higher than deaths from regular motorcycles. Speed, especially if aired with alcohol, poor roads, and other reckless motorists, is a sure recipe for disaster. Riders should ensure they are in a safe zone before riding at extremely high speeds, clear roads free of potholes and bumps and human traffic.
Poor Weather Conditions.
Riding out in extremely foggy, rainy or snowy weather does not need an expert to break down the dangers. If the sun is too hot, the glare will interfere with your vision on incoming traffic but a good pair of riding goggles will sort this out. Slippery roads are high risk for motorcycles and chances of ramming into moving and stationary vehicles are increased.
Motorcycle safety measures on the road.
Being on the road, whether as a pedestrian, car driver, rider or cyclist is a risk in itself. It is important that when you are out riding a motorcycle, you are familiar with all possible risks. Take all necessary measures to keep the risks minimal. Here are a few ways to keep yourself protected when riding out.
- Stay geared, always.
This does not have to be written for any rider to take note of. You must have your protective riding gear on anytime you get on your bike, never mind how near or far you are riding out to. Helmet, leather riders’ suit, gloves, leather boot, elbow, knee and shin guards could all save your life.
- Act Invisible.
If no one else can see you, ride accordingly and observe all traffic laws. Some motorists may not see your bike, especially from big and high trucks. Act like no one can see you and it is your responsibility to stay on the right side of the law and make yourself as visible as you can to them. If you rely on other drivers to drive well and keep you safe, that may work against you. Learn defensive driving skills and
- Do not take unnecessary risks.
Putting yourself and other motorists when you could simply make better decisions is not wise. One foolish mistake from you could end up with a life lost, it may be yours.
- Get a motorcycle that is the right fit for you.
First, ensure that your feet touch the ground when you mount your bike. In most states, there are no restrictions on the size and power of bikes that one can ride once you have a license. It is important though, that you ride a motorcycle that your skills can handle. Handling a bike whose power exceeds your level of expertise will have you sprawled on a road, dead r badly hurt.
- Service your motorcycle regularly.
If you cannot do this yourself, ensure you establish a service regime with your dealer and stick to it religiously. Learn to do basic checks on your tires, brakes, clutch, throttle, lights, hydraulic and coolant fluids before and after every ride.
- Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS).
ABS uses sensors on both wheels to determine when the wheels are about to lock. ABS then adjusts the braking pressure, giving your bike enough stability. Not all bikes have ABS. When purchasing your bike, you are better off choosing one that has and it could save your life.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most motorcycle accidents (52%) occur on weekend nights. Out of these, 5% are fatal. Older riders account for a higher percentage of accidents at 27%. Most motorcycle accidents occur at the times when riders are most relaxed in their surroundings. A motorcycle rider does not have the luxury of distraction; they have to be alert the entire time, day or night.
Riding requires you to unlock higher levels of self-discipline, self-control and high commitment to continuous learning and improvement of your riding skills. If you are not going to practice these, you might not last long on the road as a rider. You have to remind yourself, constantly, that the road is more dangerous when you are on two wheels, than when you are in a car.
Whatever you do, do not romanticize your bike. Do not play games on it. It may be fun but it could be fatal fun if you are not careful. Remind yourself, as often as possible, that motorcycles are as dangerous as their riders make them.