Born to Be Wild – But Plan to Be Safe

Spring is in the air and motorcycle enthusiasts everywhere are waking up from a long winter of confinement and craving the supreme release of riding in the open air. Riding a motorcycle has been compared to the thrill of flying an airplane; the joy of complete freedom, and as therapy for the soul. With that kind of allure, it’s easy to see why motorcycles are so popular and so widely used around the world. But before you get your motor running, it’s a good idea to review a few tips for respecting your machine and refreshing your brain before heading out on the highway.

Let’s Look at the Stats

In the United States, there are an estimated 8.6 million motorcycles registered by private and commercial owners on the nation’s highways. It’s estimated because some states do not keep records on motorcycle registration. The actual number is very likely to be higher. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2015, 4,976 motorcycle riders and passengers died in crashes (up 8.3 percent from 2014), and nonfatal injuries that year totaled 88,000. Faced with these statistics, motorcycle safety should be a high priority for those adventurers sacrificing four wheels for a more memorable journey on two.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

Riding a motorcycle can be a great adventure, but like many adventures, there are dangers and pitfalls that can be avoided with a little common sense. Before you hit the road, we urge you to take the time to properly prepare, from both an equipment standpoint and skill-level.

Check your Bike – A little maintenance can make the difference between being safe and being stranded on the side of the road. Be sure everything is in tip-top operating condition before taking to the road

  • When purchasing a motorcycle, be sure to select a bike that fits you. There is a broad range of bike sizes, styles and performance factors to consider. Types of bikes can include cruisers, street bikes, touring bikes, and sports bikes. Your physical size, experience, and plans for use will help determine which bike is right for you.
  • Be sure your ride is ready for the road by performing routine maintenance before you go out. Always refer to your owner’s manual or local dealership for maintenance suggestions, additionally here are a few things you can check before each ride:
    1. Check your tire pressure, and never ride with a tire that has excessive wear, especially in wet road conditions. Look at your drive belt or chain for stretching and wear. Make sure all signal lights are working properly and are not dim. Before taking off down the road make sure your brakes are working properly and are not sticking or hanging up.
    2. Other things to do before you roll your bike out this spring is to have a clean air filter, a fresh change of oil, and ensure all other fluids, such as engine coolant and brake fluid, are at their recommended operating levels. And don’t panic if your motorcycle doesn’t start, your battery likely just needs a few hours on the charger after sitting all winter!
    3. Check your riding gear – helmet, visor, boots, and gloves – look for holes, scratches, tears, or worn spots. Your gear is all that stands between your skin and the road – make sure it is in shape to protect you.

Brush up on your Driving Technique – Driving skills and road rule knowledge occasionally need a refresher, especially with a seasonal vehicle that may only be driven during good weather months and even then, maybe only on weekends.

  • If you’re new to riding, take a motorcycle safety course before getting on the bike. Even if you’re an experienced rider, consider an annual refresher course, especially if you’ve been off your bike for a while.
  • Riders 50 years of age and older made up approximately 37 percent of the motorcycle fatalities in 2014. If you are one of these so-called “re-entry riders”, who regularly rode in your 20’s and are taking it up again later in life, there are new challenges today, with increased traffic, drivers who are more distracted, and more powerful bikes. Make sure your skills are up to par with new training and a review of rules and regulations
  • Know the rules of the road and drive defensively. Remember, you may not always be visible to drivers, who may only be watching for larger vehicles. Avoid blind spots, don’t split lanes, and always assume other drivers DO NOT SEE you.
  • According to NHTSA, 73 percent of all motorcycle vs. vehicle collisions were frontal collisions, most at intersections where a vehicle turned left in front of the motorcycle. Be especially careful when approaching and leaving an intersection.
  • Pay attention to road conditions – your bike can slide out from under you on a wet road.
  • WEAR A HELMET. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that as of April 2016 only 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books that require ALL motorcyclists to wear helmets. Even if your state has limited or no helmet laws, it pays to remember that NHTSA estimates helmets saved 1,669 motorcyclists’ lives in 2014 and that 660 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. Look for a full coverage helmet with a DOT sticker, which says it has met safety standards required by the Department of Transportation.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80% of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death compared to only 20% of other vehicle accidents. So if you’ve got road fever and you’re ready to release your inner Steppenwolf, be sure to do it sensibly and safely for many more miles down the highway.

If your motorcycling adventure comes to an unexpected end due to an accident or injury, contact Martin, Harding and Mazzotti LLP, and one of our experienced attorneys will advise you. Statutes of limitations may apply, so don’t delay. We have locations across New York State and Vermont to serve you. Call 1800LAW1010 (1.800.529.1010).