Preparing to Ride a Motorcycle In New York State

When riding a motorcycle, the stakes can be higher when your body is directly exposed to roadway hazards and not surrounded by the steel body of a car. This is why New York State requires a special license to ride, as well as specialized knowledge, skill, and preparation.

The New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) outlines some basic guidelines for motorcyclists to remember before going out for a ride, including wearing the appropriate motorcycle safety gear, becoming familiar with the motorcycle, performing a routine equipment inspection, and more. Following these guidelines will help set you up for a safe and successful ride.

Motorcycle Safety Gear

The best way to know you have found the “right” motorcycle safety gear is if it protects you. The DMV advises that you have a better chance to avoid serious injury in a crash if you wear an approved helmet, face or eye protection, and protective clothing.

Choosing a Motorcycle Helmet

Motorcycle accidents most often happen just a few minutes into a short trip, and most riders are going slower than 30 mph when the crash occurs. At this speed, motorcycle helmets can reduce the number and severity of head injuries by half. Additionally, motorcycle helmets are required in New York State.

Motorcycle Helmets - Preparing to rideThere are two main types of helmets that provide two different levels of coverage: three-quarter helmets and full-face helmets. Motorcyclists can receive the most protection by choosing a helmet that:

  • Meets the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and New York state standards.
  • Has a snug fit around the whole head.
  • Has no obvious defects, including cracks, loose pads, or frayed straps.

Helmets must always be securely fastened on your head when you ride. Otherwise, the helmet could come off during a crash and fail to protect you when it is most needed.

Eye and Face Protection

Protective eyewear like goggles or safety glasses offer some protection for the eyes and face while riding. However, a shatter-resistant plastic face shield can help protect a rider’s entire face in a crash. It also protects you from wind, dust, dirt, rain, insects, and debris, which can distract you and cause pain/injury. To be effective, eye or face shield protection must:

  • Be free of scratches and cracks.
  • Be resistant to penetration or cracks.
  • Grant a clear view to either side.
  • Fasten securely, so that it does not blow off during the ride.
  • Allow air to circulate to reduce fog.
  • Permit enough room for glasses or sunglasses, if necessary.

Protective Clothing and Footwear

The proper clothing can provide some protection to both riders and their passengers in a motorcycle accident. The DMV’s recommendations include:

  • Jackets and pants should completely cover arms and legs respectively and should fit snugly. While leather offers perhaps the most protection, sturdy synthetic material provides protection as well.
  • Choose sturdy shoes or boots that are high enough to cover your ankles. The soles of the boots or shoes should be made of a hard, durable, slip-resistant material, and should have a low heel so it will not catch on rough surfaces. Laces should be tucked in so that they do not catch on your bike.
  • The DMV also advises using leather gloves (or ones made of a similar durable material) for a better grip and for warmth in cold or wet conditions. These will also help protect you in a crash.

Knowing Your Motorcycle

To best familiarize yourself with your motorcycle, the DMV suggests reviewing the owner manual, using a motorcycle that is the right “fit” for you, learning about all your motorcycle’s controls, performing an inspection before every ride, maintaining your bike between rides, and avoiding any modifications that might make your motorcycle more difficult to handle on the road.

Crashes are common among inexperienced riders, but when you ride an unfamiliar motorcycle, it exacerbates the issue. If you borrow someone else’s motorcycle, make sure you have its insurance identification card or that it is properly insured. Regardless of your experience level, be sure to ride very carefully on any motorcycle that is new or unfamiliar to you. In fact, more than half of all crashes happen on motorcycles where the operator has ridden them for fewer than six months.

Inspect Your Bike Before You Ride

Whether the motorcycle is familiar or unfamiliar to the rider, it needs to be inspected more frequently than one might inspect a car. If there is even a minor technical issue with a motorcycle, it could result in dire consequences for the rider. That is why it is best to discover any problems prior to entering traffic. Before getting on the road, the DMV suggests completing the following inspections:

  • Check tire pressure, wear, and tread.
  • Monitor oil and fluid levels. Check hydraulic fluids and coolants at least weekly and be sure to look underneath the motorcycle for signs of an oil or gas leak.
  • Ensure the headlights, taillight, brake light, and signal indicators are all functioning and visible.

Once you mount your motorcycle, take a few additional moments to perform these checks before beginning your trip:

  • Make sure the clutch and throttle work smoothly, with the clutch snapping back when you let go.
  • Both mirrors should be cleaned and adjusted so that the lane behind and next to you are visible.
  • Test out the front and rear brake levers one after the other, verifying that they feel firm and will hold the motorcycle when you fully apply the brake.
  • Lastly, try the horn to make sure it is functional.

Additionally, check the following items at least once a week: wheels, cables, fasteners, and fluids, along with any other specific recommendations from your owner’s manual.

Know Your Responsibilities

Motorcyclists cannot be sure that operators of other vehicles will always see them or yield the right of way correctly. To decrease the chances of a crash, it is important to remember to:

  • Be visible. Wear visible or reflective clothing, use your headlight, and ride in the best lane location to see and be seen.
  • Communicate your intentions. Use proper signals, brake lights, and lane positioning to let other drivers know what you are about to do.
  • Maintain space. Leave the appropriate amount of space between you and other vehicles when you follow, are followed, share a lane, pass, and are passed.
  • Look ahead. Scan your path on the road at least 12 seconds ahead.
  • Identify hazards. Avoid any possible hazards or obstacles you may see ahead of you.
  • Be prepared to act. Stay alert and be ready to utilize proper crash-avoidance skills.

Hurt Riding a Motorcycle? Contact The Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at Harding Mazzotti, LLP

To protect your right to make a claim for injuries that occurred as a result of a motorcycle accident, call our experienced and dedicated motorcycle accident lawyers at Harding Mazzotti, LLP at 1800LAW1010 (1-800-529-1010). We offer free case evaluations, we’re available 24/7, and we don’t get paid unless you do.