For many motorcycle enthusiasts, two-wheeled chariots are the best way to get around. The sense of fun and freedom they afford is matched only by the sense of community riders often share.
When the weather gets warmer, many riders feel a thrill about the opportunity to bring out their bikes and ride in style. However, the things that make motorcycles so attractive can also pose risks to riders’ safety, caused by the biker’s own behaviors and those of others on the road. Motorcyclists should be very clear about the dangers associated with their preferred mode of transportation.
Hazards posed by motorcycles
Operating any vehicle presents risks to drivers. However, motorcycles’ unique qualities require their riders to take additional precautions to mitigate threats such as:
- Decreased visibility. Because of their smaller size and single headlight, motorcycles are not as visible to other drivers, especially at night.
- Lack of safety restraints. Motorcycles have no seat belts, air bags, or other structures to protect riders if a collision should occur.
- Tipping hazards. Two-wheeled vehicles offer less stability than the four wheels of a traditional automobile. This usually presents no dangers to experienced bikers, but novices may not anticipate situations – such as sharp turns – when tipping may occur.
- Irresponsible operation. Although all motorcyclists should be trained to engage in safe driving behaviors, the inherently recreational nature of a bike increases the temptation to commit such acts as speeding and aggressive lane changes.
Recent deadly motorcycle crashes highlight increased risks
Across the country, motorcyclists have been taking advantage of the summer weather and heading out on the roadways. Unfortunately, the increased number of motorcycles has corresponded to a spate of recent accidents, including:
- East Islip, New York. A motorcycle collided with the rear end of a Mitsubishi Galant on July 21, which injured the motorcyclist and his passenger, both 21 years old. The driver and juvenile passenger inside the vehicle sustained no injuries.
- Bolton, Vermont. Bryon Derway, 24, hit a guardrail on July 21 when attempting to brake before making a sharp right turn. Doctors at Fletcher Allen Hospital pronounced him dead upon his arrival.
- Lincoln, Nebraska. On July 20, a 21-year-old woman died when the motorcycle on which she was riding as a passenger collided with an SUV. The driver of the motorcycle, who survived the crash, had run a red light while turning left.
How motorcyclists can keep safe
Currently, there’s no way for a motorcycle rider to achieve the same level of safety enjoyed by operators of their four-wheeled counterparts. However, you may decrease your chances of accident and injury on a motorcycle by observing such precautions as:
- Wearing safety gear. Although mocked and eschewed by rebellious types, helmets are the best way to protect a motorcyclist from severe head injuries. Leather apparel and motorcycle boots look distinctive and protect skin from asphalt and flying debris.
- Paying attention to the road and other drivers. Bikers must react quickly to changing conditions on the road. Keeping a keen eye on traffic and possible obstructions lowers the chances of potentially fatal collisions.
- Maintaining proper speeds. Traveling above the speed limit may be tempting, but motorcyclists who stay within posted limits stand a better chance of avoiding accidents (and citations).
- Avoid bad weather. Rain, hail, lightning, and high winds present particular risks to bikers. Check the forecast before heading out for prolonged trips, and have a backup plan in case conditions take an unexpected turn for the worse.
What other drivers can do to help
According to some reports and claims, drivers and law enforcement officials often reveal unwarranted prejudice against motorcyclists after accidents occur. But four-wheeled motorists bear the same amount of responsibility as bikers to keep conditions safe for fellow drivers.
When collisions occur, individuals on motorcycles are much more likely to suffer fatal injuries than those in automobiles. Therefore, motorists should do their part to ensure the safety of motorcyclists by:
- Watching carefully. Drivers are responsible for noticing and avoiding all other motorists on roadways, including motorcyclists.
- Allowing ample room. Don’t tailgate motorcyclists or “crowd” them from the side. Treat them as you would any other vehicle.
- Looking twice. Left-turn collisions are the most common cause of motorcycle-and-car collisions. Before entering an intersection, make sure no motorcycles are approaching.
By following these simple tips, two-wheeled and four-wheeled operators alike can coexist peacefully and enjoy safe travels.
Whether operating a motorcycle or car, what steps do you take to keep other drivers safe?