The Ultimate Motorcycle Safety Guide | Upgrade Your Ride

Ready to Ride- sgplaw.com - ShutterstockThere’s nothing like the feeling of the wind in your hair and rumble of the engine as you cruise on your motorcycle on a breezy afternoon. However, some riders love the feeling so much that they forgo wearing proper gear. While it can be a hassle to take the time to get dressed for the road, it’s well worth it. Motorcycle gear helps protect the skin from road rash, flying bugs and severe injuries from motorcycle-involved accidents. Riding is inherently dangerous and it is important that you do not become complacent while on the open road. Anything can happen. Ensure you know the law and be aware of how to keep yourself safe. This guide will help teach you the important safety precautions you need to take before going out for a ride.

Why Motorcycle Accidents are More Dangerous than Car Accidents

Millions of riders are on the road every day without being involved in an accident, but it’s an unfortunate fact of life that accidents do happen. Even though a properly trained rider is less likely to be involved in an accident than the average driver of a car, riding a motorcycle does carry with it a higher degree of risk. Consider the following:

In 2012, 4,927 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents, accounting for 15 percent of total highway fatalities. 93,000 bikers were injured in traffic accidents [NHTSA] Motorcyclists are more than 26 times more likely to die in a crash, and five times more likely to be injured, than occupants of cars [NHTSA] In crashes involving a motorcycle and another type of vehicle, such as a car or pick-up truck, motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to suffer an injury or die as a result of a collision. [NHTSA] In addition to the danger inherent to motorcyclists on the road, there are also key differences between a motorcycle and a car that accounts for safety differences. First, bikes have no seat-belts or restraints. They also weigh less than cars and are therefore more vulnerable to damaged roadways, debris, wind and puddles. Their size makes them difficult for drivers of other vehicles to spot, especially with the sheer amount of distracted driving that many motorists engage in. Finally, motorcycles are less stable and require much more skill to ride than it takes to drive a car.

In order to combat the rising number of motorcycle accidents in Arizona, motorists and motorcyclists alike have to take certain precautions. Essentially, bikers should pretend that they are invisible to the cars around them and ride as if nobody else can see you. In effect, you are riding with the assumption that the car next to you may just pull into your lane while you there, or that someone may make a left turn into an intersection while you are driving straight through it. By being aware of the things that go on around you, you can better avoid the people who are not paying attention.

Always ensure that your bike has proper lighting and that you wear reflective gear when traveling at night. Helmets and protective gear are highly encouraged, even in the heat of a Mesa , AZ summer. A proper jacket and boots can protect your body from road rash and a helmet is obviously a lifesaver. As always, obey posted speed limits and never drink and ride.

Drivers of vehicles should always look twice when switching lanes, passing or backing out so as to make certain that there are no vehicles or motorcycles in blind spots. When driving behind or next to a motorcycle, leave plenty of space between your car and the bike, and be courteous. Minimize all distractions. The biggest excuse when a vehicle collides with a motorcycle is “I didn’t see them.” Avoid messing with your phone for any reason, no matter what. Program your GPS or music selection before you put the car into drive, and if there is a pressing reason to use a handheld device, kindly pull over first. As always, never drink and drive.

Drivers of any kind of vehicle should be hyper-vigilant on Arizona roads. Even if you are not texting or drinking while driving, someone else might be. Please stay aware of the road around you so that everyone can reach their destination safely.

The truth is that many drivers are not respectful of motorcyclists on roadways. They don’t give riders enough space to maneuver or provide enough of a cushion when they’re driving behind the bike. Many drivers also are guilty of not checking their blind spots for bikers, thus resulting in side-swipe accidents that can wipe out even the most experienced motorcyclist. As Mesa motorcycle accidents lawyers, we understand the dangers of riding and believe knowledge is one of the best preventative measures, so read on!

Wear Appropriate Gear To Stay Safe

No matter the cause of the motorcycle accident, wearing department of transportation (DOT) approved motorcycle gear can help save a rider’s limbs and even life. As knowledgeable motorcycle accident lawyers in Mesa, Arizona, we want to stress the importance of wearing adequate motorcycle gear.

Choosing the right motorcycle riding gear can make all the difference in the event of a motorcycle accident. While it can’t completely prevent such an occurrence, it can mean the difference between walking away unscathed and leaving in an ambulance. Making smart choices about the type of protective gear you wear while riding is an investment that is well worth it in the long run. Here are a few tips on the type of essential gear you should wear while riding:

  • Helmets – While it isn’t legally required that you wear a helmet while riding in the state of Arizona, it is one of the most important pieces of safety gear that you can wear. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, a rider without a helmet is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury.
  • Boots – When you’re riding, your feet help keep you balanced while also taking a beating from the elements while you’re moving. To stay safe and comfortable, consider a pair of high-quality motorcycle boots, with a stiff sole that provides plenty of traction when you stop. Boots with reinforced material in critical areas can also protect you from leg, ankle and foot injuries in the event of a crash.
  • Gloves – Like boots, gloves offer your hands comfort and protection from the elements while riding. They can also help protect your hands if you’re involved in an accident. Since it is second nature to extend your hands when you fall, it is important to have gloves that protect your whole hand, including fingers, palms and wrists.
  • Material – Leather isn’t just a biker fashion statement. It’s also popular because it doesn’t “grab” like other materials do – meaning you’re more likely to slide than tumble in the event of an accident. Consider a leather jacket that has an additional layer of protection underneath, such as memory foam, or hard armor padding.

Even if you’re just making a quick run to the store, it’s important not to take a shortcut with your protective gear. Heavy leather riding gear may seem like a burden, but it can prevent serious injuries and even save your life.

DOT-Approved Helmets

Not just any helmet will do for today’s motorcyclists. There are far too many risks for traumatic brain injuries when falling off a motorcycle at high speeds, so helmet manufacturers have worked closely with DOT to provide adequate padding and shock absorption to result in fewer skull fractures and brain hemorrhaging.

Motorcycle Gear - sgplaw.com - ShutterstockSome visors have built-in sun protection to help protect your eyes from sun damage and flying bugs. However, some riders double up on eye protection with riding glasses.

Jackets for Road Rash

As uncomfortable as it may sound for Arizona riders, wearing a tough skin jacket made from materials such as leather, can help prevent serious injuries from road rash. You need to ride in anticipation of accidents; without proper covering, the road can easily strip away skin, leaving you with exposed tissue and muscle and in danger of an infection. Leather jackets, on the other hand, help prevent the worst of these types of injuries as well as provide padding to protect against any limb damage.

Padded Hand Gear

Choosing the right pair of motorcycle gloves will allow you to firmly grip your motorcycle’s handle bars while also protecting your hands from the elements. Look for padded leather gloves that do not constrict your fingers from gripping but that also protect your knuckles and palms.

Importance of Riding Pants

Too many motorcycle accidents have occurred with motorcyclists riding in shorts and other inappropriate leg wear. When legs are uncovered and a motorcyclist is in an accident, there’s increased risk of rash burn, engine burns, broken or lost limbs, and much more. Even though the Mesa, AZ climate can make the thought of wearing heavy pants unbearable, proper leg covering can still be the difference between minor bruises and major injuries if you are involved in an accident.

There are riding pants available with padding armor in key areas, such as the hips, knees and even the waist. Be cautious with loose-fitting pants as they may flap in the wind, causing a riding distraction. Additionally, you will likely want to stay away from the skinny jeans while riding because they can cause loss of circulation during long rides. If you want to wear a style of pants that isn’t great for the road, consider packing them for the ride and changing into them when you get to your destination.

Riding Boot Considerations

Medical professionals attending to motorcycle accidents will all tell you that most of the shoes they see on the road are unsuitable for riding. Inadequate foot coverings are the leading cause of foot amputations, both ones caused in motorcycle accidents themselves and those performed during surgery after an accident.

Riding boots feature thicker shoe walls and soles resistant to engine grease, oil and gas. The thicker material, usually leather, protects feet from engine burns.

If you are a motorcyclist, take the time to gear up before riding, as inconvenient as it is. Motorcycle accidents are a frequent occurrence on Mesa’s busy streets, and as motorcycle injury attorneys in Mesa, Arizona, we know these accidents often cause life-threatening and debilitating injuries to the rider. The right gear just might save your life.

More Safety Tips When You Are Riding

Use the proper gear. With motorcycles, there’s not much to safeguard you from outside elements, so it’s very important to wear the right kind of protective clothing while riding. Choose a well-fitting helmet. If it doesn’t have a face shield, use high-quality goggles or safety glasses. To keep your grip on the handles nice and tight, opt for durable, non-slip gloves. Also, be sure to wear sturdy clothing and shoes, such as leather, to protect skin in the event of a skid.

Maintain your motorcycle properly. Just like regular cars, a motorcycle that isn’t kept in top form is more likely to break down, a potential hazard. For best results, make sure your lights, brakes and turn signals are in working order, keep oil and fuel at the proper levels, check and reposition mirrors, replace any frayed cables and keep the chain well lubricated.

Always wear a helmet. In case you are thrown from your bike, a proper-fitting helmet that meets federal guidelines will help protect you from incurring life-threatening head injuries.

Don’t weave in and out of traffic. Just because motorcycles can fit within the spaces between cars on a packed road doesn’t mean they should. Weaving in and out of cars, especially during heavy traffic, is dangerous and can result in a serious accident.

Don’t speed. No matter what the vehicle, speeding raises your risk of accident. Always observe the posted speed limit.

Don’t tailgate other vehicles. Keep a safe distance between you and other cars. Leave at least one car length per 10 miles per hour of speed between you and the vehicle in front of you at all times.

Maximize your visibility. Compact motorcycles can be harder to see than cars or trucks in traffic, so it’s important to your safety to stay as visible as possible. Avoid riding in other vehicles’ blind spots, use your headlights when appropriate and wear bright-colored clothing.

1. Gear up for physical safety

Everyone knows that riding a motorcycle comes with a lot more inherent risk than driving a car. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle collisions account for 14 percent of Arizona’s traffic fatalities. This rate is higher than the national average. Protective gear is a must, especially in adverse weather conditions or during unusual road conditions. Some riders may believe that wearing a helmet is enough, but this simply isn’t the case. Full body protection is an extremely important preventative measure against severe injuries common with motorcycle accidents. Gloves can protect your hands from wind chafing and sunburns while operating your bike and, in the event of any type of motorcycle accident, they serve as protection for your fingers. Long pants and a sturdy jacket are highly recommended to protect your skin from road rash.

2. See if the bike fits you

Feeling comfortable while you ride is crucial. Some bikes will stand too tall for your feet to rest flat on the pavement when you come to a stop. Check the weight of your bike by doing a seat test. Manipulate the bike to simulate leaning into a turn. If the bike weighs too much for your body, you can risk losing control during a turn. Heavy bikes can be especially dangerous to riders  in tight spots and at certain speeds.

3. Check your bike before riding

Every time you ride you should give your bike a good look to make sure everything is in order. Check your mirrors, lights and tire pressure before heading out. Make sure that all screws and bolts are tight and that there are no leaks. Regular maintenance will keep you safe on the road and preserve the life of your bike.

4. Know your surroundings

A key element of motorcycle safety is being aware of your surroundings and potential riding hazards. Mirrors are extremely important, but you can’t rely on them alone. Be conscious of your surroundings and the immediate area around you. Stay out of other drivers’ blind spots and watch for those who may not be able to see you. Remember to keep the basics in mind: The best way to change lanes is to turn your head and look behind you. The safest way to make a turn is to have your eyes up when rounding out the turn. Use road markings to your advantage. Motorcyclists should also be aware of road conditions like gravel and pot holes.

5. Prepare your state of mind

Road Runner magazine recommends motorcycle riders get into the right mindset before setting out; after all, “operating a motorcycle is 90 percent mental and only 10 percent physical.” A negative mindset can affect your judgement on the road, so make sure you are calm and collected before setting out.

6. Anticipate weather changes

Riding a motorcycle can be particularly difficult in inclement weather or extreme temperatures. Check the daily forecast prior to your voyage and make adjustments as needed. Poor weather can dramatically change visibility, so remember to ride carefully and take breaks if weather conditions take a turn for the worse. Pull off the road in a safe manner to an area where drivers can see you. If you can’t avoid traveling in the rain, avoid last-minute reactions to changes in traffic conditions as much as possible, and try to make your ride as smooth and as gentle as you can.

Pretend You Are Invisible

“Pretend You Are Invisible” notes the tendency among car drivers to look right past their motorcycle rider counterparts:

“They might notice the car or truck behind you, but you, in all your ‘narrowness,’ may not register in the visual cortex of even the most alert drivers.”

This is likely the case when an oncoming car turns left in front of you at an intersection, and when a car cuts too close to you when changing lanes.

Even the most conscientious of car drivers experience the invisibility factor. That’s why it is so important that you be proactive in making yourself as visible as possible.

When riding your motorcycle, the MSF recommends that you:

  • Wear colorful clothing
  • Wear a light-colored helmet
  • Keep your headlight on, even during the day
  • Take an approved rider safety course

The MSF also recommends that you ride in a hyper-aware mindset, presuming that every car driver is going to have trouble seeing you. This means:

  • Varying your speed and lane position to maintain the safest spot on the road
  • Planning escape paths in case a driver violates your right-of-way
  • Covering your brake controls so you can react more quickly, need be
  • Honking your horn at drivers that don’t seem to see you

“Pretend You Are Invisible” is just one of many MSF Quick Tip Sheets on motorcycle safety, including the equally important and appropriate, “10 Things All Car and Truck Drivers Should Know About Motorcycles.”

The MSF also makes it easy to find an approved rider training course in your state.

To learn more, go to MSF-USA.org.

SGP Law urges you to contact our attorneys for assistance in filing an injury claim if you or a loved one has been injured as a result of driver negligence. Our offices are in Mesa, Arizona, and our attorneys help victims Valley and state-wide with FREE consultations. Take assurance in our abilities to fight for you as we do not accept payment until you are satisfied with your case results. Fill out our contact form, or give us a call to schedule an appointment today: 480.833.8800.