Almost everyone has heard some story about how or why motorcycles are dangerous and the serious accidents they can be involved in. Motorcycles aren’t dangerous machines; the lack of protection they provide is what increases the risks.
If you’re going to ride a motorcycle, it’s important you learn some tips on how to avoid accidents. Other drivers have a hard time seeing motorcyclists which makes them more susceptible. Here is a list of essential tips on how to avoid a motorcycle accident that every motorcyclist should consider.
Perform Basic Preventative Maintenance
Most motorcyclists are aware that if you’re going to own a motorcycle, you need to perform some basic maintenance on the machine. Most assume that’s mainly so the motorcycle will last longer and won’t leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere.
But basic maintenance does a lot more than preventing frustration; it also can prevent a potential accident while you’re out for a ride. When you perform maintenance on your motorcycle, think about what you’re preventing it from doing.
Let’s look at a few examples. Changing the oil is essential for engine health. Without doing this, you risk the engine overheating and seizing altogether. Not only is that expensive, but it can be extremely dangerous if you’re out for a ride and your bike comes to an abrupt stop while on the freeway.
Tire care is another form of basic maintenance; they’re the components that are separating you from the road. You could potentially be thrown off the bike if one blows out while riding. And let’s not forget about taking care of the chain. When that’s neglected, a motorcycle chain can jam up the sprockets and also cause you to come to a complete stop in the middle of the freeway.
The list goes on and on. Perform the basic yet vital preventative maintenance a motorcycle requires and it’ll more likely take care of you while you’re out for a ride. See my other article here to learn more about how often a motorcycle should be serviced.
Use A Light Modulator
Anything you can do as a motorcyclist to get you more noticed legally is worth looking into. Using a light modulator on both the headlight and taillight of your motorcycle is highly recommended.
A light modulator is a device that connects directly into the electrical components of the headlight and taillight of your motorcycle. For the headlight, it rhythmically alternates between high and low beams. Basically it flashes so other drivers notice you better.
Some taillights on motorcycles are hard to see since they’re a bit small. Usually when a motorcyclist applies the brakes, the taillight will shine a brighter red but not every driver behind them notices it and ends up rear ending them. A taillight modulator will make the taillight blink around 5 times before remaining on the brighter red to help drivers behind become more aware that that the motorcycle is stopping.
Light modulators are completely legal in all 50 states in the U.S. In fact, several states recommend that motorcyclists use them. Studies have found that using flashing lights like these help motorcyclists avoid accidents. To learn more about light modulators, see my other article here.
Pay Attention To Where You Stop
The location of where you stop at a stop sign or stop light actually matters. When we drive a car, we hardly think twice about stopping behind another vehicle at a light, but the case is much different for motorcycles.
Stopping in the middle of the lane behind another car is a mistake. The reason being is that some motorists don’t see or notice a motorcycle stopped behind a car at a light and end up rear ending them which often leads to the motorcyclist being pinned between two cars.
When stopped on the road behind another car, always stop either towards the left or the right side of the car, preferably the right if the other lane has oncoming traffic (for countries that drive on the right side).
This won’t prevent you from getting rear ended, but it does prevent you from getting pinned. Rather than smashing in to the car in front of you, stopping towards a certain side means you just get pushed into an empty space. The outcome of that situation is much better than getting pinned.
Avoid Riding At Night
Riding a motorcycle at night can be a lot of fun, but it does increase your chances of getting into some sort of accident while on the road. It may seem extreme suggesting to avoid riding a motorcycle at night if possible, but there’s a lot of truth behind this fact.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 28% of fatal motorcycle accidents happened between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. in 2017. The study also states that weekend night driving is especially dangerous for motorcyclists.
You’ll also have to consider other factors when it comes to night riding. You may not have been drinking, but that doesn’t mean other driver’s haven’t. Other drivers are much more likely to be drinking and driving during the night time. Running into unpredictive behavior from these drivers makes it more dangerous for a motorcyclist.
Riding at night also also hinders a motorcyclist’s view of the road. Such limited visibility may make it difficult for a rider to see potholes or animals, even with the best headlights around. These are all things that are otherwise much easier to see during the day.
Avoid Riding In Inclement Weather
Motorcycles are great vehicles to use on beautiful, sunny days. Though it’s possible to ride a motorcycle in less ideal weather conditions, that doesn’t necessarily mean a biker should do so.
Inclement weather can include snow, rain, hail, or cold temperatures. Not only can this be uncomfortable, it can be extremely dangerous for a motorcyclist. Any time water and/or cold temperatures are introduced into the atmosphere, a motorcycle becomes a little more susceptible to the elements.
Driving a car in such conditions is usually a piece of cake. But that’s because cars have four wheels whereas motorcycles only have two. You’re risking a lot when you decide to take your motorcycle for a spin in harsh weather when balancing on just two tires.
Motorcycles, like any other vehicle, are just as prone to hydroplaning. Riding in rain, snow, or hail will increase your chances of hydroplaning and it can be hard to correct once it happens. Click here to see my article to learn more about motorcycles hydroplaning.
Don’t forget that just because the sun is out doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good day to go out for a ride. It isn’t recommended to ride a motorcycle below freezing temperatures (32°F or 0°C). Black ice can easily form on roads in these temperatures. Always look at the weather and temperature beforehand if you’re planning on taking your motorcycle for a spin.
Only Ride In A Side Lane
This tip to avoid a motorcycle accident especially applies to those who do long tours on their bike. Riding on a highway or freeway can be stressful enough. Doing so on a motorcycle can make it a lot more tense.
If you are going to be riding on a major highway or freeway, always stick to riding in either the far left or the far right lane. Never stay in the middle lanes unless you have to switch lanes.
If you ride a motorcycle, you know how inconsiderate other drivers can be. Plus they’re less likely to see you in the first place. Riding in the middle lane of a freeway means you have lanes of traffic on both sides that you have to worry about. Riding in one of the side lanes means there’s only one lane of traffic you need to consider. Basically, riding in a side lane decreases your chances of getting hit by another car.
Take A Safety Course
Motorcycle riding safety courses are offered all around the United States. This is a class that should be seriously considered if you want to learn more about how to become a better defensive rider and decrease your chances of getting in a motorcycle accident.
A motorcycle safety course is a class that anyone can take. It usually takes about 1-3 days to complete and consists of several hours of classroom work as well as several hours of riding practice under the supervision of an instructor. The price ranges between $150-$250, depending on the instructor.
A safety riding course does a great job at educating riders, either beginning or experienced, about how to safely operate a motorcycle. Some states even permit that if you successfully pass a safety riding course, you may surpass the riding test at the DMV to get your motorcycle license.
A class like this is statistically known to help prevent riders from getting in a motorcycle accident. The California Motorcyclist Safety Program reported that taking a safety riding course can decrease your chances of a fatal accident by almost 61%. It would be well worth your time and money to take this class with such positive statistics working for you.
Assume No One Can See You
One of the basic parts of defensive riding is assuming that no one can see you. Too many times have there been complacent riders who think drivers around them can see them which has resulted in catastrophic situations.
It’s easy to get a feeling of invincibility while riding a motorcycle, especially if you’ve ridden for years and have never had any type of accident at all. But the moment that complacency sets in is when something bad happens.
General driver’s education doesn’t go into much about teaching drivers to be more aware of motorcyclists on the road. You cannot assume the drivers around you can see you; that’s literally a bet on your own life.
Always presume every single person around you on the road has no idea you’re there and ride accordingly. This means to never ride in people’s blind spots or ride too closely behind someone (tailgating). The biggest excuse drivers have when they cause an accident with a motorcycle is “I didn’t see them.” Don’t let that be you.
Be Extra Cautious At Intersections
This is a tip that I cannot stress enough. One of best ways to prevent a motorcycle accident is to be extremely cautious when proceeding through an intersection of any kind. Intersections are especially dangerous for motorcyclists and here’s why:
According to a study done at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “the failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents.” This same study goes on to say that the most common scenario for motorcycle accidents happens in intersections when cars are turning and don’t see a motorcyclist in oncoming traffic.
Any time you are approaching an intersection of any kind, make sure you look both ways to ensure no cars are coming, even if they have a red light. Be wary of any cars attempting to turn left in and be ready to react if they happen to turn right in front of you. Also be on alert for cars trying to turn into your lane of traffic; it’s easy for them to pull in without seeing you which requires emergency maneuvering on your part.
Wear Reflective Gear
Within the motorcycle world, there tends to be a certain kind of fashion. The fashion can be different from biker to biker, but there are a few elements that are similar such as certain types of boots, jackets, helmets, etc. But this next suggested tip to help avoid a motorcycle accident may not be a favorite among those who care about their fashion while riding.
Wearing reflective gear is an excellent way to get other drivers around to notice you on the road. This may not comply with some of the fashion standards of some, but not getting in an accident is a little bit more important than making a fashion statement on the road.
Reflective gear may include wearing a neon colored vest with reflectors on it, wearing a helmet with reflectors on it, or putting reflectors on several parts of your motorcycle. You can also buy reflection tape and put several strips anywhere you’d like either on you or on your motorcycle; that way you don’t have to buy gear specifically with reflectors on it.
Do Not Drink Before Riding
As you probably know, alcohol consumption has a huge impact on the way a person can operate a vehicle. Everyone reacts different to it and for some, it can have a bigger effect on their brain.
Alcohol will cause blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty walking, impaired memory, and delay reaction times. These are all things that would make any motorcycle ride detrimental. In most places it is illegal to drive or operate a vehicle if your blood alcohol concentration (or BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
It’s good practice to not consume any alcohol before taking your motorcycle for a ride. This means your blood alcohol concentration is 0%. Many people will argue that having just a very small amount of alcohol in your system is fine as it doesn’t have that much of an impact on your driving. But let’s look at a few scary facts.
According to the NHTSA, “In 2013, there were 4,399 motorcycle riders killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 1,232 (28%) were alcohol-impaired (BAC of .08 or higher). In addition, there were 305 (7%) fatally injured motorcycle riders who had lower alcohol levels (BACs of .01 to .07 g/dL).” These numbers make it clear that any consumption before riding a motorcycle can be dangerous.
In addition to this, you’ll also need to consider that if you were somehow in an accident after having just one drink, you’d likely be held liable in some manner even if the accident wasn’t your fault. Alcohol is not your friend when it comes to riding a motorcycle. Leave that for a time when you have a ride home and don’t have to rely on two wheels to get you around.
Practice Hard Maneuvers
No matter how good of a rider you are, you’ll likely come to some sort of obstacle while out riding on the road. Sometimes these obstacles call for a quick response on your part and the way you respond can have a huge impact on whether or not you end up in an accident.
Knowing how to handle situations like this can be helpful in preventing a disaster. One way to prepare is by learning how to do hard maneuvers such as sharp turns, tight circles, and quick accelerations.
They may look like easy maneuvers when simply observing but deserve a good amount of practice in order to complete successfully. Take a few evenings one week, find an empty parking lot, and practice these hard maneuvers. Don’t let yourself get rusty on these skills and continue practicing them a few times a year.
Practice Emergency Braking
Along with practicing sharp turns and hard maneuvering, it’s also an excellent idea to practice emergency braking on your motorcycle. There’s a big debate about the right way to do this and doing so the improper way could, in itself, cause an accident.
You’ll likely come upon a situation during your riding days that will call for you to slam on your brakes. Hard braking can sometimes be rough on the braking system of your bike, so don’t practice it so much that it causes damage. But some practice will be helpful.
The best way to stop yourself abruptly and safely is to let off any acceleration and evenly apply both brakes on your motorcycle (rear and front). Do not apply just the front brakes because that could result in too much force in the front and cause you to flip. Applying both brakes means you’ll have about 70% of braking force from the front and about 30% of braking help from the back.
Sometimes hard braking won’t prevent a collision. But braking can lessen the impact which will hopefully lead to less serious injuries.
Don’t Ride Close To Semi Trucks
We’ve touched up on the idea of not riding too close to other cars to help avoid an accident on a motorcycle, but discussing semi’s deserves it’s own section. Semi trucks are incredibly helpful in the way they deliver large loads to a distant destination. But they are scary for any driver on the road because of how big and powerful they are.
Any accident involving a semi means the semi probably drove away only lightly scratched. These types of trucks can do so much damage to cars, it’s hard to imagine the damage they can do to a motorcycle.
As a rule of thumb, completely avoid riding near any semi trucks, especially on highways with faster speeds. Semi’s have a lot more blind spots than cars do and that’s a bad mix with a small motorcycle. Anytime you are riding close to a semi, either speed up ahead of them several hundred feet or slow down and let them pass you.
Know Your Limits
Last but not least, one of the biggest ways to avoid a motorcycle accident is knowing your skills and your limits. It’s good to put yourself out of your comfort zone, but perhaps that doesn’t apply very well to motorcycle riding.
Any time you are uncomfortable with a certain situation, eject yourself from it immediately. Discomfort means you aren’t confident. A lack of confidence on the road can lead to being skiddish and overly reactive. These characteristics won’t be friendly to you while out on a motorcycle. Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing any type of riding you know you can’t do well.
Motorcycle riding has a tendency to help us naturally become comfortable with a certain kind of riding over time with enough practice. Sometimes, you just may not be ready to ride on certain roads or in a certain way quite yet. But keep riding confidently and you’ll work your way up there with the goal of being accident free.