While motorcycles are fun and fuel-efficient, they are, statistically speaking, much more dangerous than cars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that motorcycle crashes are about 30 times more likely to be fatal than a car crash.
Even more alarming is the fact that motorcycle injuries and deaths are going up, not down. Motorcycle-related fatalities have doubled since 1997 – the rate is now about 4,400 per year. Passenger vehicle fatalities, in contrast, are at record lows.
So what should a prudent motorcyclist do to minimize the risk of an accident?
1. Get Trained (and a License)
A significant percentage of the riders involved in accidents don’t have an official motorcycle license (which in most states requires demonstration of a legally-mandated level of driving skill). Florida law requires either a motorcycle endorsement to a driver’s license or a motorcycle-only license to operate a motorcycle. You need to pass a Basic Rider Course from an approved provider as part of the license requirements.
Although not legally required, completing a second Florida-approved course (Basic Rider Course II) will usually lower your insurance premiums. The Florida Motorcycle Handbook published by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles contains a good summary of state motorcycle law and a wealth of handy safety tips.
2. Do a Walk-Around
A motorcycle with a mechanical or maintenance problem can cause trouble once you’re on the road. Before starting each ride, take a minute to look over the bike for obvious issues:
- Check tires for air pressure, obvious wear and tread condition.
- Check underneath for any oil or gas leaks.
- Confirm that the headlight, taillight, brake light and turn signals are working.
- On a weekly basis, check hydraulic and coolant fluid levels.
Once you’ve mounted the bike:
- Check clutch and throttle operation.
- Clean and adjust your mirrors.
- Test your brakes individually.
- Confirm that your horn works.
3. Watch What’s on the Road
Motorcycles are much more vulnerable to road conditions and debris than cars. Keep an eye out for puddles, leaves, gravel, sand and potholes that could cause a spill. Although Florida law does not require protective headgear for insured riders over 21, all riders are required to wear approved eye-protective devices. Stay aware of weather conditions and use good judgment when to park and when to ride.
4. Know Your Stopping Distance
Motorcycles can stop faster and need less distance than passenger vehicles, but you still need to maintain a buffer space between you and everyone else on the road. Veteran riders recommend 20 feet between you and other cycles you’re riding with.
5. Drive Defensively
When there is a crash between a cyclist and a car, the driver of the car is usually at fault. Studies suggest that two-thirds of all motorcycle accidents are caused by the car not respecting the bike rider’s right-of-away. The following defensive measures will reduce the risk of an accident:
- Always ride with your headlights on.
- Stay out of a driver’s blind spot.
- Assume everyone on the road with you has no mirrors, can only see straight ahead and may change lanes at any moment.
- Give big trucks a wide berth — they often can’t see cars driving near them, so a cycle is even more likely to be missed.
6. Dress Correctly
The ideal outfit for a ride includes gloves, sturdy shoes, goggles/sunglasses, and clothing that will prevent or minimize road rash. Bright clothing to maximize your visibility is also a good idea. Florida law requires eye protection for all riders and helmets for riders under age 21.
7. Know Your Skill Level
If you’re riding in a group, stay in your comfort zone and don’t try to emulate more skilled riders. Also don’t buy or ride a more powerful bike than you can handle.
The Orange Park accident attorneys at Ansbacher Law can help you get the compensation you deserve if you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident. Call us at 904-737-4700 (24/7) for a free consultation and let us help you when you need it most.