Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month 

In the US, motorcycles make up only three percent of all registered vehicles, and a minuscule 0.6 percent of total vehicle miles traveled. Despite that, motorcycles account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. That disproportionate number reflects their vulnerability. Additionally, more than 80,000 motorcyclists are injured each year. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and I urge you to be a safe rider.

Be visible, and be predictable. Simply put, motorcycles are hard to see. Most drivers are more cued-in to cars, and may miss motorcycles – hence the slogan look twice, save a life. Car drivers need to pay attention, but motorcycle operators have a responsibility too. Obey traffic control devices, and stick to the speed limit. Leave sufficient room between you and other vehicles. Check and signal before you change lanes, and never pass in the same lane or ride the line. Drive defensively, as if other vehicles don’t see you – because often they may not.

If you are in a crash, a helmet can save your life or prevent traumatic brain injury. Find the style that matches your head shape, size, and the specific type of riding you do. The more comfortable your helmet is, the more likely you are to wear it on every ride. Make sure your helmet is DOT-compliant – look for the sticker on the back, and watch out for fakes. Some helmets sold as “novelty helmets” don’t meet safety standards. Helmets should be at least one inch thick with a stiff foam inner liner, and have sturdy, riveted chin straps. Beware of helmets advertised as “the lightest helmet” – helmets that meet safety standards usually weigh about three pounds.

Protect the rest of your body too. It may be uncomfortable to wear full gear in a Florida summer, but covering your arms and legs with denim or leather is a good idea. Wear gloves, and boots that come over the ankle too. Black leather may look good, but bright colors keep you safer. Opt for high-visibility colors on your upper body, and add reflectors to your clothing or to your ride.

And it should go without saying – know how to ride a motorcycle. I don’t just mean get a few pointers from your friend in an empty parking lot. You need a motorcycle endorsement to legally ride in the state of Florida. For that you must complete the Basic Rider Course, which teaches the fundamentals of riding your motorcycle responsibly and safely. Advanced courses which help prepare you for more extreme or unexpected situations are a good idea too. Take time to get used to your motorcycle, practicing in easy conditions and working your way up to more challenges as your skills improve. Know how to ride in the rain, and prepare for how you’ll handle slick roads or obstructions.

Keep your motorcycle in good repair, and check it before every ride. Check your tires – pressure and tread – as well as brakes, lights, signal, and fluids. Make sure loads are balanced, and that any necessary adjustments are made to compensate for additional weight.

Passengers need to know how to ride safely too – they’re not a passive spectator like a passenger in a car, but an active participant whose behavior can affect performance and safety. Make sure your passenger knows to mount only when the kickstand is raised and the motorcycle is braced, to keep their feet on the footrests, hold the driver’s waist or the handholds, and avoid making sudden moves. Be aware of how the extra weight and wind resistance will affect handling.

Pinellas County averages 524 motorcycle crashes and 27 fatalities annually. Ride smart to avoid becoming part of that statistic.


Posted by Laura Sullivan Friday, May 3, 2024 10:14:00 AM

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