When the weather is nice, the number of motorcycles on the roads increases dramatically — and so too does the number of motorcycle accidents.
Despite the benefits, riding a motorcycle can be dangerous — thousands of motorcyclists are seriously injured or killed in motorcycle accidents every year in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As a motorcyclist, you have a responsibility to make sure you and those around you stay safe when riding. These are just a few of the steps you can take to ride safely and prevent motorcycle accidents.
1. Be visible
One of the most common causes of a car-motorcycle collision is the car driver’s failure to see the bike or its rider. When drivers look in their mirrors or out their windows, they’re watching for other cars and often don’t notice when a motorcycle is nearby. Ensure you are visible by wearing bright colors, putting reflectors on your clothing or riding gear, and avoiding drivers’ blind spots.
2. Take responsibility for your safety – pay attention to other drivers
Always be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on cars in left-turn lanes or on side streets that may pull out in front of you unexpectedly. You can try to predict when a car may cut you off or switch lanes by watching a car’s wheels, checking for turn signals, or noticing when drivers turn their heads in preparation for a lane shift.
3. Practice evasive action
Avoiding accidents sometimes requires quickly getting out of a car’s way by swerving or using other evasive techniques — as long as you have enough practice and skill to stay in control.
If you need to stop suddenly and fear you might be rear-ended, don’t stop in the middle of the lane — stop on the center line or to one side of the lane. Also, be aware of obstacles on or next to the road (rocks, open car doors, etc.) and be prepared to swerve to avoid them.
4. Improve riding skills and stay focused
Take a motorcycle safety course to familiarize yourself with your bike and operate it with complete confidence. This will also help you learn how to get out of tight spots and avoid potential accidents. Any time you’re riding, minimize distractions and stay focused on the road and your motorcycle.
5. Slow down
It’s much more difficult to control your motorcycle when riding fast, especially when the road isn’t flat and straight. Stay at the speed most comfortable for you. When you can’t see beyond a curve or the crest of a hill you’re approaching, slow down — if you’re already going too fast when you meet an unexpected sharp bend or obstacle, you might lose control.
6. Wear protective gear
Helmets save lives. Buy a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved helmet, and replace it if it gets damaged. You should also buy comfortable, durable clothing and boots to wear while riding; they offer you greater control and help protect you in the event of an accident.
7. Be smart about where and when you ride
Don’t ride during bad weather, especially rain and wind. Such conditions not only impair your vision but also make an accident more likely due to slippery roads or strong wind gusts. Avoid riding in hazardous areas including construction zones, heavily potholed roads, or any place where road debris could cause you to crash.
8. Don’t drink and ride
Riding a motorcycle requires focus, control, and quick reaction times. Alcohol significantly impairs your capacity for all of those things. Protect yourself and others on the road — don’t drink and ride.
Learn more about the UPMC Division of Trauma and General surgery website.