Motorcycle, car safety

It’s motorcycle season. Are you prepared to share the road?

With more motorcycles on the road (8.4 million in 2021) than ever, there have also been more riders injured in accidents- 84,000 in 2019 (the most recent data), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That's an increase of 2.4 percent from the prior year. And more than 5,000 motorcyclists lost their lives in accidents in 2019, an increase of 36 percent in urban areas and 14 percent in rural areas since 2010.

Like any motorist, motorcyclists have to practice safety when riding their bikes.

Whether you’re planning a cross-country trip or just a quick ride to the grocery store, here are some tips before taking to the road.

Motorcycle safety tips Sharing the road with motorcycles

Helmets save lives

Ideally, your helmet should meet the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Standards, so look for the DOT symbol on the outside back of the helmet.

A certified helmet also will have a permanent inside label identifying the manufacturer and providing information about the care and use of the helmet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent and the risk of head injury by 69 percent.

Despite that, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmet use was down 4 percent overall from 2020 to 2021. For passengers, helmet-wearing was down 20 percent in that period.

Read on for safety tips from the NHTSA for both motorcycle riders and drivers of other vehicles.

Being a responsible motorcycle driver

  • Check your tires. Make sure the tires are properly inflated, have sufficient tread, and show no signs of dry rot. It’s never a bad idea to take your bike in for an experienced motorcycle mechanic’s once-over.
  • Check fluids and filters. Change the oil and check to your bike’s brake fluid and coolant levels. Inspect the filters (air, fuel, and oil), and don’t forget to lube the chain.
  • Inspect shocks and brakes. Check for warped discs, listen for squeaks and squeals, and feel for dragging or heavy brakes. You can check the shocks by pushing down on the bike to see if they compress properly.
  • Give passengers instructions. If you're giving someone a ride on the back of your bike, make sure they wait until the engine has started before mounting the cycle. They should wear a helemt, too, sit as far foward as possible, and always keep both feet on the footrests.
  • Pay attention to the weather. Wet, rainy roads can be espeically treacerous for motorcyclists. Use extra caution and take things slower during times when roads might be slick or when visibility is diminished. 
  • Wear safety gear. Cyclists should have adequate protection for their eyes, hands, extremeties, and feet. Bad weather, bugs, and road debris can wreak havoc on exposed skin. Don some heavy denim or leather to protect you from the elements, and don't forget sunscreen!
  • Don't drive while impaired. The same laws applies to motorcycles as cars.

Share the road with motorcycles

Motorcycles only have one headlight, they lack seat belts, air bags, and a metal cage around them. They also have a much slimmer profile than other vehicles on the road. Because of these discrepancies, both those riding a motorcycle and those sharing the road need to show extreme caution to ensure the safety of everyone on the road.

Watch for motorcycles and make the road you share a safer place. Common sense and common courtesy are two of the best share-the-road tools available to you

  • Give motorcycles some space. Motorcycle drivers have the right to their own lane even if they don’t fill up the whole width of it. Crowding into a single lane with a motorcycle is ill-advised and illegal.
  • Check your blind spots. Before you change lanes or merge, take time to make sure that there’s not a rider next to you who is just out of your field of sight.
  • Pay attention when turning. Vehicles turning left in front of motorcycles is a common cause of motorcycle accidents. Be vigilant at intersections and take the time to look twice before proceeding with your turn.