Motorcycle, car safety

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

There are more motorcycles on the road today than ever before. In 2018, there were more than 8.3 million on-road registered motorcycles in the United States, nearly twice as many as in 2002 according to the most recent data available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Motorcycle safety tips Sharing the road with motorcycles

Motorcycle accidents are increasing

With more motorcyclists on the road, there have been more injured riders in motorcycle accidents — 84,000 in 2019 (the most recent data), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found. 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. Since 2010, that’s an increase of 36 percent in urban areas and 14 percent in rural areas.

Motorcycle safety riding

Motorcycle enthusiasts are a unique breed — maybe a bit rebellious, passionate about the kind of bike they ride, and often harboring an insatiable desire for the open road.

But like other motorists, motorcyclists have practice safety riding their bikes. Not only for their own safety, but for the safety of those who share their stretch of road.

Whether you’re planning a cross-country trip or just tooling over to the grocery store, here are some to-dos before hitting the pavement.

Inspect your motorcycle helmet

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 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.

Motorcycle safety gear

Cyclists should have adequate protection for their eyes, hands, extremities, 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 the sunscreen!

Inspect your motorcycle

  • 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.

Consider your passenger

If you’re carrying a friend on the back of your bike, make sure they wait until the engine has started before mounting the cycle. They should wear a helmet, too, sit as far forward as possible, and to keep both feet on the footrests at all times.

Share the road with motorcycles

Motorcycles have one headlight, not two they lack seat belts, air bags, and a metal cage; and they have a much slimmer profile than other vehicles on the road.

Whatever you drive — two wheels, four wheels, or more wheels — 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 them 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.
  • Drivers, 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.
  • Who has right of way? 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.
  • Riding in the rain. Wet, rainy roads can be especially treacherous for motorcyclists. As always, be sure to use extra caution and take things slower during times when roads might be slick or when visibility is diminished. (Read more about defensive driving.)
  • Motorcycling at night. Some riders may choose to ride their bikes at night. When driving at night, be sure to turn your high beams off when a motorcycle approaches and stay at a safe distance.

For more information

We’ve got tips to get your motorcycle ride ready. We also offer motorcycle insurance under our Land-Based Recreational Vehicle insurance program. Find an independent Grinnell Mutual agent near you to get a quote.

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