Staying visible to other drivers is among your biggest challenges when riding—which means it should be among your top priorities. First, you need to understand why the average driver struggles to see you in traffic:
- Size: Because of its comparatively small size, your motorcycle can appear farther away than it is.
- Visibility: You can easily be hidden in a driver’s blind spots—which can make up approximately 40 percent of the vehicle’s perimeter.
- Signaling: Some bikes’ turn signals are not self-canceling, which can send the wrong message to surrounding drivers when you change lanes.
- Movement: Your motorcycle allows you to avoid surface hazards that car drivers do not see. Unfortunately, this can make motorcycle movements seem erratic.
- Confusion: At night, your bike’s single headlight can look like a car from a long distance.
- Appearance: Black leather riding gear is nearly indistinguishable in the dark of night.
Perform regular motorcycle maintenance
Here is an important checklist to help keep your bike in ride-ready shape:
- Inspect your battery.
- Change your bike’s motor oil and filter frequently.
- Check the fuel system for signs of swelling or leaks.
- Inspect the brake lever, brake pads, and rotors for wear and tear and smooth functioning of caliper pistons.
- Check your tire pressure and inspect tire treads and wheels for damage. Riding on worn-out tires is dangerous, so be sure you know when to replace your tires.
- Keep your insurance, inspections, and other paperwork up to date.
Wear the right protective gear
What you choose to wear can impact your comfort, visibility, and protection from injury. Here is a list of gear you should never leave home without:
- Helmet: Most states require you to wear a helmet when riding. And even if you live in a state that does not, we encourage you to ride with one—every time.
- Eye protection: If you do not wear a full-face helmet, do not forget eye protection. Shatterproof sunglasses or goggles will help keep your eyes safe from UV rays and provide a clear view of the roadway.
- Gloves: Wearing the right pair of gloves not only protects you from the elements, but also helps protect your hands in case of an accident.
- Rain gear: Try to find rain gear made specifically to fit over the rest of your motorcycle safety gear. Keep it with you when you ride in case the weather changes unexpectedly.
- Jacket, pants, and boots: Make sure your jacket, pants, or one-piece riding suit fits properly to accommodate your riding posture. Layering your riding gear—rather than wearing bulky single layers—allows you to adjust to changing weather conditions. And to help ensure head-to-toe protection, choose sturdy riding boots that support your ankles and offer protection from burns and impact.
Take a safety course
There are a range of courses available to help make you a safer and smarter motorcycle rider. Taking one of these safety courses can also help you save on your insurance policy. Visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website to find a course location near you or consider enrolling in an online course.
Keep improving as a rider
For many of us, Mother Nature puts riding on hold for months at a time—which means the beginning of a new riding season can require kicking off a little rust. Even if that is not the case for you, do not succumb to complacency. Along with safety courses, something as seemingly simple as practicing common maneuvers using a few traffic cones can make a real difference the next time you head out on the open road. There is no shame in running through the basics of riding—quite the opposite, in fact. “Practice makes perfect” may be a cliché, but it is a cliché for a reason.
Keep your insurance coverage up to date
Evaluate your insurance policy to make sure it provides the coverages you need for your riding style and your priorities. This may not be the most obvious part of motorcycle safety, but when the unexpected happens, you want to be sure you are protected.
We encourage you to share these safety strategies with your fellow riders—and even friends and family who prefer four wheels instead of two. After all, Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is valuable for non-riders as well. It is a concerted effort to help ensure drivers are aware of the vulnerabilities you face on the road
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