Spring is here, and the excellent warm weather is bringing out motorcyclists around the country. While spring is usually perfect for riding, there are numerous hazards out on the road. This May, take some time to make sure you are riding safely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration designated May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in an effort to have all motorists, two and four wheeled, sharing the road and keeping an eye out for motorcyclists. Just as car and truck drivers need to remember to share the road, motorcyclists can take this opportunity to make themselves visible to other drivers.
Motorcyclists are approximately 3% of motor vehicle traffic, so car drivers are not habitually watching for motorcycles the way they look for cars, trucks, and SUVs. The highest selling car and truck in the States is the Toyota Camry and Ford F-150, both of which are several times bigger than your V-Rod. It isn’t that car and truck drivers are malicious towards bikers, or even just asleep-at-the-wheel terrible drivers; it’s that driving is a “memory muscle” function, and drivers are on autopilot. Unfortunately, the result is motorcyclists are 14% of road-going fatalities and injuries according to the NTHSA, which is significantly more than their numbers should be. The Governors Highway Safety Association recently reported 5,027 fatal motorcycle accidents in 2012, which confirms the ongoing and unfortunate trend of an increasing number of motorcyclists being killed on the road each year.
Bikers can help the situation by making themselves more visible to other drivers. Make sure your headlamp is in proper working condition, and always ride with it on. Wear clothing that is bright, or consider a bright helmet. When buying riding gear, maybe opt for the ones with reflective strips. Take a moment to talk with your friends, family, and co-workers when you have an opportunity. Relate a near-miss experience you may have had, and how it impacted you. Get other drivers to see the problem from your perspective. Consider modifying your bike, as loud pipes can save lives by announcing your arrival to those that are not looking out for you.
Speaking of safety gear, now may be the perfect time to buy a helmet if you normally ride without. Yes, most states do not require a helmet, and many riders champion the feeling of freedom, the wind in their hair, complain about helmets being hot or restrictive, or any other number of excuses, but the numbers don’t lie: wearing a helmet saves lives. Modern helmets offer many great looking styles, have zero impact on visibility or hearing, and will drastically reduce injuries in an accident.
A recent report from the NHTSA showed that non-helmet wearing riders receive more injuries than helmeted riders, and will receive an average hospital bill of $12,291. For reference, that would buy you a brand new Star Stryker or a Honda CB1000R. You have better things to do with your money than hospital bills.
Safety does not mean the end of fun. Let’s talk about motorcycle safety this May, so we can all enjoy the ride.