Driving back from the lake recently, I decided to take Route 40 just for the fun of it. A lot of motorcyclists had the same thought.
Slow, winding roads are a pleasure to drive. As these motorcyclists passed in the other lane, I sensed that an article on motorcycle safety seemed appropriate for this time of the year.
The open road is always an adventure. You never know what might be around the bend, so make sure you are prepared for whatever the road has in store.
Eighty percent of all reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That makes it all the more important to do everything you can to keep yourself and other motorcycle riders safe.
Gear up. Wear long pants and sleeves made of leather or another thick, protective material, as well as gloves, eye protection and durable boots that cover your ankles.
When it gets colder, don’t forget to add layers or invest in heavier gear designed for the temperatures.
Be seen. Display bright colors and reflective elements on your clothing and bike. Use your headlights, day or night. Ride in the section of lane that makes you most visible to motorists, and if you’re not sure a motorist sees you, honk.
Wear a full face helmet. The U.S. Department of Transportation has a list of approved helmets and recommends that they be light-colored for maximum visibility. Without one, your’e twice as likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury from a crash.
Replace your motorcycle helmet regularly (the general rule of thumb is every five years). And so so after a crash.
Be alert. Texting motorists are, unfortunately, a very real danger, so be ready for sudden lane changes and swerves. Watch for patches of sand, potholes, railroad tracks and other road hazards, as well as fellow motorcyclists.
Beware of intersections. Half of all crashes occur at intersections. A motorist turning left in front of you is perhaps the most common cause, so be on high alert so you can respond appropriately.
Never drink or speed. More than 40% of motorcycle riders who die in single-vehicle crashes are alcohol-impaired, and speed is at play in more than a third of fatal crashes. Staying sober and observing the speed limit go a long way to ensuring you’ll arrive safely at your destination.
Avoid bad weather. Study up on safe ways to ride in the rain, wind or whatever else Mother Nature tends to offer in your particular locale, in case you get stuck in it. If rain is in the forecast, and you have to ride, pack rain gear to stay dry and comfortable.
Get schooled. If your’e a new motorcyclist, take a motorcycle safety course. It’s a good idea for experienced riders to take refresher courses, too. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers classes online and in person.
Make it legal. Before you take your motorcycle out, make sure you have a motorcycle license – Pennsylvania requires one. Make sure your motorcycle can pass a safety inspection. Are the brakes good? Do the tires have enough tread? Do the lights work?
Are you insured? All vehicles registered for the road in Pennsylvania need to have current liability insurance.
A heads-up-for motorists: Collisions with motorcycles usually are the non-motorcycle driver’s fault.
Remember, motorcyclists have the same rights as other drivers. Check your blind spot, signal your intentions and avoid distractions.
Bob Hollick is a State Farm Insurance agent based in Washington. His column appears every other Thursday in the Observer-Reporter.
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