American roads can be quite dangerous as it is—but never more dangerous than when you hop onto a motorcycle. As a lover of motorcycles who uses one for daily transportation, I don’t say this to discourage you from riding by any means. But what I do discourage is someone hopping onto a bike without knowing the risks.
It’s important to be aware, be prepared, and drive safely—here are 4 essentials for motorcycle safety that every rider should keep in mind, regardless of the laws in their particular state.
1. A Helmet
The first is a helmet. Motorcycle helmets are your number one piece of safety equipment on a motorcycle, and they are designed to protect your head and face. Make sure you get a helmet that fits, as one that fits improperly can not only be useless but increase the chances of hurting your neck. Check the strap for security and comfort, ensure there is plenty of inner padding, and get a helmet with a facemask for extra protection from the elements and in accidents.
Gloves are often overlooked by new riders but are an important part of motorcycle safety equipment—another essential. Not only do they protect the hands in the case of an accident, but they also protect them from the elements.
While you may be able to endure the stinging cold on your fingers while riding, when your fingers become numb or are extremely uncomfortable, your ability to maneuver the bike decreases. In a similar vein, if it is hot, your hands can become sweaty, making it more difficult to engage the throttle without the extra traction gloves provide.
Again, make sure they fit correctly, and there should be no “slippage” inside the gloves.
3. Thick Clothing
Thick clothing that covers the legs and arms is also essential. This becomes imperative when a bike goes down on the asphalt at even lower speeds, and may very well keep you from losing a few layers of skin. Not to mention that covering your legs can protect you from some nasty burns from hot pipes, whether climbing on or lying underneath your bike.
Many of the best gear manufacturers also build in addition padding to cover the joints and other vulnerable parts of the body.
4. Ultra-Defensive Driving
The absolute most essential need for driving motorcycles is ultra-defensive driving. Because let’s face it, when you’re out there on the bike, it doesn’t matter how hard you focus on correct, safe driving when all it takes is some other driver to make a mistake. You’re the one that is hard to see, and you’re the one stands to lose the most when it comes to a collision between you and another car.
So it’s up to you to compensate for the inadequacies or simple mistakes of others—that’s all there is to it. Go out of your way to be the most defensive driver on the road. And while you’re at it, drive slower, be more aware, give yourself more stopping time, and take fewer risks. And never, ever, drive under the influence of alcohol—even just one beer.
Nothing can be more sobering than a brief lapse in judgment ruining lives.
4. Drunk Driving
The most preventable cause of automobile accidents is drunk driving—a cause of death that crosses nearly every parent’s mind when they first hand their teenager the car keys. We all know it is a problem and a very dangerous one, yet so many still do it.
Any time you’ve had a drink, you should refrain from driving—it is simple as that. Use taxis, designated drivers, and self-control. Anything else is a show of complete neglect for your own life and the lives of others.
Of course, weather is also a major factor in automobile accidents and in any of the cases above, it can make an accident much more likely to happen. Driving speeds and habit should always be adjusted in regards to the current road environment, so keep an eye on the weather and drive accordingly—it’s the law, but it’s also your life and the lives of others.
The simple truth is that most car accidents involve a variety of different contributing factors, and even if you do everything perfectly, someone else’s mistake can quickly alter your life. For that reason, the best policy is and always has been defensive driving. Make it a point to always be aware of not only what you are doing but what those around you are doing, and always be prepared to give to a more aggressive driver.
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