How To Keep Motorcyclists Safe On The Road

The importance of training other drivers to be more careful

Ensuring road safety for bikersAs a lawyer who represents bikers injured in serious accidents, I know firsthand how some of the most precarious situations that motorcyclists find themselves is when other drivers on the road act irresponsibly. While we can’t predict how others will act, we can make the roads safer by both educating all motorists and by employing some basic precautions every time we hop on a bike– regardless of the distance.

Of course we can preach to drivers about the the severity of these accidents, but drivers of all vehicles— from economy cars to semi-trucks— need to remember that the traffic laws afford motorcyclists just as much right to be on the roadways as those operating on four wheels.

Initially, drivers need to appreciate the fact that motorcycles are quite different mechanically than the cars they are likely accustomed to with faster accelerations, stopping and of course– much less visibility. Moreover, there is precious little room for error as each time a motorcyclist is hit or goes down trouble almost certainly follows:

When drivers see a motorcycle on the road (and when they don’t), they must keep in mind:

  • Look twice before changing lanes. Sounds cliche, but car drivers need to actually check for bikers in all mirrors to ensure they are not in their blind spot
  • Give motorcyclists a little room. Due to their smaller size, motorcycles are likely a lot closer than they may appear to be
  • Watch out for turn signals on bikes. Motorcycles are equipped with turn signals and car drivers need to be on the lookout for them while passing
  • Put down the phone. A text or conversation can wait. In most jurisdictions, such behavior is illegal. Even when not, it’s universally dangerous
  • Use your traffic signals. Sounds basic, but car drivers must make motorcyclists aware of their intentions

Steps that bikers can take to reduce the chance of a serious motorcycle crash

In a perfect world, all car and truck drivers would look, look, and yield to motorcyclists in the area. There is a long way to go before the overwhelming majority of drivers begin to appreciate the dangers that accompany motorcycling. Nonetheless, taking some basic safety precautions improve the odds of allowing bikers to stay on their bikes as they enter their Golden Years.

1) Wearing helmets

The most susceptible part of the body in a crash or fall is the head. Wearing a helmet can keep you safe and significantly reduce the rate of catastrophic injuries such as paralysis or death by more than 80%. You may end up sustaining injuries from which you can reasonably hope to recover to ride another day. Of course helmet use is a personal decision, but its difficult to argue against a modern helmet that affords protection and has the added benefit of Blue Tooth technology to allow a rider to talk on the phone or with other riders in the area. Helmets are available from as little as $30 up to as much as $300. You might want to insist that the helmet you buy meet safety standards prescribed by DOT (Department of Traffic) or the Snell foundation. Since this is going to be an investment in a life-saving device, you might want to buy the best and not the cheapest.

2) Leather and Kevlar clothing

Protect your exposed skin by wearing leather and Kevlar gear that will protect you in the event of an accident. Motorcyclists are often dragged along the ground or get seriously lacerated when involved in a collision. You can get comfortable leather wear even for summer months that will not make you feel too hot.

3) Continue to educate other motorists that motorcyclists share the road

Other motorists on the road can also play an important part in ensuring road safety. Offer motorcyclists enough space so that you are free to make their own maneuvers on the road. Keep a watch on them just as you would for another vehicle. Avoid sharing your lane with a motorcycle as this is not only illegal but also dangerous. Sharing a lane means that the distance between your vehicle and the motorcycle is less than safe. Reminder other motorist to be extra watchful while taking a left turn. If there is an oncoming bike that is turning right, then wait for him to pass.

4) Put down the drink

The tradition of riding motorcycles to a watering hole and then getting back in the saddle needs to stop. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control, predict than more than 33% of all motorcycle fatalities involve a cyclist who was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash.

It only requires minor precautions on the part of motorcyclists and other drivers to substantially improve traffic safety for all. A collaborative effort is needed to make motorcycling better for current and future riders.

Jonathan Rosenfeld is an attorney in Chicago and represents motorcyclists who have been injured in accidents. For more information about his practice visit www.ChicagoMotorcycleInjuryLawyers.com

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