There are over 800,000 motorcycles registered in the State of California - more than in any other state. The number of riders in the state means that California also leads the nation in motorcycle accidents. In 2013, the last year for which accident statistics are available, more than 11,000 people were injured in motorcycle accidents, and 480 people were killed.
Whether you’ve been riding for years or only for a couple of months, these accident statistics probably aren’t news to you. You’re already aware that operating a motorcycle is more dangerous than driving a car. What you may not be aware of is exactly how dangerous it can be. Statistics show that motorcycle drivers are 30 times more likely to die in an accident than the driver of a car.
Despite these odds, many riders go an entire lifetime without getting involved in an accident. Safe riders stay safe by avoiding the risky behaviors that cause collisions and injury. For example, nearly 50% of motorcycle fatalities involve speeding, and over 40% involve alcohol use. When you eliminate these factors when you’re riding, you go a long way towards keeping yourself safe.
In this article we’re going to look at some other California motorcycle safety tips. These tips can improve your chances of avoiding an accident, as well as reducing the severity of your injuries, or even saving your life, if you are involved in an accident.
Too many motorcycle owners make the mistake of buying a bike that’s too big and too powerful for them. There’s an element of machismo at work that makes some people equate a big bike as being a better bike. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The size of your bike has to match your level of skill and what type of riding that you’re doing. You need to be able to comfortably sit on the bike, reach the handlebars, and handle its weight when stopped or when parking. For most people, a 250cc to 300cc engine is perfect for commuting or riding around the neighborhood. A 500cc to 750cc engine is more than adequate for use on a highway or for longer road trips or commutes.
Safely riding a motorcycle comes with experience. One of the best ways to get that experience when you’re first starting out is with a motorcycle safety course. The State of California offers a motorcycle safety program that is designed to show new motorcycle riders the ropes in a controlled environment that allows them to learn important safety skills and build up confidence before they hit the streets. If you’re a new rider, or you’re returning to riding after a period of time, participating in this type of safety program is an investment in your future safety when driving your motorcycle.
There’s a reason that the use of a helmet when riding on a motorcycle in California is mandatory – helmets save lives. Riders without helmets are 40% more likely to suffer fatal head trauma and three times more likely to suffer brain injuries from accidents than riders with helmets. Always use a helmet that’s been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. If you’re riding with a passenger, make sure that they wear a helmet as well.
When you’re riding on a motorcycle, you’re not only exposed to the elements, you’re also completely vulnerable to the pavement and other objects should you skid, fall, or become involved in an accident. Street clothes are not going to keep you warm, dry, and protected from bugs, stones and abrasions caused by contact with the road. Always ride wearing protective clothing made of leather or other durable material.
Studies have shown that in over 60% of all accidents involving a motorcycle and a car, the driver of the car is at fault. This means that in order to be safe, you need to drive defensively when you’re on your bike. Always be aware of the traffic around you. Watch how other drivers are behaving. If you see that a driver is acting in an unsafe manner, fall back and keep a safe distance between you and them. Keep a safe interval between you and the car in front of you. Make sure that you stay out of a vehicle’s blind spots. If you can’t avoid a blind spot, minimize the amount of time that you spend in it.
Rain can be a motorcycle rider’s worst enemy. Wet roads are slippery roads. They cut into your safety margin, making it more difficult for you to stop. Wet roads also increase the chances of a skid which can turn into a fall. Rain also reduces your visibility, making it harder to see what’s happening around you. You sometimes have no choice other than to ride while it’s raining. When you have to ride in the rain, go easy on your brakes and your throttle. Avoid sudden starts and stops or quick maneuvers. Take your time and exercise more caution.
With two wheels, a motorcycle has less contact with the road than a car. This means that a bike is much more vulnerable to hazards and debris on the road than a car. Things that a car can pass over with ease can present a serious problem to a bike. Therefore, keep your eyes out for leaves, branches and other debris on the road. Always try to avoid bumps and potholes if you can. When obstructions can’t be avoided, slow down and pass over them slowly.
Your safety depends on your motorcycle operating correctly while you’re driving. Make sure that you give your bike a visual once over before you get on it to ride. Check tire pressure and inspect the tires for wear. Check the chain or shaft, as well as the brakes. Make sure that your lights and turn signals are working. When your bike is working the way it should, you will have no surprises to deal with out on the road.