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Five Ways to Make Sure You’re Driving Safely on a Motorcycle

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There is nothing as thrilling as driving your motorcycle down a highway on your way to a lake, favorite restaurant or hiking trail. You’re close to nature and love the feel of the wind.

Be prudent about safety concerns as you drive. More than 4,380 motorcyclists were killed in crashes in 2013, the last year for which statistics are available. Those fatalities make up 13% of all vehicle accident deaths. Motorcycles are much smaller than cars or trucks. Motorcyclists are also much less protected by metal and steel in the event of a crash or spin than car or truck drivers. In addition, if motorcycles are hit by a car or truck, the motorcyclist may be thrown and suffer severe injury.

Here are 5 ways to make sure you are driving safely while enjoying your motorcycle.

1) Wear a helmet. While some states have instituted more lenient laws about requiring the wearing of motorcycle helmets, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is unequivocal. Helmets decrease the chance of a fatal accident by more than a third. Helmets also decrease the risk of a head injury by nearly 70%, according to CDC data. Head injuries can cause paralysis and severe impairment. A helmet is the chief safety tool a motorcyclist should use. Although 60% of motorcyclists wear helmets, that means 40% do not. Many riders feel that helmets interfere with their vision and hearing – which are needed for safe driving. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), however, concluded that vision loss was virtually nonexistent in regular conditions. When checking to the left or right, any vision loss could be offset by simply turning your head farther. They also found that helmets don’t interfere with hearing.

2) Drive defensively. Yes, motorcyclists have every right of the road that cars and trucks enjoy. They ought to be watching out for you just as much as you watch out for them.

The fact of the matter is, though, that if a car cuts in front of you to make a right exit, you are much more likely to be hurt in a possible collision.

Drivers often don’t “see” or register motorcycles in the same way they do other vehicles. So make sure you compensate. Leave enough space to stop if a vehicle cuts in front of you while exiting or changing lanes. Watch the speed of the drivers. Acclimate to traffic conditions. Don’t zip in and out of stopped traffic – a suddenly moving car could hit you.

3) Be visible. Make sure you are visible at night. Wear reflective strips on your clothing. Be as visible as possible in the day, with bright (but dark) clothing. Again, you are compensating for drivers often not registering motorcycles in the same way they do other vehicles.

4) Don’t drive and drive. This is good advice for every driver on the road. Driving while impaired with alcohol affects coordination and one’s sense of balance. Motorcyclists need these even more than other drivers. The NHTSA points out that intoxicated motorcyclists die more often as a result of their intoxication than car or truck drivers.

5) Take safety classes geared toward motorcyclists. The National Safety Council and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation have joined forces to offer safe driving courses especially for motorcyclists. These can be completed online whenever you have the time. The courses provide a helpful reinforcement of safety tips and rules.

The pleasure of driving motorcycles and going places is huge. The need for safety given the smaller size of motorcycles and the lack of protection around their drivers compared to cars or trucks is also huge. Follow these 5 tips to arrive safely.

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