Last updated: August 2023
In 2021, 5,932 motorcyclists died in crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And with this group of motorists regularly overrepresented in fatal traffic accidents, it makes following these motorcycle safety tips even more important. Whether you drive a monster truck, sports car, sedan, or motorcycle, you can do your part to make the roads safer for everyone.
Motorcycle Safety Tips for Drivers
Driving with a motorcycle near you isn’t like driving with other cars. Motorcycles are often smaller and harder to see, plus they don’t have the safeguards of metal framing, seatbelts, or airbags when it comes to protection from a collision. That’s why drivers sharing the road with motorcycles need to be careful. Taking extra precautions around motorcycles helps ensure everyone arrives at their destination happy and healthy.
When a motorcycle is nearby, here are some ways drivers can observe motorcycle safety.
Always signal, check your mirrors, and double-check blind spots
These behaviors are good habits to begin with, and they are doubly important when sharing the road with motorcycles. Because they are more compact, motorcycles may go unnoticed in a casual glance before a lane change, especially in low light or bad weather. Try to make sure you see them and they see you.
Treat motorcycle turn signals with caution
If you approach a motorcycle with an activated turn signal, wait for a moment to see what they’ll do. Unlike cars, many motorcycle signals aren’t self-canceling, so the driver must remember to manually turn the signal off. Give it a moment to see if they are actually turning or changing lanes.
Large vehicles, watch out!
If you are driving a big truck or a van, you’re probably aware your field of view can be limited. Your blind spots are larger than those of other vehicles, making it harder to see smaller cars and motorcycles around you. Be cautious when making turns or changing lanes by keeping in mind that a biker might be difficult to see.
Never try to pass a biker in the same lane
You may think that because motorcycles are smaller and don’t take up the entire lane, it’s okay to pass them in the same lane. Think again. Give a bike the full lane and give them enough space in all directions, the same way you would any other car and driver.
Give motorcycles a safe passing and following distance
Many motorcyclists slow down by rolling off the throttle or downshifting (instead of outright braking), so you may not always see brake lights to alert you of a bike’s stop. Allow 3 to 4 seconds of following time for motorcycles, and always assume a bike will brake when approaching a stop at an intersection. When it comes to passing a motorcycle, drivers who cut-off or unintentionally pull in front of a motorcycle without allowing enough space can force the rider to over-brake, slide, and fall.
Motorcycle Safety Tips for New Riders & Avid Bikers
Cruising down the road on two wheels is an indescribable feeling. As motorcyclists know, it can be the most freeing, relaxing part of your entire day. However, whether you’re a new rider or a long-time veteran, there are precautions to take before hitting the road. It’s so important to make sure you’re geared up, safe, and properly insured before riding, especially since motorcyclists are much more likely to experience a fatal accident.
Prepare by wearing the right gear
In the event of an accident, a helmet and full-body gear could mean the difference between a minor injury and a more serious one! In fact, the CDC estimates that helmets alone saved 1,872 lives in 2017. Having a helmet that fits correctly is the first step to gearing up for safety, but safe motorcycle safety gear also includes:
- Hearing protection
- Rain gear
- High visibility gear
Perform a Quick Safety Check Before You Ride
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends performing a “T-CLOCS” check before you ride. Here’s what their checklist includes.
- Inspect the (T)ires, wheels, and braking system.
- Test the (C)ontrols, including the handlebars, cables, levers and pedal, hoses, and throttle.
- Check the (L)ights and electrics. This includes the battery, headlight, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, lenses/reflectors, mirrors, and wiring.
- Check the level of (O)il and other fluids, carefully looking for any leaks.
- Inspect the (C)hassis, making sure the bike’s frame, suspension, fasteners, and chain or belt are working properly.
- Ensure the bike’s (S)tands are working properly.
A short inspection may not catch every problem, but it could prove lifesaving if you locate a safety issue.
Drive like you’re invisible
Sounds funny, but the NHTSA suggests pretending you’re invisible to other drivers when you’re on a motorcycle, as they will often behave like you are. This kind of mentality can help you navigate defensively when driving in busy traffic.
Check the weather forecast before you ride
The weather can be unpredictable. You could leave your house on a sunny morning only to be caught off guard by a thunderstorm in the afternoon, making it unsafe for you to ride home. Check the forecast or be prepared to wait out bad conditions.
Motorcycle Passenger Safety Tips
Many motorcycles have a passenger seat, and while it’s tempting to have a friend hop on and cruise off an adventure together, make sure you’re taking the necessary precautions before doing so. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts for motorcycle passenger safety.
- DO read your owner’s manual and check the bike’s equipment. Read up on your make and model and make sure it’s safe to carry passengers. Then, check the bike’s equipment (passenger seat, foot pegs, etc.) to ensure it’s safe to take someone along.
- DO give your passenger safety gear. They should be protected just like you.
- DO make practice runs. Before you take on a busy street, find an empty parking lot and practice basic maneuvers at a lower speed.
- DON’T assume things will operate the same with a passenger. With the extra person on board, you should be prepared to brake sooner, handle curves differently, and for someone to bump into you slightly when turning or stopping.
- DON’T let your hands or feet hang loose as a passenger. Your hands should always be on the passenger’s handholds or around the driver, and your feet should always be on the foot pegs.
- DON’T be an idle passenger. You’re also responsible for getting to your destination safely. Make sure not to distract the driver. If you can help the driver by leaning into turns, do so. You’re working as a team when you ride together.
Become a Master Motorcyclist with Proper Training
Motorcycle riding is fun, but it’s also hard work. Makes and models can vary greatly, so it’s crucial you understand how to operate your specific bike, not the neighbor’s or a family member’s bike, before heading out on the open road. Motorcyclists need to be hyper-aware of their machines, something that only comes with knowledge and practice. It’s also a good idea to take a motorcycle rider education course where you can learn specific things, such as:
- How to check your bike before a ride
- Riding during a certain time of the year
- Riding in certain types of weather
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has plenty of courses (both online and in-person) available to help you hone your skills. You can also search for motorcycle courses near your location or state-sponsored rider education programs.
While we hope all drivers take safety precautions, bikers can’t take any chances. If you’re going to ride a motorcycle, make sure you wear the right gear, purchase affordable motorcycle insurance that has your back, and follow tips for motorcycle safety. Call or come in to speak with a friendly Direct Auto agent about getting motorcycle insurance coverage.