Motorcyclists love the freedom that their bikes offer them, but such freedom comes with a price. The undeniable fact is that even with reasonably priced motorcycles, excellent fuel mileage, and affordable motorcycle insurance, you could be paying for the privilege of riding a motorcycle with your health, or even your life. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has repeatedly made clear, you’re 30 times more likely to die in a car crash if you’re a motorcyclist than if you drive a regular 4-wheeled vehicle.
That’s why it’s important that you pay attention to motorcycle safety. Unfortunately, some of the pearls of “common wisdom” regarding aspects of motorcycling safety aren’t really accurate. So here are some facts that may surprise you:
You can see well enough with full-faced helmets. Some people say that these helmets restrict visibility, which is why they may sometimes wear helmets that look straight out of a WWII movie. But the safety standards mandated by the Department of Transportation include a requirement that these helmets offer at least a 210-degree field of view. That ensures that even your peripheral vision isn’t impeded.
In addition, these helmets are effective in keeping debris, insects, the rain, and even the wind off your face. This allows you to ride your motorcycle without any potentially fatal distraction.
Wearing leather jackets while riding a motorcycle is more than about looking “cool.” Admittedly, such a look is always fashionable and sharp. However, the coolness factor isn’t the main reason for the popularity of leather jackets among motorcyclists. The leather acts like a lightweight armor that keeps your skin from being peeled of should you slide across a road. Also, its warmth protects you from wind chill. So wearing a leather jacket is not just cool, it’s smart because it protects you.
Motorcycles are easy to see. Some people believe this because lots of motorcycles are designed to be eye-catching. But when you’re out riding on the road, the cool design of your motorcycle won’t be very noticeable to drivers of cars, trucks, and SUVs. In fact, most car crashes that involve a motorcycle and a 4-wheeled vehicle occur because the car driver simply didn’t see the motorcycle in time.
You need to practice being more visible to other motorists. This means you should avoid staying in the blind spots of other motorists. You should make it a habit to ride in the leftmost lanes on highways and near the dividing line on 2-way roads. That way, the other drivers can see you through their left side mirror.
Riding a motorcycle on the interstate is actually safer than on urban roads. People think highways are inherently more dangerous for motorcyclists because of the faster speeds involved. But the finding by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration actually reveals that more than 9 out of 10 crashes involving a motorcycle and a 4-wheeled vehicle actually occur on non-interstate roadways.
It’s been found that even with the faster speeds, you’re actually safer on highways when you’re riding a motorcycle. That’s because there’s no opposing traffic, the traffic flow is much smoother, and the driving lanes are wider. Motorcyclists are also able to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
Loud exhaust pipes don’t make you significantly safer on the road. Many motorcycle enthusiasts believe loud pipes call attention to your presence, so other drivers can be more aware of where you are. So people driving in front of you may notice you even if you’re in their blind spot.
Unfortunately, these noisy pipes are only good at annoying pedestrians (and your neighbors). The sound is generated to the back of the motorcycle, so the car in front of you won’t really hear you. It also doesn’t help that most cars have their windows closed and many drivers are playing music inside.