MOTORCYCLE SAFETY &
the arrival of Spring, motorcycles will be out in
great numbers. There are over 116,00 motorcycles
registered in Massachusetts. Motorists need to be
aware that these vehicles are on the road, and
realize that they have both unique abilities and an
increased exposure to hazards. Motorcyclists need
to keep these characteristics in mind as well.
Statistics from the Registry of Motor Vehicles show
that 255 motorcyclists died as a result of crashes
in Massachusetts between 2002 and 2006.
study into cause factors of motorcycle crashes
conducted by the University of Southern California
found “the failure of motorists to detect and
recognize motorcycles in traffic is the
predominating cause of motorcycle accidents”. This
is due in part to the dimensions of the motorcycle
as compared to a car or truck. The size of the
motorcycle and its single headlight (most bikes
display one headlight) can make it difficult for a
motorist to estimate its speed. When you do see a
motorcycle approaching, it may be necessary to take
a longer and/or second look to properly judge its
speed. When operating a motorcycle, you should try
to maximize your visibility. Bright and/or
reflective clothing can be a big help. Ensure that
all your lights are working properly. There are
aftermarket systems that modulate headlights and
brake lights to make your machine more visible. Stay
out of motorists’ blind spots. If you can’t see the
driver in their mirror, then they can’t see you.
When approaching an intersection where a vehicle is
waiting to pull out, try to make eye contact with
the driver. Most importantly, an operator of a
motorcycle must be aware of their surroundings at
all times, and should always have an escape route.
Motorcycle operators should perform a safety check
of their bike before riding. Check the tires, the
signals, controls and fasteners. Check out what
you’re wearing as well. Sturdy shoes, durable
clothes and gloves are advised. Helmets and eye
protection are mandatory in Massachusetts. Wear a
DOT approved helmet; it is the single most important
piece of safety equipment available, and can save
your life. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration estimates that helmets saved over
1500 lives in 2005 and over 700 more could have been
saved if all motorcyclists had been wearing helmets.
Don’t operate a motorcycle when fatigued or angry.
Above all, never, ever operate after
consuming alcohol. Motorcycle Safety Foundation data
shows that close to 40 percent of motorcyclists
killed in crashes had been drinking, and that about
two thirds of those were below the legal limit. Any
alcohol consumption degrades skills and judgment,
and there is no room for error aboard a motorcycle.
Most motorcyclists find that using the left third of
a travel line provides them the best view ahead and
makes them most visible to other traffic. Maintain
at least a two second following distance cushion.
Clearly signal your intentions; sudden changes in
direction without warning can take motorists by
surprise and cause an accident. Check your mirrors
when slowing and stopping. Consider taking a Rider
Course such as the ones offered by the Motorcycle
Safety Foundation. Even experienced riders can
benefit from these courses.