How to Stay Safe While Riding a Motorcycle
Florida’s temperate climate and picturesque landscapes attract motorcyclists from around the country, and motorcycle enthusiasts who call Florida home are especially fortunate to take advantage of scenic views on a joyride whenever they would like. As much as bikers love the open road, motorcycle crashes do occur.
In fact, The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) estimates more than 9,000 motorcycle accidents, including about 500 fatalities, occurred on Florida roads during 2018. Some of those who walked away from a motorcycle crash were fortunate; others took one or more precautions to ensure they would survive a motorcycle accident.
Experienced and new bikers alike need to remain focused on safety to survive a motorcycle crash. Even the safest bikers can still die in a motorcycle crash caused by motor vehicle drivers. Unfortunately, you have no control over other drivers. You can, however, take some precautions to ensure your survival, or at least increase your chances of survival, if a negligent, careless, or reckless driver causes an accident.
Wear the Right Gear
If you get in a motorcycle crash, only your gear serves as a barrier between your body and the road. When you invest in the right gear, you can reduce the severity of injuries and maximize your chances of surviving the crash. Below are some of the most common gear bikers wear, accompanying descriptions, and ways they can help you survive a motorcycle crash.
Florida law requires all bikers to wear a full-face helmet approved by the Department of Transportation. If you are over age 21, you don’t have to wear a helmet as long as you carry an additional $10,000 in motorcycle insurance coverage. Yet, just because you can go without a helmet, it doesn’t mean you should. Motorcyclists who wear helmets reduce their likelihood of dying in a crash by almost 40 percent and reduce their chance of suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) by about 70 percent, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For your helmet to protect your head the way it should, you must occasionally replace it. According to Snell Memorial Foundation, a non-profit that researches and tests helmets, recommends replacing your helmet at least every five years. Even if you cannot see visible wear, chemicals and oils from your hair can break down the protective area on the inside of the helmet.
You might wonder how protective eyewear might save your life in a motorcycle accident. When an accident occurs, how you handle your bike can determine if you live or die. If you can see clearly in a motorcycle accident, you can make the best choices to control your bike, potentially avoiding a guardrail or wandering into oncoming traffic, which might lead to your death. Florida law also requires you to protect your eyes. If you aren’t wearing a full-face helmet, you need goggles or sunglasses to ensure you have the best visibility possible.
A pair of quality motorcycle boots can be expensive, but they are an investment worth making. In addition to protecting you from damage to your legs, ankles, and feet in an accident, they might prevent you from dying as a result of a motorcycle crash. First, boots protect you from open wounds, which could become infected and lead to death.
Maybe even more important, boots offer stability during a motorcycle accident. Most athletic shoes will slip off during a motorcycle accident when a biker’s feet get twisted or contorted. Boots typically stay on and might allow you to keep your bike from falling in some situations.
Florida’s pleasant climate leads to people regularly wearing shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops; however, wearing this kind of clothing on a motorcycle can lead to death even if a biker wears a helmet. Bikers who don’t wear protective clothing are at risk for road rash when they get in an accident.
In severe accidents road rash can scrape away layers of skin down to the bone, causing the body to go into shock. Victims of severe road rash are also prone to deadly infections because of open wounds. You can always wear leather pants or chaps and a jacket, but special padded motorcycle jackets have breathable mesh for those hot and humid days.
Know How to Handle Your Bike
Surviving a motorcycle crash might be dependent on the extent to which you can handle your bike. When a vehicle hits your bike, you need to be able to have the appropriate response that results in the least amount of damage. In some accidents, especially those that occur at high speeds, you won’t have the opportunity to respond.
Yet, when you do have the opportunity to respond, knowing the correct actions to take might save your life. The best way to ensure you can handle your bike appropriately is by getting a bike that fits your body and taking one or more motorcycle safety classes.
Get the Right Size Bike for Your Body
Whether you are new to motorcycles or have been enjoying them for years, when you buy a bike you need to be more concerned about fit than looks or style. Buying a flashy new motorcycle only ride poorly since it doesn’t work with your body is a common error people make. Of course, you may want the coolest looking bike on the road, but not at the expense of safety. A motorcycle that is new to you needs to fit your body.
You can find a good fit by sitting on the bike and holding it upright. Both of your feet should rest flat on the ground and you should be able to reach the handlebars easily when you are seated. Additionally, your motorcycle should not be too heavy for you. You should be able to hold it straight when you lift the kickstand without too much strain.
Take a Motorcycle Safety Course
New and experienced bikers alike need to take motorcycle safety courses. Years of riding experience can result in the creation of bad habits, so even long-time motorcycle enthusiasts can benefit from a refresher or an advanced training course. These courses help you learn ways to avoid motorcycle accidents as well as how to handle your bike if you get in an accident.
As an added bonus, you might get a discount on motorcycle insurance and special discounts with dealers when you complete an approved motorcycle rider education course. Throughout the United States, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has created approved, standardized courses for all different levels of riding.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) Florida Rider Training Program (FRTP) has approved most of the MSF courses. Different course providers have some variety in their course offerings, but the two major course offerings include the Basic Rider Course and its continuation in Basic Rider 2:
- The Basic Rider Course is a two-day motorcycle safety class that includes classroom instruction as well as hands-on experiences. The course covers basic bike safety operations, braking techniques, obstacle avoidance, turning instruction, and how to ride safely. Riding a motorcycle in Florida means you have to have a special endorsement on your drivers’ license. Florida law requires those who are getting their first endorsement to take the Basic Rider Course to obtain their endorsement.
- The Basic Rider 2 Course is an eight-hour class that also combines classroom training and hands-on experience. This advanced course offers bikers with their own motorcycles the chance to learn advanced skills about safety and bike-handling. Students also have a chance to hone their skills with the instructor’s guidance.
Maneuvers to Help You Survive a Motorcycle Crash
Sometimes when bikers are involved in a motorcycle accident, especially rear-end collisions, they don’t see it coming. When this happens, bikers don’t have the opportunity to make choices that can reduce the likelihood of fatality. Yet, in other cases, bikers might see another vehicle coming, have a mechanical failure, or see a road hazard that they cannot avoid, so they know a crash is imminent. In these situations, a biker can make some specific maneuvers that increase the chances of survival, especially when they are wearing the right gear and knowhow to handle their bike. They include:
Reduce Your Speed
The faster you are traveling when a motorcycle accident occurs, the stronger the impact of the collision. When you know a crash is about to happen, you want to shed as much speed as possible. Yet, be careful not to slam your front brakes. You risk locking your brakes up and getting thrown off the bike or the bike flipping over. This puts you at risk for getting run over by another nearby vehicle who isn’t able to avoid you and suffering potentially fatal injuries. You are better off to apply your rear brakes alone.
Try Not to Lay Your Bike Down
You should do everything you can to stay upright on your bike when another car hits you and come to a stop. It’s highly unlikely you will be able to at high speeds, but try the best you can. If you can avoid getting thrown from your bike, you have a better chance of surviving a motorcycle accident. When bikers get thrown during an accident, their bodies can slide for long distances and might even end up in traffic. If you are heading for an object, try not to collide head-on. Instead, turn your bike so you make contact with the side of your bike. Laying a bike down in the wrong situation is a common mistake many riders make when faced with an imminent collision.
Choose a Spot to Go Down
When a motorcycle accident occurs, it’s far more likely you and your bike will go down. When you have the opportunity, try to steer your bike to the safest place to go down after a vehicle hits you. Ideally, you want to go down out of the way of other traffic on the softest surface possible. This might mean heading for a grassy ditch or median. You might still suffer painful injuries, but a softer landing away from other motorists and on a more forgiving surface will increase your chances for survival.
Know When to Let Go
A point of no return exists when you know you have no way of keeping your motorcycle off the ground and you will be going down with it. Your instinct might be to hold on to your bike, but you might get crushed if your bike goes on top of you. Instead, let go of the bike because of simple physics. An object in motion wants to stay in motion. When you let go of your bike, it will stay in motion for a while. Going along for the ride could be a fatal decision. Letting go is a last resort, but if you must, make sure to tuck your limbs and chin into your body and roll to avoid injury.
Get Medical Treatment ASAP
If you suffer a motorcycle accident and sustain injuries, one of the best ways to ensure you survive your injuries is to get immediate medical treatment. Hopefully, if you are unconscious or unable to move, a passerby or eyewitness will call 911 to ensure emergency response teams head your way. Accidents pump adrenaline through a person’s body.
Even if you walk away from a motorcycle accident, it doesn’t mean you are without fatal injuries. Internal bleeding, internal organ damage, and traumatic brain injuries can be silent killers. You likely won’t feel the pain or any symptoms for hours, maybe even days, and if left untreated, you risk death. Let a doctor examine you and run any necessary tests to ensure you didn’t suffer a fatal injury and will survive your motorcycle crash.
If you have suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident or lost a loved one in a motorcycle crash, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation for damages related to the accident and injury. An experienced Florida motorcycle accident attorney can advise you on the best course of action for your circumstances and help you hold the parties who caused you harm liable for their actions.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765