With long stretches of flat roads, beautiful weather, and picture-perfect scenery, Florida is a motorcyclist’s dream destination. However, in 2017 alone more than 9,700 motorcycle crashes occurred on Florida roadways, according to statistics published by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. These accidents involved 7,725 injuries and 515 fatalities. By all means, riders should enjoy the idyllic conditions that Florida’s weather and climate provide, but should consider the following tips to ensure their safety.
Tip #1: Select a Motorcycle According to Your Size and Experience
Motorcycles are not a one-size-fits-all machine. It is important for riders to select a motorcycle that fits both their size and abilities.
Motorcycles require a balance that’s difficult to achieve when standing on tiptoes. Likewise, being forced to stretch too far to reach the vehicle’s controls will not only make riding uncomfortable but dangerous as well. You should be able to put both of your feet flat on the ground while standing on your motorcycle, and the controls shouldn’t be too difficult to reach. If you feel uncomfortable at all while on your motorcycle, then it’s a good indication that it’s not the right bike for you.
Are you looking for a cruiser, with a particularly low seat? Are you looking for a sport model that goes fast and corners smoothly? How about a touring motorcycle that can endure long road trips? A standard motorcycle that combines function and visual appeal? Whatever your preference, there are plenty of models to choose from. You should select a motorcycle that suits your ability and size. If you’re still developing your skills, you should avoid motorcycles with too much power. Look for something that provides an anti-lock braking system that keeps the tires and brakes from locking if you over-apply the brakes in an emergency situation. Consider a bike with a lower seat height that makes it easier for a beginner to handle.
Tip #2: Buy and Use Your Own Gear
In 2017, 230 motorcyclists suffered fatal injuries while riding without a helmet in Florida. Helmets are the most important protective gear that a motorcyclist can have. Your helmet should fit snugly on your head, without feeling too tight. Helmets aren’t the only gear that you should wear while riding, though. Below we list other important things that you will want to wear every time you ride:
- Jacket. A good motorcycle jacket can protect you from the environment and also help prevent road rash in the event of an accident. Like your helmet, your jacket should fit snugly and consist of quality, durable material. It should provide enough pockets to store needed documents, such as your license and registration. Zippers should be covered with a protective flap to keep them in good condition through wind and weather.
- Gloves. When worn while riding, gloves can protect your hands from the high-speed impact of small rocks and large bugs. They provide protection from sunburn and windburn and improve your ability to grip.
- Boots. You should avoid lace-up footwear, as you run the risk of the laces becoming entangled while you’re driving. They should have good tread and extra protection around the ankle-area to prevent road rash in the event of an accident.
- Pants. Never wear shorts when riding. Jeans are acceptable, but leather riding pants—either over your regular pants or alone—are better able to protect your legs from abrasion in an accident.
- Eye protection. Unless you’ve selected a full-face helmet, you will want eye protection that is shatter resistant and wraps around your face to keep wind and debris from getting into your eyes while you ride.
Tip #3: Inspect Often
You should inspect your motorcycle often to remain aware of any issues that may impact the safety of your ride. Specifically, you should:
- Clean and adjust your mirrors regularly.
- Make sure that your brakes are functioning properly; they should hold the motorcycle still when fully applied.
- Make sure that the throttle snaps back when released.
- Note signs of worn tires, such as cracks, bulges, and low pressure.
- Check for signs of oil or gas leaks.
- Make sure that all of your lights are functioning properly.
- Check your hydraulic and coolant fluids.
Tip #4: Go on the Defense
The majority of motorcycle crashes are caused by one driver failing to see another driver. The organization Road Guardians offers the following defensive driving suggestions for new motorcyclists:
- Look around. New motorcyclists tend to focus on a single spot in front of them. Defensive driving requires regularly checking your mirrors, scanning the traffic conditions all around you, and predicting other driver’s moves to remain alert and ready to react as soon as possible to any potential hazards.
- Know your route. If you’re unfamiliar with the area in which you’re riding, take time before you begin your trip to map out the route and memorize basic directions to your destination.
- Know the laws. Educate yourself on the motorcycle laws of the area in which you’re riding.
- Be confident. Hesitation or indecisiveness can lead to sudden, unexpected moves.
- Don’t drive aggressively. Engaging in aggressive maneuvers while operating a motorcycle includes making sudden lane changes, unexpected acceleration, and deceleration in traffic.
- Shield yourself from left-turning traffic. Stay close to other vehicles as you pass through intersections.
- Be cautious when passing. Remain alert when passing other vehicles, particularly when traveling around curves that may conceal oncoming traffic. Be aware that the driver of the vehicle you’re passing may not notice your presence, and always remain prepared to take evasive action if necessary.
- Avoid excessive speed. Driving at high speeds reduces the time that you have to react to hazards.
Tip #5: Sober up Before You Saddle Up
According to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 25 percent of all motorcycle riders killed in crashes in the U.S. in 2016 were impaired by alcohol at the time of the accident. This figure is higher than the number of impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes in any other type of vehicle. Alcohol and drugs negatively impact your judgment, coordination, balance, throttle control, and ability to switch gears. Additionally, they reduce your alertness and reaction time.
A study in Thailand found that alcohol-impaired motorcyclists are more likely to collide with other cars and objects in the roadway, as well as with parked cars on the roadside, compared with non-impaired motorists. Riders with high levels of blood alcohol content are significantly more likely to be the primary cause of a crash with another vehicle, and more likely to be the only cause of an accident. Impaired riders are also more likely to be inattentive or daydreaming just before an accident, as evidenced by their frequent inability to recount events preceding an accident.
Tip #6: Be Seen (and Heard)
As previously mentioned, drivers failing to see a motorcycle rider is the most frequent cause of accidents. Below we include some steps that you can take to increase your visibility to other motorists:
- Select a brightly colored motorcycle or one with a lot of chrome.
- Wear brightly colored clothing, such as a high visibility jacket or helmet.
- Use your lights. even during the daytime. You can use your high beams during the daytime to provide a little extra visibility. Because there is less contrast in daytime conditions than there is with the dark of night, you don’t have to worry about the high beams blinding other drivers during the day.
- Be sure your horn works, and use it when you need to alert other drivers of your presence.
- Use reflective tape on your bike, particularly in places that stick out away from any light source. While it likely will not make much of a difference during the daytime, during the night it will make your motorcycle appear larger.
- Avoid riding in other vehicles’ blind spots.
- Tap your brakes. The brake light will alert any inattentive driver behind you of your presence without slowing you down so much that you run the risk of a rear-end collision.
- Use auxiliary lights as you would reflective tape to add additional light sources that drivers can see at night.
- In addition to using your turn signals when making a turn, also extend or flex your arm to provide other drivers with an additional visual cue as to your intentions.
- Use headlight modulators that will pulse or flicker the light to further capture the attention of other drivers.
- Avoid driving in inclement weather that could further reduce your visibility to other motorists.
- Lane splitting—riding between the lanes of slow-moving or stopped vehicles—is illegal in Florida and is best avoided, as other drivers may not realize what you’re doing.
- Use caution when lane sharing, which is when two motorcycles ride side-by-side in one lane and—unlike lane splitting—is perfectly legal. Lane sharing can be dangerous, as other vehicles may see one motorcycle but not the other.
Tip #7: Take Care During Group Rides
There are few things more fun than an adventure with friends. However, groups of friends riding motorcycles together face additional risks with which solo riders need not contend. Some suggestions for safer group rides include:
- Don’t ride beyond your abilities just to go along with the group. If you’re going to ride with friends, ride with those whose skills and abilities resemble your own.
- Keep the group no larger than seven motorcycles. Groups of motorcyclists traveling together tend to bunch up, and having too large of a group can cause an unwieldy obstacle to other drivers.
- Plan the ride out in advance, including the distance that you plan to travel and what you’re going to do if you get lost.
- Pick a ride order, with a lead rider who is capable of and comfortable with letting other riders know what to expect ahead.
- Avoid competitions with friends that involve riding too fast, tailgating, or passing other cars unsafely.
- Stagger your riding formation to provide each rider with the space that he or she needs to maneuver safely.
- Always travel single file on rough roads, when entering the highway, or when turning at intersections.
- Make sure that at least one rider brings a first aid kit, one brings a full toolset, and that all riders have their cell phones on them.
- Take plenty of breaks to keep everyone’s concentration at an optimal level during the ride and to avoid fatigue.
- Regularly check the riders behind you in your mirrors. If you notice someone falling behind, slow down so that they have a chance to catch up.
- If you become separated from the group due to traffic congestion or stop lights, don’t panic. Remember the planned route, and continue on it until you find your group.
- Use commonly accepted hand signals to communicate your intentions to other riders in the group as well as to other motorists on the road. Ensure before you set out on your trip that all riders know the hand signals that you’ll be using and what they mean.
Tip #8: Never Stop Learning
Whether you’ve been riding for weeks or for years, you’re never too experienced to learn something new. In-person motorcycle safety courses are regularly offered in Florida, or you could take one online. Classes can help ensure that you’re aware of the latest laws and safety tips for riders. You should regularly take stock of your skills and look for classes that will hone the skills that you need to work on or teach you new ones. No one is above learning some new safety skills—your life may depend on it!
Tip #9: Call Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Accident Injury Lawyers if You Suffer Injuries in a Motorcycle Accident
If you’ve sustained an injury in a motorcycle accident in Florida, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Accident Injury Lawyers can help you understand all of your legal options. Let us worry about the details of your legal claim while you focus on recovering from your injuries. For a free consultation and case review, contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Accident Injury Lawyers online or call 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH). We have offices conveniently located in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and New Port Richey.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765