Motorcycle Safety: What to Know Before You Go
So you want to ride a motorcycle? It takes more than buying the bike. You need the proper equipment and knowledge to be safe out on the open road.
Motorcycle riders are far more exposed in the event of an accident than drivers of other vehicles, so purchasing protective gear can really save your skin—literally. Imagine falling off your bike (or getting thrown off) and sliding across the pavement wearing shorts or a t-shirt. This thought alone should make you want to at least wear jeans and boots--leather chaps or motorcycle pants would be even better--and it probably makes you understand why a lot of riders wear leather jackets. (You might also want to advise passengers to wear similar gear. Even if you don't crash, a passenger's leg can be burned by the exhaust pipe if they are wearing shorts and are not careful.)
Although skin protection is important, the most important piece of protective gear you can buy is a helmet. The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,669 motorcyclists’ lives in 2014, and that 660 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. A lot of helmets on the market look really cool, but your first concern should be how well it will protect you.
The first thing to look for is certification that the helmet meets U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) standards for motorcycle helmet safety. The DOT tests for impact protection, penetration protection and retention:
- Impact Protection – How the helmet distributes force through the outer shell of the helmet and the expanded polystyrene (EPS) liner.
- Penetration Protection – How well the helmet protects against objects hitting it.
- Retention – How well the helmet stays on during a crash.
Next, make sure the helmet fits well and is comfortable.
Concerned that you won't be able to hear as well with a helmet on? Don't be. In addition to protecting you from a brain injury, helmets can actually protect against wind noise.
If you've never owned a motorcycle, but a friend or family member taught you everything you think you need to know about riding a motorcycle, you might consider taking a training class. Motorcycle training classes are offered throughout the country.
Although they are not required, Shelter offers discounts on motorcycle insurance if riders complete them. In addition to being a great idea for safety sake, a motorcycle rider education class might even help you get your motorcycle license.
Riding a motorcycle carries far more risk than driving a car, and if you have an accident on your motorcycle that causes someone else to be hurt, or if you damage someone's property, you could be held financially responsible.
That's why it's a good idea to have motorcycle insurance. In fact, it's required in many states. Shelter offers a motorcycle policy with the same basic coverage options and many of the same money-saving discounts as our auto policy, including discounts for taking accident prevention courses.
Of course, it should go without saying that you should never operate any kind of motor vehicle—including a motorcycle—under the influence of alcohol. And never bike beyond your ability or take chances like riding on the dotted line between two cars or popping wheelies. It doesn't make you look cool and it certainly isn't safe. To enjoy your bike for many years, don't take chances—ride safely.