Motorcycle Safety in the Centennial State
There have been more than 151,000 motorcyclists killed on US roads since 1975 – 91% of these were men, mostly between the ages of 20 and 60 years of age. That’s more than the total population of Boulder, Brighton, and Buena Vista combined. And while there is no foolproof method to prevent all accidents, there are things you can do to raise your chances of walking away from a two-wheeled wreck.
Be realistic. Nothing is more distracting than trying to handle more horsepower than you’re comfortable with. A larger bike won’t provide a safer ride if you can’t keep it upright. You should be able to sit comfortably in a riding position with your feet flat on the ground. Trust your instincts and don’t let pride push you toward a “tougher” machine. If it feels too heavy, move on to a more manageable model.
Always wear a helmet – regardless of legal requirements. Colorado is one of many states with a partial helmet law; riders and passengers over the age of 18 are exempt from wearing headgear. But, it’s been proven time and time again that helmets save lives. Motorcycle helmets are designed to reduce head trauma, which is a leading cause of motorcycle-related fatalities.
Keep your eyes protected. There is a reason that the vast majority of DOT-approved motorcycle helmets feature a full-face visor. Visors protect your eyes from wind, dirt, and debris so you aren’t blinded at 50-miles-per-hour.
Don’t rely on cruise control, especially in bad weather. There is no substitution for human skill and instinct while riding. Cruise control may have benefits on long trips where your speed isn’t likely to change every few miles, but it has no place in everyday riding. Your bike cannot make the necessary adjustments needed to safely navigate obstacles such as potholes and sudden patches of ice or pooling water without your guidance.
Avoid alcohol while operating any moving vehicle. According to the National Institutes of Health, high blood alcohol levels may be to blame for up to two-thirds of motorcycle accidents. The CDC stresses that alcohol should never be consumed by people planning to drive or perform any activity requiring skill or coordination. Even within legal limits, alcohol can affect your reaction time and result in an accident.
Wear bright colors to increase your visibility. Black leather might look cool, but wearing dark colors is a sure way to become virtually invisible to cars, trucks, and semis. You can increase your chances of being seen, and thus decrease your chances of being hit, by wearing a reflective motorcycle safety vest, especially at night.
Stay at least 20 feet from other vehicles. Just like when driving a car, you should remain a safe distance from other moving vehicles when riding a motorcycle. There are a number of factors that can affect your safe stopping distance and braking abilities, including road conditions and the added weight of any passengers. Non-profit motorcycle safety organization Road Guardians notes that even common braking errors can have lethal consequences.
Dress the part. A tank top and flip flops might be weather-appropriate, but neither of these pieces of essential summer gear offer any level of protection in case of an emergency. Always wear long pants – no shorts – and boots that cover your ankles. Protect your body from road burns and abrasions by wearing a Kevlar-lined jacket.
Perfect the “quick check.” You don’t have to be mechanically-inclined to double check that your basic safety features are ready road-ready. Check the tires for proper inflation and wear, make sure your signals and lights are working, and ensure your belts and chains are tight. For more information on routine equipment inspections, check out this list offered by MotorcycleCruiser.com.
Finally, remain aware of your surroundings at all times and ride only with experienced and responsible companions. Even if you’re a seasoned rider, consider taking a Motorcycle Operator Safety Training (MOST) class, which, in addition to providing high-quality training, qualifies you for insurance and local retailer discounts.