Staying Safe on Your Motorcycle


When I was a kid, I was obsessed with motorcycles. I wanted to ride one when I grew up — if not sooner! I couldn't wait to have a motorcycle of my own and drive it everywhere I went. But as the years went by, I never really fulfilled my dream. I went to college and got a job and drive a boring car everywhere. I still thought motorcycles were cool, but I was worried they were too impractical and dangerous. Now that I have enough money saved to buy a motorcycle, though, I'm starting to rethink things once again. But the safety thing concerns me. Experts, how dangerous are motorcycles, really?

Motorcyclists know that there's no other feeling in the world quite like riding a motorcycle. Unlike cars and other enclosed vehicles, motorcycles put their riders out in the world, where they can take in breathtaking unobstructed views on scenic rides and really feel every mile of the road.

But that exposure does come with some safety drawbacks, as any expert would tell you. The roll cages and other safety features of cars, trucks, and big SUVs may be part of why driver views are less sweeping, but they help make those vehicles less dangerous. Motorcycles are likely to get the worst of any collision with a four-wheeled vehicle, especially since vehicles like SUVs seem to keep growing in size. And some drivers show an alarming inability to see and account for motorcyclists on the road: since motorcycles are smaller than cars and sometimes appear in spots where car's wouldn't fit, some drivers are caught off-guard by motorcyclists or fail to see them entirely.

These dangers can add up, and there’s no doubt that motorcycles have a higher rate of fatal accidents than do cars or trucks. As a mode of transportation, it’s fair to say that motorcycles are less safe than other vehicles.

But it's easy to overstate the case for motorcycles as a safety hazard. While cars and trucks may be safer, being a motorcyclist is not exactly a high-risk hobby: it's one that plenty of regular folks with families enjoy. Motorcycle accidents are not as common as you might think when you break down accidents by miles ridden. While less safe than cars, motorcycles are not significantly more dangerous than plenty of other exciting hobbies. Plus, there is a ton that you can do to protect yourself when you ride.

The most important thing you can do when you ride is to wear the proper gear. That means tough clothes that protect your skin in the event of a slide or accident. Don't skimp on the gear just because it's warm out! And, above all, wear your helmet. Quality motorcycle helmets can be literal lifesavers. Your head is a fragile thing in a vehicle accident, and it needs to be properly cushioned and guarded from impacts, scrapes, and other dangers.

Your riding habits will make a big difference, too. Defensive driving is an important technique when you're behind the wheel of a car, and defensive riding is even more important for motorcyclists. Since you know that other drivers may not see you, and that you're like to get the worst end of any impact, you need to be hyper-vigilant and not assume anything about how other people on the road will behave.

Invest in training and work hard to be a great rider. Make sure that you are qualified and properly licensed. Motorcycle accidents disproportionately affect inexperienced and unlicensed riders, so don’t let that be you!

Is riding a motorcycle perfectly safe? Not necessarily. But if you wear the right gear and practice safe riding, you're very likely to enjoy a safe hobby for a long, long time.

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