Safe Spring Motorcycle Riding
With spring’s arrival, motorcyclists are pulling their bikes out from the winter garage and already starting to log the miles across Michigan roadways. Analysts predict there will be another jump in the amounts of motorcycles on the road again this year with latest data (2015) from the Federal Highway Administration showcasing an increase to 8.6 million motorcycles on U.S. roads, compared with 8 million in previous years. There are nearly 500,000 licensed motorcycle operators in the state of Michigan.
More bikes on the road mixed with the Midwest’s unpredictable spring weather, the repeal of the state’s helmet law, lack of skill among new and older bikers, and riding while impaired can create a mix of accident risks for all Michigan drivers, but especially motorcycle operators. When motorcycles crash, their riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, leaving them susceptible to fatal and life-threatening injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 4,976 deaths from motorcycle crashes in 2015, up 8.3 percent from 4,594 in 2014. Likewise in 2015, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured, down 4.3 percent from 92,000 in 2014.
Spring Weather Hazards and New and Seasoned Drivers
It is important all drivers are aware of the hazards spring weather can bring to city streets and highways, but motorcycle drivers need to be especially vigilant since their bikes are less stable than cars and operate with higher performance capabilities. One of the most common hazards the spring weather brings to bikers is a wet road, which remains slick after a rain when the dirt and oil rise to the surface before getting washed away. Roads become wet and slippery almost instantly as the result of the rainfall and debris. Dangerous standing water can also be a major accident cause for bikes to hydroplane and lose control. In addition, those rain puddles can hide potholes, which are also a treacherous hazard for motorcycle riders.
Bikes become tricky to navigate in the rainy season especially for the fewer than half of the motorcyclists that have not completed formal motorcycle safety training, leaving too many drivers unsure of how to operate in these road conditions. In addition, motorcycles equipped with antilock brakes can cause unfavorable accident outcomes since the tires have very little contact with the road. Inexperienced drivers traveling in rainy weather may make quick panic stops causing the bike’s wheels to lock up instead of braking to a safe stop.
Patches of melting snow and ice may also be lingering in some areas of the state and drivers should use extra caution and review road conditions prior to setting out for a drive.
Regardless if you are a new or seasoned motorcyclist, we have put together some rules to follow (or be reminded of) that will keep you safer on the road. Being safe on the road will result in a more enjoyable, long-lasting motorcycle riding life that is accident-free.
- BE SEEN: Make yourself and your motorcycle are as visible as possible. Leave your headlights turned on at all times. Wear brightly colored clothing that makes you more noticeable. Don’t drive in the blind spots of other vehicles.
- COMMUNICATE WITH OTHER DRIVERS: Always use turn signals and check to be sure your intentions are noticed before you change lanes or pull out into traffic. Use your horn if you think someone hasn’t seen you and alert them of your presence and intentions.
- DON’T DRIVE UNDER THE INFLUENCE: Do not drink, use drugs, or take prescription medications that can cause drowsiness or other impairment.
- DRIVE DEFENSIVELY: The only way to drive safely on a motorcycle is to drive defensively. One of the biggest factors cited in motorcycle collisions are drivers who say they didn’t see the motorcycle.
- KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DRIVING ON: Gravel can also prove hazardous to motorcyclists due to loss of traction. Always avoid sudden braking or veering on gravel. Sudden acceleration can cause you to lose control.
- KNOW YOUR BIKE: Crashes and fatalities among older and middle-aged experienced drivers may be due in part to rusty skills, and the inability to handle the increased power of today’s motorcycles. New and young drivers often ride with less skill and have riskier behaviors on their bikes.
- LEARN: Take a motorcycle education and certification course. Community colleges usually offer these courses throughout the riding season.
- MAINTAINENCE: Maintain your motorcycle properly and undertake repairs when needed.
- PROTECT YOURSELF: Check your helmet. Make sure it is safe and comfortable. See more on the importance of helmet use.
- SEEK OUT ROAD HAZARDS: Be on the lookout for potholes and cracks in the road. Your motorcycle is much more susceptible to damage or loss of control if you hit one. Road debris can spell trouble for motorcycle riders. Keep your eyes on the road ahead to avoid hitting something that could cause an accident.
- SLOW DOWN: If you can’t avoid a pothole or debris, slow down as much as safely possible to lessen the chance of loss of control or damage to your tires and wheels. Don’t slam on your brakes, which can cause damage to your front-end suspension. Swerving to avoid a pothole can cause you to lose control of your bike – don’t do it.
Wear a Helmet
According to NHTSA, wearing a helmet decreases the risk of dying in a motorcycle crash by 37 percent. Wearing a helmet has also been statistically proven to decrease a cyclist’s chance of serious personal injury such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) by 67 percent. In Michigan, helmets are not required for some riders even though head injuries have increased after repeal of Motorcycle Helmet Law set in place in 2012. In recent years, Michigan saw a heavy increase in motorcyclist fatalities. State highway safety officials say that the repeal of Michigan’s all-rider helmet law is a serious factor related to the increase in fatalities.
So, how are you getting ready for the riding season?
Michigan Motorcycle Accident Lawyers
The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. and our team of Michigan motorcycle accident lawyers have been helping riders for decades. If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, whether it’s in Detroit or Flint, Ann Arbor or Saginaw, we can answer your questions. The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. will fight for justice and the most compensation possible.
Call us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) today.