Most of us have hobbies that we enjoy. For some of us it’s something low-key, like scrapbooking or collecting things, for others it’s a more active enterprise, like scuba diving or mountain climbing. Then there are those of us who enjoy hobbies that can literally take us places; that get us out in the fresh air, on the open road, and exploring new destinations. For these people, there are two hobbies that fit the bill: bicycling and motorcycling.
It’s easy to see why either of these endeavors would be fun. They both require a combination of talent with the urge to seek thrills and the ability to accept not knowing what is around the next corner. But with the adrenaline rush both sports offer, there is a distinct possibility of something going wrong. Not knowing what’s around the bend may be exciting, but it’s an unknown that has cost many riders their lives.
At the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, we want our clients, their friends and family to be as safe as possible. That’s why we’re offering up some safety information about both bicycling and motorcycling. To educate you and your loved ones, we’ll identify the most common mistakes that can lead to accidents and provide information for those who are just getting started in either sport. We’ll also go over some general safety tips that may help you avoid the risk for catastrophic injuries.
Common Mistakes that Lead to Motorcycle Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent statistics, 4,612 motorcyclists died in accidents in the U.S. in 2011. Though those figures are a little dated, they were consistent with the number of deaths that had been seen in recent years, so unfortunately, it’s fairly safe to assume that similar figures will be seen in 2016.
Another interesting fact from the NHTSA reveals that 70% of motorcycle accidents occur at intersections. Regardless of where accidents occur, the events that lead up to them can be varied. Some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents are:
- A lack of basic riding skills
- A lack of understanding for how motorcycles operate
- A failure to respect the physical limitations of a motorcycle
- Disregard for the need to take special precautions when driving
- Scare cornering and braking abilities
- Neglecting to drive defensively
- Unwillingness to adhere to posted speed limits
Advice for New Motorcyclists
If you’ve just purchased your first motorcycle, chances are you’re anxious to take it out on the road. You should be excited, but don’t let that excitement cloud your ability to think logically. As a new rider, no matter how much you think you know, remember there’s a lot that you don’t. The most important thing to remember is to be confident but not so confident that you put yourself at risk.
Additionally, keep the following in mind as you begin to enjoy your new motorcycle and all that it can do:
- Distracted driving is dangerous driving. You should always avoid distractions, but this is especially true while you’re learning to ride for the first time. Don’t use your phone or play music.
- Keep an eye on the weather. At first, you probably won’t be prepared to ride in rain or snow, so always check the forecast before you head out for a ride and be aware of any changing weather conditions.
- Ride solo. Having a passenger on your bike changes the weight distribution and how you need to move and react in certain situations. Get used to your bike before you invite someone to ride with you and, when you are ready for a passenger, educate them on bike mechanics, what clothing to wear, and how to move with you as you ride.
- Don’t stare. Keeping your eyes focused on one thing for too long can make you blind to what’s going on around you. Always keep your eyes moving and scan your surroundings constantly for danger.
- Plan an escape route. For any given situation you are in, you need to know what you would do if things go wrong. Always have a plan for where to point your bike in the event that you need to get out of the way quickly.
- Beware of turning vehicles. Especially if someone in oncoming traffic is going to make a left turn across your side of the road. They may not see you coming, so it’s a good idea to have a plan for what you would do if they turn in front of you.
- Keep an eye out for debris. You’d be surprised how much harm a cardboard box or even some sand can do to a motorcyclist’s ability to maintain control. As you’re scanning, be aware that even the smallest object can become a huge obstacle given the right conditions.
- Take a class. Depending on where you live, you may be required to take some motorcycle safety classes. If you aren’t, consider taking one anyway. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers courses that can help you learn the basics and make you a safer driver.
More Motorcycle Safety Tips
Whether you’ve been riding for years or are a brand new rider, there’s a lot to think about when you’re about to head out for a ride. Sometimes it can be hard to remember everything you need to do while riding, so we’ve pulled together a concise and compete list of the tips that we think will be most valuable to you as you hit the highway:
- You can’t always be seen. It’s pretty easy for you to end up sitting in a car’s blind spot or be obstructed by other objects. Do your best to stay visible at all times.
- Headlights are important. Hopefully you already know to use your headlights at night, but did you know that they should be used during the day too? They can help cars in front of you see you sooner and prevent oncoming traffic from not seeing you at all.
- Be Bright. Wearing brightly colored clothing and/or clothing that is reflective can go a long way towards helping those around you see you.
- Your horn is an asset. It can help you communicate with drivers around you, so don’t be afraid to use it if you need to.
- Shield yourself. Always, always, always wear a helmet. If your helmet does not have a visor, you need to be wearing eye protection too. Also, be sure to wear thick, protective clothing such as long sleeved pants and shirts, above-the-ankle boots, and riding gloves. There are few things more important than protecting your head, face, and body.
- Follow the pack. But not too closely. Watching the vehicles in front of you can help you react to bad situations more quickly, but if you don’t leave adequate following distance you are not going to be able to react quickly enough.
- Fatigued driving is dangerous. Not only are you putting yourself at risk, you could be risking others’ lives as well. Never ride if you’re too tired or if you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Rules aren’t for losers. They’re for responsible people who realize that things like speed limits and traffic laws are in place to protect the general public, motorists and pedestrians alike, from harm. Follow all the rules and obey every traffic signal at all times for optimal safety.
Common Mistakes that Lead to Cycling Accidents
Those who choose to cycle for fun don’t face the same dangers that motorcyclists do. Highways and major roads are not as big of a concern, since most cyclists prefer to ride on smaller roads or trails, and it’s safe to say that it’s difficult to go as fast on a bike as you could on a motorcycle. That said, they do come with their own unique challenges and there are many situations that can put a cyclist’s life in jeopardy.
The NHTSA has released figures on bicyclist injuries and deaths as recently as 2013. In that year, around 48,000 cyclists were injured in accidents, and 743 perished. Interestingly, cyclists aged 55-59 are the most likely to die in a cycling related accident, but individuals aged 20-24 are the ones who are most likely to be injured. These figures are comparable with what has been seen over the last decade or so, regarding cycling accidents. So what are the circumstances that lead to these accidents? Some of the top mistakes are:
- Cyclists riding into the street without checking for cars
- A cyclist turning or swerving in the path of a vehicle
- The cyclist running a red light or a stop sign
- Cyclists riding in the wrong direction, facing cars head on instead of riding with the flow of traffic.
- Riding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Drivers who failed to check their blind spot before turning in front of a cyclist
- Drivers failing to obey the speed limit and, consequently, not having enough time to slow down before hitting a bicyclist
- Drivers who pass cyclists too closely
Advice for New Cyclists
Whether your new venture includes road biking or mountain biking, there is a lot to keep in mind when you take a bicycle on the road or on trails. As a new cyclist, you have a lot to learn. We hope the following tips will give you a head start and help your first ride go smoothly:
- Get the right gear. You’ll need a helmet that fits properly, of course, and you may want to consider some biking gloves as well. If you purchase cycling clothes, like padded bike shorts, make sure they aren’t cotton. Cotton soaks up moisture, instead of wicking it away, and can cause chaffing.
- Give your bike a checkup. Do this before every ride: check the tire pressure, make sure the wheels are spinning true (straight), ensure the chain is clean and well lubricated, and check to make sure your handlebars are tight.
- Adjust the seat. It’s very important to find the right seat height. Sit too low and you won’t get maximum power out of each pedal stroke. Sit too high and mounting and dismounting could become a problem. Play around with your seat height until you find the spot that’s just right and then use a marker to note that spot.
- Learn how to drink efficiently. When you first start riding it can be hard to master the art of removing your water bottle from its holder and taking a drink while riding. It’s tough to do that without getting a little wobbly, but with practice you should get it down in no time.
- Learn how to corner. Cornering is more about shifting your weight than it is turning. It can get a little complicated though, so you may want to take a class or check out some online resources on the subject.
- Learn how to change a flat. It’s just a part of biking and, believe us; you will get plenty of flat tires over time. Keep some tire changing tools and an extra tube on you so that you can handle a flat anywhere you go.
- Slow is ok. You should take your time when you are just getting started. Whether you’re riding alone or with a group, on the road or on a trail, know that it’s ok to go at your own pace or even take a break and walk.
More Bicycling Safety Tips
In addition to our tips for new cyclists, we’ve compiled a list of tips for those more experienced and we hope you’ll find them useful:
- Always ride with traffic. Never ride against it.
- Remember, you’re a driver. Just like you would be in a car. As a cyclist on the road, you have to adhere to each and every one of the same laws that motorists do.
- Don’t listen to music. Not only can you not hear what’s going on around you when you’re wearing headphones, but it’s also illegal or restricted in certain sates.
- Check, check, and then check again. Any time you are turning, heading into an intersection, or doing anything that changes your position on the road, always check and double check for cars.
- Beware of parked cars. You never know when someone inside the car is going to suddenly open their door right in front of you, or when someone is going to pull out of a parking spot unexpectedly.
- Get drivers’ attention. The best way to do this is to wear brightly colored, reflective clothing and have both a headlight and taillight mounted to your bike.
- Look Mom, no hands! As cool as it may be to be able to ride and steer your bike without using your hands, it simply isn’t safe. Always keep at least on hand on your handlebars to maintain control.
- Beware of potholes. These and other hazards can throw you off your bike faster than you can imagine. While you should always ride with your head up, keep watching the road in front of you so that you can see obstacles or debris before it’s too late.
- Avoid busy streets. You may have to ride on some busier roads, especially if you commute to work on your bike, but try to stay on smaller, less traveled streets if you can.
- Always signal turns. If you’ve driven a car, you can sympathize with the fact that it can be frustrating when the driver in front of you neglects to use the blinker. The same is true for cyclists, so be courteous, follow the rules, and always signal your turns.
- Be ready to brake. You never know when you may suddenly need to slow down. Keeping at least a finger or two of one hand resting lightly on the brakes will help you be prepared in the event you need to stop suddenly.
We hope you find these tips helpful reminders to ensure your safety on the busy roadways we all encounter. From everyone at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, be safe and enjoy the ride!