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May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and we encourage all motorists to safely “share the road” with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe.

We shouldn’t need to designate a particular month to remember that we need to be safe on the roads at all times. Whether we are walking, riding a bicycle, motorcycle, or operating any other mode of transportation that requires our undivided attention, we always need to think about safety first.

Since May has been designated Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, we’d like to share some important tips for keeping yourself, and those around you safe when you are taking a ride on a motorcycle:

Wear a Helmet

It’s true that some states still don’t have helmet laws, but this is one situation where you need common sense. Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is the one safety tip everyone should follow.

Remember to buy a helmet that meets or exceeds the standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Some helmets look great, but they don’t offer a degree of protection that will minimize injury. Moreover, make sure the helmet you choose fits properly, and does not obstruct your vision.

Take a Safety Course

Most states require anyone seeking to obtain a motorcycle license take a safety course in addition to a skills test. Riding a motorcycle is very different from driving a car.

Even if the state you live in doesn’t require you to take a safety course, take one anyway to ensure you have the training you need to ride properly. A safety course will likely include one-on-one time with an instructor in a controlled environment, as well as tips on maintenance, unsafe conditions and what to do in emergency situations.

Outfit Yourself Appropriately

A common misconception about motorcycle enthusiasts is that they wear leather pants and jackets just to look cool. The truth is, the right clothing will offer a greater degree of protection in case of an accident.

Motorcycles offer little protection in accidents, but there are other dangers you should be aware of while riding. Wearing jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops offers no protection from road debris like pebbles, rocks, broken glass, cigarette butts and other things that might be flying around. A tiny pebble hitting you at 60 miles per hour can cause an injury if your body is not adequately protected.

Invest In Proper Footwear

Along with proper attire, motorcycle riders should also wear a sturdy pair of boots or shoes whenever they ride. Sneakers, flip-flops or other flimsy shoes might not give a rider the stability he or she needs to change gears. Moreover, you risk being burned by the exhaust if your feet are not adequately protected.

Invest in a sturdy pair of leather boots or shoes with rugged soles to wear when you ride. Not only will your feet be protected, the footwear will help keep you balanced when stopped, and ensure that you have no trouble shifting.

Know Your Own Skills

Riding a motorcycle is very different from driving a car. If you’re a good driver, that doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be a good motorcycle rider. It’s important to develop your skills before you drop major bucks on a motorcycle you don’t know how to handle.

If you’re new to motorcycles, it’s best to start slow and work your way up. Start out with short rides in low-traffic areas to build up your confidence. Do not attempt dangerous maneuvers like riding fast on curved roads, or weaving in-and-out of traffic on a busy freeway. Doing that puts yourself and others at risk of having an accident. If you need help becoming an experienced rider, check with your state’s department of motor vehicles, or a reputable motorcycle dealer to find out where you can obtain lessons to develop your skill set.

Don’t Get Distracted

Distracted drivers have become one of the leading causes of automobile accidents. Distracted motorcycle riders can do even more damage. A motorcycle is harder to control than a car, and it requires your complete attention. Don’t take your hands off of the handlebars, wear headphones, or talk on your cell phone. A split second of distraction can mean loss of life for you, or someone else if you’re not paying attention.

Leave Plenty of Room

One of the biggest misconceptions motorcyclists have, is that they need less room to stop. It might be true that their bike is able to stop in a shorter distance than a car travelling at the same speed, but it is the reaction time of the rider that is the most significant determining factor in braking. For some older bike models fast braking ability is further reduced in the absence of safety features like antilock brakes. Always leave enough distance between you and the car in front of you, and be aware of your surroundings in case you cannot stop in time.

Use Open Zones on the Freeway

Riding a motorcycle in bunched-up traffic makes you less visible to drivers. Find the gaps between groups of vehicles and stay in them. This allows for increased maneuverability, and higher visibility for drivers. Heavy traffic often makes motorcycles more difficult for drivers to see.

Mind the Weather

Motorcycles do not have the stability of cars, so riding one in the rain can be treacherous. Two wheels gives you only half the traction of a car, making you more prone to slipping and sliding on wet roads. Do not ride in the rain if you don’t have to. If you cannot avoid riding in the rain, wait until it has been raining for a while; the longer it rains, the less likely you’ll be to hit any oil spots or other residue that can make roads slippery.

Tell Your Passengers What They’re In For

Having a passenger riding on a motorcycle with you can be fun, but they must understand that it’s very different from taking a leisurely drive.  Moreover, if you’re new to motorcycles, practice carrying a passenger in an empty parking lot to get a feel for it, before hitting the open road.

Make sure passengers are wearing a helmet and the same level of protective gear you are. They should not distract you, and they should know what it feels like to turn and stop while on a motorcycle. Some states prohibit young children from being passengers on motorcycles, so check the laws before you give a young person a ride.

Wilshire Law Firm takes motorcycle safety very seriously. If you or a member of your family is ever involved in an accident while riding a motorcycle, you have legal rights.

Find out what you can do to obtain financial compensation for injuries or damage by calling (800) 522-7274, toll-free for a complimentary consultation with an experienced motorcycle accident injury lawyer.