In May, bushes, plants, and flower patches reach full bloom. But there's something else that's booming on highways, city streets, and back roads this time of year: motorcycles.
The bumper sticker really says it all – motorcycle riders are everywhere. And who can blame them, as few activities are more freeing than cruising the open roads as the wind rushes by. Yet despite the ubiquity of bikers, they can be hard to detect when you're used to seeing passenger vehicles.
Overlooking motorcycle riders is part of the reason why accidents happen as often as they do. In 2015, for example, approximately 88,000 motorcyclists were injured on U.S. roads, according to the National Safety Council. This doesn't include the nearly 5,000 motorcyclists whose injuries cost them their lives, a 3% increase compared to 2006 and 8% more than the previous year. In 2014, motorcycle-related fatalities outnumbered those from other vehicles by 27 times, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Whether you're new to riding or a motorcycle veteran, safety is of the utmost importance. But extreme caution is every bit as crucial if you're a car owner. After all, if a rider is being careful and motorists aren't, the results can be devastating.
With May being Motorcycle Safety Month, the following motorcycle safety tips – both for riders and motorists – can help reduce the chances of being involved in an accident.
Take a safety class
You need a motorcycle license in order to ride, and the best way to ensure you know the rules of the road is by getting properly trained. Even if you're well-versed in riding proficiency, a refresher course can help ensure that you remain a defensive motorcyclist.
Wear appropriate attire
It's not uncommon to see riders wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt, especially when it's hot outside. But this combo runs the risk of severe injury if a vehicle stops short or someone runs a red light. Make sure to always ride so that bare skin is covered by wearing gloves, over-the-ankle boots, eye protection, and a jacket. A properly fitted helmet that's Department of Transportation-approved should be worn as well – it's unlawful to do otherwise in most states. Helmets spared the lives of an estimated 1,772 people in 2015, according to the NSC.
Ride at a safe distance
Maintaining a consistent traveling distance is critical both on back roads and highways, and should increase on stretches where speed limits are higher. Safety experts say you should leave at least two car lengths of space between other vehicles, or the equivalent of roughly four to five seconds.
Avoid risky maneuvers
Motorcycles have an advantage of being smaller, so they're able to fit in places passenger cars can't. But safety experts warn against misusing this convenience by weaving in and out of lanes. In addition to being rude, it increases the risk of an accident.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a few other tips to be cognizant of if you're riding this summer. Additionally, Motorcyclist Magazine published an article late last year, detailing scenarios where an accident might take place and how to avoid it, like if a distracted driver jams on his or her breaks or fails to stop at an intersection.
Look, then look again
Motorcycles vary in size, but regardless of how big they are, they're easily overlooked, especially on roads that are highly congested. If you're at a stop sign or are taking a turn into a parking lot or driveway, take an extra moment to look before pulling out or in.
Allow plenty of space
Motorcycle riders are supposed to stay well behind motorists, but the same rule applies to drivers. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation suggests trailing a rider by at least four or five seconds.
Be skeptical of turn signals
Motorcycles have flashing directional indicators, but unlike automobiles, they don't all have an auto-off function, triggered when the handlebars move. Thus, riders may have their light flashing, but simply forgot it turn off. Just be aware of this possibility when you're on the roads and drive defensively.
Don't anticipate brake lights
Similarly, riders will often downshift to slow down, instead of applying the brakes before coming to a complete stop. As a result, try to increase your following distance, making sure to apply the brakes slightly earlier than you would if trailing a passenger vehicle.
The MSF has a few other pointers to be mindful of as a driver on roads frequented by motorcyclists.
Elephant Insurance partners with Dairyland, providing riders with truly specialized motorcycle coverage. By pairing a motorcycle policy with auto insurance or homeowners insurance, you can save on premiums. You may be able to save even more after successfully completing a safety course. To find a location near you, visit the MSF's website.