Cruise into the sunset with a road trip to an upcoming Motorcycle Week gathering.

6 safety tips every motorcyclist should know

It's said that April showers bring May flowers. With the month's arrival, it's time for Mother Nature to make good on its promise with a string of warm weather days and evenings that outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of.

Perhaps no one has been looking forward to a warm weather streak more than motorcyclists. Over the past several long, cold months, motorcyclists have kept their bikes in storage, anxiously awaiting the moment they could rev their engines and go for another joyride.

That time has finally come for the nation's nearly 10 million registered motorcycle riders.

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this is an annual period when motorists are reminded to share the road with motorcyclists, and for riders to realize the dangers associated with using two wheels rather than four, which they've grown accustomed to over the long winter.

"Motorcyclists will be out in force as the weather gets warmer, which is why May is the perfect month for Motorcycle Safety Awareness," said Anthony Foxx, DOT secretary. "Fatal crashes with motorcycles are on the rise. We all need to be more aware of motorcyclists in order to save lives and make sure we all 'Share the Road.'"

Even one life lost to motorcycle crash is one too many, but thanks to increased awareness of what it takes to drive safely, fatalities have fallen. In 2013, the latest year for which data is available, there were approximately 4,668 deadly motorcycle accidents. That's down from the nearly 5,000 nationwide in 2012.

If you're a motorcycle rider, what better way to practice smart motorcycle safety than hitting the road for a ride? Wherever you wind up going, here's what you should be sure to do every time you jump in the saddle:

Wear protective gear

More than 80 percent of motorcycle accidents result in injury or death , according to NHTSA statistics. That risk drops dramatically by wearing a helmet – by almost one-third at 29 percent.  Also, be sure that the rest of your body is covered up by wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a pair of gloves.

Avoid distractions

Being out in the open air, distractions are everywhere, as things you probably never noticed when in the car are very apparent on a bike. Keep your eyes on the road ahead of you and resist the temptation of looking around you.

Use hand signals

You should always keep your hands on the handlebars, but when you're coming to a stop or plan on turning, use the hand turn signals you learned in your motorcycle driving education course. In addition to the directionals on your bike, this serves as just one more way to inform drivers around you of your intention to turn left or right. 

Increase following distance

The general rule when behind the wheel is to allow two seconds of room between yourself and the nearest car in front of you. On a motorcycle, though, increase that distance to four seconds, NHTSA recommends. Motorists are advised to do the same thing when they're behind motorcycles. 

Avoid dark clothing

On two wheels, it's not as easy to see you versus a full-sized vehicle. To increase your visibility, wear colors that are easily distinguishable like white, orange, and yellow. There are also reflective vests you can wear that are ideal for driving at night. 

Drive only when it's nice out

Everyone hopes for a warm and sunny summer, as rain puts a real damper on outdoor fun activities. If rain is in the forecast, hold off riding on your bike until conditions clear. Besides the fact that you'll avoid getting wet, you'll also reduce the risk of being involved in an accident, as the roads won't be slick.

Wherever your motorcycle driving takes you this year, make sure you get there safely by adhering to these safety rules. Doing so will help continue the encouraging trend of fewer highway fatalities.

Remember, it's also important to keep your motorcycle adequately covered and protected. Learn more about motorcycle coverage from Elephant.