There are more than 4 million
motorcycles registered in the United States. Popular because
of its low initial cost, its use as
a pleasure vehicle and, for some models, the good fuel
efficiency, nevertheless there is a danger factor to driving
motorcycle fatalities represent about 5% of all highway
fatalities each year, yet motorcycles represent just 2% of
vehicles in the United States.
One of the main reasons motorcyclists are killed in crashes
is because the motorcycle itself provides virtually no
in a crash. For example, approximately 80% of reported
motorcycle crashes result in injury or death, compared to
for automobile crashes.
Here are some steps you can take to increase your likelihood
of a safe ride:
First, last and always: Never ride without
a certified motorcycle helmet and eye protection.
This is the most important piece
of equipment you can own. Safety helmets save lives by
reducing the extent of head
the event of a crash. Make sure your helmet fits comfortably
and snugly, and is fastened for the ride. Look for the
DOT label on the helmet – this constitutes the manufacturer's
certification that the helmet conforms to the federal standard.
In many states,
use of a helmet is required by law. Passengers should also
wear a helmet. A consumer information brochure on how to
care for a motorcycle helmet is available from the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street
Washington, DC 20590.
Complete a motorcycle training course, then practice before
going out on the street. For the location of a Motorcycle
rider-training course, call toll free (800) 446-9227. Afterward,
find an off-highway area or vacant parking lot and practice
until use of all controls becomes automatic and you become
accustomed to requirements for balance, making turns, stopping,
Be aware that riding with a passenger requires
even more skill than riding alone. Carrying a passenger should be delayed
you have considerable solo riding time and are ready to take
on the responsibility of carrying a passenger.
Obtain your learner's permit or motorcycle endorsement on
your driver's license before you venture onto the streets.
Never drink and ride. Alcohol slows reflexes and greatly
limits your ability to operate a motorcycle. Even a very
of alcohol can reduce your ability to operate a motorcycle
Read your owner's manual thoroughly. It tells you
how to operate your motorcycle, maintain it, and diagnose
the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule. Before
each day's riding, perform a visual and operational check
of the motorcycle
and its operating systems. Check lights, turn signals, tires,
brakes, fuel and oil levels, mirrors, and control cables.
Replace broken, worn or frayed cables at once. Lubricate
and adjust your
chain as prescribed in your owner's manual.
Wear protective clothing: Studies show that the head, arms
and legs are most often injured in a crash. Protective clothing
equipment offer comfort and protection from the elements;
some measure of injury protection; and through use of color
material, a means for other motorists to see the motorcyclist.
Protection: Choose good quality goggles, glasses with plastic
or safety lenses, or a helmet equipped with a face shield.
Goggles, glasses, and face shields should be scratch free, shatter proof,
and well ventilated to prevent fog buildup. Only clear shields
should be used at night since tinted shields reduce contrast
and make it more difficult to see. Even if your motorcycle
has a windshield, eye protection is recommended.
Jackets and Trousers: Clothing worn when riding a motorcycle
should provide some measure of protection from abrasion in
the event of a spill. These should be of durable material (e.g.,
special synthetic material or leather). Jackets should have
long sleeves. Trousers (not shorts) should not be baggy or flared
at the bottom to prevent entanglement with the chain, kick
starter, foot-pegs, or other protrusions on the sides of a motorcycle.
Gloves: Durable gloves of the non-slip type, to permit a firm
grip on the controls, are recommended. Leather gloves are excellent,
as are special fabric gloves with leather palms and grip strips
on the fingers. Gauntlet-type gloves keep air out of the rider's
Footwear: Leather boots are best. Durable athletic shoes that
cover the ankles are a good second choice. Sandals, sneakers,
and similar footwear provide little protection from abrasion
or a crushing impact. Avoid dangling laces.