by Liz Jansen
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Many campaigns have been designed to alert automobile drivers to our presence on the road. That all helps, but safety has to start with me. The rider.
I can’t abdicate that responsibility, nor do I want to. Nor will I count on another driver being aware of my presence, even after we’ve made eye contact.
These tips remind us how to practice awareness when we’re out riding.
12 Tips for Riders During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month
- Ride within your skill level. Putting yourself in a situation you’re not prepared for, or ceding to peer pressure to ride faster than you’re comfortable put you at risk of losing control of the situation. Fixating on keeping up or staying in control diverts awareness from where you’re going.
- Keep the noise down. My helmet has a high noise reduction rating but I reduce that further with earplugs. If you’re going to listen to music while riding, keep the volume down. My choice is no music. There are enough inputs for me to keep track of without adding any more.
- Use intercoms only when needed. Chatting on the phone or to your riding partner is distracting, especially if you get into an animated conversation.
- Wear properly fitting gear. Anything that makes you uncomfortable takes your focus away from the road—like jackets, pants, gloves, or helmets that bind or are too loose. They also contribute to fatigue.
- Scan your environment. Many riders think to scan the road ahead but forget to do mirror checks every 8 to 10 seconds. Constant scanning helps you notice the driver that’s about to pull out of a plaza without seeing you or children playing at the side of the road.
- Anticipate. Assume the other driver doesn’t see you and anticipate what they’re going to do next. Be prepared to take action if necessary.
- Check your blind spots. Mirrors don’t show you everything. Every turn or lane change, right or left, should include a blind spot check before you initiate the turn.
- Ride defensively. This is the companion to anticipating what unpredictable and distracted drivers might do. It does not mean riding passively. Rather it may mean asserting your position, especially if evasive action is necessary.
- Wear gear appropriate for the conditions. That means good ventilation in hot weather, enough layers to keep you warm in cold riding—without being too bulky, and rain gear that keeps you dry.
- Choose your riding partners selectively. If you’re not confident in the skills of someone you’re riding with and have to watch them all the time, you’re going to miss other hazards on the road. If they must ride with you, ride behind them.
- Keep your bike well maintained. Developing rattles, engine noises, or even low fuel levels while riding moves your focus from the road to the bike. Regular maintenance and pre-ride checks will minimize the chances of that happening.
- Keep your cool. Getting angry and into a confrontation with another driver does nothing to diffuse the situation. In addition, while you’re focused on him, someone else may be getting ready to cut you off.
Incorporating these tips into your riding habits will make you much more aware and reduce your chances of getting into a risky situation, or even a crash.
Practicing motorcycle safety awareness doesn’t mean riding in a high state of tension. Tension is what happens when you’re not aware.
What other tips do you have for staying aware? Leave a comment.
Related article: 10 Tips for Sharing the Road with Motorcyclists