May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, so we’ve assembled a range of tips to increase your awareness of what you can do to share the road with other road users safely.
OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) report that forty-eight motorcyclists died last year on OPP-patrolled roads, the highest number of motorcycle deaths in ten years. Twenty-seven of those riders were driving properly (not at fault) at the time of the collision, also a ten-year high. There were thirty-six motorcycle deaths in 2016.
The top four culprits for all road fatalities were related to inattention, speed, seatbelt use, and alcohol/drugs.
Toronto Police Services track motorcyclists Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI). Their numbers were down from fifty-four KSI in 2016 to forty KSI in 2017, including four fatalities. Prior to last year, the overall trend has been on a steady increase.
We can’t control other drivers, but we can take steps to increase our safety while sharing the road safely with them.
Here are 36 tips to increase your Safety awareness and riding proficiency:
Ride Like a Pro
1. Take a skills refresher course with a professional organization. Off-road courses are ideal for teaching road riders how to deal with the unexpected on the road—like obstacles or loss of traction. Pro-riding courses teach valuable defensive riding skills and increase your proficiency.
2. Ride defensively and confidently, not timidly or fearfully. Anticipate what other road users are going to do and be prepared to react appropriately.
3. Practice. Head to a vacant parking lot and practice slow speed and emergency maneuvers.
4. Ride within your skill level. Most of us don’t have the skills or ability to tap into the full power of our bike. Proficiency and muscle memory take practice and saddle time to develop.
5. Ride smoothly. You can react a lot more quickly than any vehicle out there, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn, cut in and out, and make quick moves that startle others.
6. Scan your environment. The Ministry of Transport of Ontario (MTO) suggests you check your mirrors every five to seven seconds to keep track of what’s going on around you. Mirrors don’t tell the whole story, though, so do a visual scan as well.
7. Ride within the speed limit. Speed was the second leading cause of fatalities on OPP patrolled roads in 2017. If you feel the need for speed, take it to a track.
8. Follow other vehicles at a safe distance. Motorcycles require less stopping distance than other vehicles, but allow enough distance in front of you for the vehicle behind you to stop, especially if it’s a loaded truck!
9. Slow down in inclement weather. You may have the skills to ride safely but consider that you’re sharing the road with others who may not have the same degree of proficiency, or attentiveness. You’re also less visible in rain or fog.
10. Know and follow the rules of the road. They apply to everyone. Other drivers anticipate that you’re going to follow the them and make their decisions accordingly.
11. Move away from poorly secured loads. It’s better to be in front of them than risk having an object hit you or a mattress land on the road in front of you.
12. Ride sober. Riders with an M1 or M2 endorsement must maintain a zero blood alcohol level. It’s wisest to continue that practice even when you have your full M designation.
13. Ride unimpaired. Illness, stress, and medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can weaken your ability to operate your motorcycle safely. If you’re taking prescription meds, ask your doctor or pharmacist about the drug’s effect on you, and the potential effects of combining it with other meds or alcohol.
14. Maintain a clear line of sight. When this is challenged, such as in traffic, increase your following distance.
15. Conduct traffic checks by scanning your environment while waiting at an intersection or traffic light. Proceed only when it’s safe.
16. Assume the proper blocking position at a stop, including optional angled position for right turns.
17. Ride in the correct tire track. This will change depending on the circumstances and the number of lanes of traffic, but is never in the middle of the lane. Generally, on a two-lane road, ride in the left tire track.
18. Maintain an appropriate gap between you and the vehicle ahead of you when stopped. It gives you room to maneuver if your environmental scan alerts you to danger.
19. Use intercoms only as needed and keep your chatting to an as-needed basis only.
20. Keep audio chatter to a minimum. That includes listening to music, chatting with friends or your passenger on your intercom. There are enough competing inputs without adding to what your brain already has to process.
Increase your Visibility
21. Make yourself visible with high-visibility reflective gear, especially on your upper body, where it’s more likely to catch the attention of drivers.
22. Apply reflective strips to your bike.
23. Use hand signals in addition to turn signals. That movement may be what gets noticed.
24. Add accessories to your motorcycle that make you more noticeable, like a high-decibel horn and accessory lights. Just don’t blind oncoming traffic.
25. Check blind spots before moving away, when coming to a stop, and before making a lane change. Motorcycle training programs teach riders to check (blind spot), signal, check, before making a lane change.
26. Refrain from riding in another driver’s blind spots.
27. Tap your brake light when decelerating. It alerts other drivers to your change in speed.
Dress Like a Pro
28. Wear appropriate gear. Fatigue, heat, and cold impair judgment and your ability to react. Dress for the ride and the weather, and be prepared to adapt to changing situations.
29. Wear proper fitting gear, done up properly. It’s better for gear to be snug rather than flapping in the breeze. In the case of a mishap, snug-fitting gear better protects you from abrasion and holds armour in place.
Be a Leader
30. Choose your riding partners wisely. Riding as part of a group—two or more riders—carries its own etiquette and responsibilities. It’s wisest to accumulate skills before riding with others.
31. Don’t cede to peer pressure to ride beyond your skill or comfort level.
32. Be courteous to other drivers. When they see you driving responsibly, they’re more likely to do the same.
33. 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.
Keep Your Bike in Top Shape
34. Keep your motorcycle well-maintained. A breakdown while riding can lead to a crash.
35. Check brake lights, turn signals, and headlights regularly to make sure they’re all working.
36. Check your tires before your ride for sufficient pressure (refer to your owner’s manual, not the markings on the sidewall), adequate tread, and any irregularities or embedded objects.
Next month we’ve devoted the entire space to tips for sharing the road with Transport Trucks.