This time of year any motorcycle rider worth his salt is experiencing more than a little cabin fever, waiting for the snow and ice to clear and the days to warm up. We’re still weeks away from any decent riding weather, but it never hurts to brush up on rider safety prior to that first warm, dry day. Whether you ride a cruiser, chopper, crotch-rocket or scooter, accidents can happen to anyone, any time.
As a Maryland motorcycle accident attorney and personal injury lawyer, I’ve met my share of riders in both good and bad circumstances. Unfortunately, injuries caused by motorcycle crashes can be much more severe than those of car accidents. Safety is always in the mind of a good rider, and should be foremost in the minds of all motorcycle riders as spring approaches.
Among things to remember as the weather warms up are riding in rain and at night. Spring brings warmer days, but it also brings rain showers and wet roadways. Although it’s more enjoyable to ride in the dry, every rider will get caught in rain at some time or another.
Riding in the rain has its own safety concerns and it takes more than throwing on a rain suit to prepare for wet pavement. Your gear is important, of course. Make sure your rain gloves and boots fit correctly — badly fitting equipment can interfere with your ability to brake and shift properly. Poorly fitting gear has probably led to more than one fatal motorcycle wreck.
Every driver should know to use extra caution at the first sign of rain. This is when the water tends to sit on oily patches, especially at intersections. As that water finds the low spots in the roadway, it mixes with the oil residue making things extremely slippery. As a motorcycle rider, this should be your main concern when those first rain drops hit your windscreen.
Many a prudent rider will take the opportunity to stop for a cup of coffee when it starts to rain. This allows some of that oil-water mix to be washed away and also gives the rider time to put on some rain gear. If you’re lucky, it’s just a quick shower, but even so, keep in mind that even damp pavement offers less traction than dry.
In spring, the days are getting longer, but night riding is still a reality. Remember that dusk is actually the worst time for all drivers. This is when people’s eyes are getting adjusted to driving or riding by headlights, not daylight. It’s especially important to be extra cautious just after sunset.
It never hurts to slow down somewhat when riding at night, especially on any winding road. Take advantage of the headlights of vehicles in front of you to see farther. Be especially careful to keep an eye on the road surface, since at night it is much more difficult to see sandy patches or other debris on the roadway.
Increase your following distance to give yourself an added margin of reaction time. Avoid wearing a faceshield that has scratches all over it. These marks can cause oncoming lights to refract in ways that could cause confusion at the wrong moment — sometimes twin headlights can look like four – and you need to have all your senses working at their peak, just in case.
Finally, one of the largest and most serious hazards is “the other guy” on the road with you. At night, that unknown driver could be someone coming back from an evening of drinking with his buddies. Be especially alert for cars and trucks that do “odd” maneuvers such as weaving or drifting in and out of traffic. Be sure to give these folks a wide birth.
For more safety tips and information on safe motorcycle and scooter riding, visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website. They offer a great deal of useful info for the dedicated biker. Stay safe and enjoy the coming spring.