Now that the warm weather is here, and likely here to stay, more than a few Hondas, Harleys, Kawasakis and Ducatis are hitting the roadways of Maryland; here in the Baltimore area, over in Rockville and Gaithersburg, not to mention the streets of Washington, D.C. But it’s important to remember that as bikers venture back onto the roads, other vehicles are still there in large numbers.
As Maryland personal injury lawyers, we only know too well how drivers, passengers and motorcycle riders can easily be injured or killed by getting into an accident with another passenger car, a city bus or a commercial delivery truck. And since the drivers of those larger motor vehicles need to get used to the latest batch of motorcyclists crisscrossing our urban areas and interstate highways, the early part of the motorcycle season can see a lot of unexpected automobile accidents.
Once the less intrepid riders know that the cold weather is mostly past, they likely head out in greater numbers. But just as four-wheel motorists must adjust to the presence of more bikes on the road, bikers would do well to observe caution when mixing with those very same cars and trucks. Drivers of passenger cars, SUVs and minivans have just as many distractions as they did during the colder months, but adding two-wheelers to the high-speed mix can make for a deadly combination. More than one rider has been killed in a traffic accident through distraction; don’t let it be you.
Just to remind our readers, here are a few pointers for a safer riding season:
1) Use your helmet
While many states have repealed or adjusted their mandatory helmet laws, safety experts generally agree that wearing a certified motorcycle riding helmet could save one’s life. The arguments against helmets, such as their capacity to damp out external traffic noises or limit one’s peripheral vision, are offset by the amount of protection a helmet can offer in the event of a crash. Considering that a helmet can prevent a serious closed-head injury, there may be little to bolster the former arguments.
Scientific and statistical evidence strongly suggests that the wearing of a motorcycle rider’s helmet can significantly reduce the incidence of a head injury in the event of a potential traffic collision. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37 percent of those individuals who have been killed in a fatal motorcycle crash while not wearing a helmet would likely have survived if they had been. Think about that if you or someone you know decides that helmets are not useful, fashionable or otherwise cool to wear.
2) Wear eye protection
Even with a windscreen on a bike, the lack of eye protection can, at the very least, cause the rider’s eyes to tear up or water, which can cause reduced visual acuity at just the wrong time. Then, consider if a bug, rock or other piece of debris hit you in the eye at 50mph and you may never leave the garage without some kind of purpose-made eye protection to compliment your helmet.
3) Consider taking a professional rider’s course
There are many motorcyclists out there who came up through the ranks without much training. Of those individual who have gotten caught up in a motorcycle-related wreck, nearly 90 percent of them had no formal rider training, according to safety experts, and were only self-taught or educated by friends and riding acquaintances. If you haven’t taken a motorcycle riding safety course, consider it if only as an investment in your future.
4) Leave the alcohol alone
As any person knows by now, drinking and driving is not only illegal, but it is downright dangerous. That goes double for motorcycle riders, who already have the odds stacked against them. Any rider worth his or her salt knows that it takes skill and concentration to pilot a bike safely on Maryland expressways or in densely-packed urban traffic. Why take a chance on getting into a tangle with a car, SUV or semi just because you wanted to have a cold one before heading out on the road. If you don’t believe us, consider that back in 2009, more than one third of all fatally injured motorcycle riders were found to have some amount of alcohol in their system. Most of those (29 percent) had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
5) Wear good quality protective clothing
This is something that may not be too appealing on a hot summer day, but the difference between crashing with leathers on and hitting the road at 50mph with shorts and flip-flops could be weeks or months in a hospital bed. Road rash is a quaint expression, but it’s gets a whole new meaning to those who actually have their skin sanded off a leg or arm in a matter of seconds. Be safe, wear protection.
There is more to say, but the motorcycle safety websites cover everything in greater detail than we can here. Riding is fun, enjoyable and great pastime. Riding safely, on the other hand, is its own reward. Keep the shiny side up, Everyone!