As the weather warms up and motorcyclists hit the road, it’s an excellent time to review some basic motorcycle road safety for both riders and the drivers sharing the road with them. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month – but remember, motorcycle safety is important all year.
Motorcycle Safety for Car Drivers in Wisconsin
According to the NHTSA, “When motorcycles and other vehicles collide, it is usually the other (non-motorcycle) driver who violates the motorcyclist’s right-of-way.”
Research has shown that drivers who have friends and family members who ride motorcycles are more likely to notice motorcycles on the road and less likely to hit them. This may mean that drivers can train themselves to be more aware of motorcycles.
- Look for motorcycles. It’s easy to miss motorcycles when you’re not actively looking for them. Don’t just look for other cars. Make a conscious effort to look for motorcycles.
- Pay attention to the road. If you are distracted by your phone, you are even less likely to notice a motorcycle – until it’s too late. Food, music, passengers, and other activities can also become dangerous distractions. Give the road your full attention.
- Be aware of your blind spots. Because motorcycles are smaller than cars, they are more easily concealed in blind spots.
- Give motorcycles plenty of space.
- Be especially careful when changing lanes or turning.
Motorcycle Safety for Motorcyclists
The NHTSA says that more than 5,000 motorcyclists died in 2019. To prevent becoming another statistic, motorcyclists should take basic safety precautions, starting with meeting Wisconsin’s motorcycle licensing requirements.
Before you get on a motorcycle, you need to add a motorcycle license endorsement to your driver’s license. The exact requirements for this will vary from state to state. Still, it will usually involve a written test, and it may also involve an on-cycle skills test or a motorcycle rider education course.
This licensing requirement is more than red tape. It ensures that you know how to ride safely – and that knowledge could make the difference between life and death. The NHTSA says that 30% of the motorcyclists who died in 2019 did not have a valid motorcycle license.
Motorcycle Helmet Safety
A helmet protects your head. The visor also protects your eyes. If anything goes wrong, the right helmet could save your life.
Before selecting a helmet, make sure it meets the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 by checking for the DOT symbol on the outside back of the helmet. You can also look for Snell and ANSI labels inside to helmet to see if it meets the standards used by those nonprofit groups.
Motorcycle Safety for Passengers
Before you get on a motorcycle as a passenger, make sure you know what you’re doing. The NHTSA recommends the following safety tips:
- Get on the motorcycle after the engine has started.
- Don’t get off until the driver instructs you to.
- Sit directly behind the driver and as far forward as you can.
- Keep your feet on the footrests and away from the muffler.
- Hold onto the driver’s waist, hips, or belt.
- Try not to move unnecessarily and lean in the same direction and at the same time as the driver.
Some states have age restrictions on drivers. In these states, children under a certain age are not allowed to ride as a passenger on a motorcycle.
Make Each Ride a Safe One
Before heading out, it’s important to know the weather and road conditions.
You should also check your motorcycle before each trip. The NHTSA recommends checking the tire pressure, tread depth, brakes, headlights, signal indicators, and fluid levels, as well as looking for signs of oil or gas leaks. Cargo should be secured and balanced.
The clothes you wear also matter. In addition to your helmet, leather clothes can provide protection, and bright colors can help ensure that you’re visible. Select footwear that covers your ankles, and wear gloves that provide a good grip.
Once you’re out on the road, look for road hazards. Construction work can result in debris being in the road, so use extreme caution or find another route. Always pay attention to the road and follow the rules of the road, and never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Motorcycle State Laws
Motorcycle laws vary by state. For example, some states require helmets for all motorcycles, while some only require helmets for minors, and some don’t have any helmet requirements at all. States may also have laws requiring eye protection. Regardless of the legal requirements, it is always smart to wear a DOT-approved helmet when riding a motorcycle.
In Wisconsin, helmets are required for all riders ages 17 and under.
According to the Motorcycle Legal Foundation, states may also have other laws that pertain to motorcyclists, including noise restriction laws that require a muffler, laws that prohibit lane splitting, and laws that require the use of daytime headlights.
Don’t Forget About Motorcycle Insurance
Motorcyclists are typically required to maintain motorcycle insurance under state law. Even if you have car insurance, you will need to purchase motorcycle insurance, although you may be able to bundle coverage to save money.
State law will determine the minimum coverage types and limits that you need to carry. This will usually include bodily injury and property damage liability. You should also consider purchasing additional coverage to protect yourself and your motorcycle. Motorcycle accessories and upgrades may not be covered under a standard policy, so make sure you have the coverage add-ons you need to keep your motorcycle fully covered. If you drive a Harley, you may be interested in upgrading your insurance to cover custom chrome and paint, as well as your favorite accessories.
If you get caught riding your motorcycle without motorcycle insurance, you could face expensive tickets and fines. You may also face license suspension and other more severe consequences. Even worse, if you get into an accident, you won’t have the coverage you need.
Don’t take that risk. We can help you find affordable motorcycle coverage in Wisconsin. Contact us to learn more and to get a motorcycle insurance quote.