Quick Tips for Staying Safe on Your Motorcycle

Riding a motorcycle can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous. Motorcycles represent 2.5% of all registered vehicles but 11.3% of traffic deaths. In 2006, motorcycles accounted for over 4,800 fatalities and 88,000 injuries in the United States. Specifically in Virginia, there were 2,601 motorcycle crashes which resulted in 126 motorcycle operator deaths and 2,284 occupant injuries in 2007.

Follow these safety tips in order to have a safe ride.

  • Wear bright or reflective clothing to maximize your visibility at night.
  • Wear a DOT, ANSI, OR Snell-approved helmet which are designed with hard outer shells and a retention system to protect the head and the brain in a variety of impacts. In 2006, 41% of those killed in crashes were not wearing a helmet.
  • If your helmet is not equipped with a face shield, wear goggles or glasses with plastic lenses to protect your eyes against insects, wind, dirt, rocks, or other airborne matter.
  • Wear elbow and knee pads.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes and avoid wearing sandals, flip-flops or shoes with laces.
  • Ride with the flow of traffic.
  • Obey the speed limits and never travel faster than your skill level or than the conditions allow.
  • Know how to use hand signals and signal well before you make a turn or lane change.
  • Use extra caution at intersections, parking lot entrances and exits, and driveways.
  • Avoid hitting road hazards, such as sharp bumps and holes in the road surface. These hazards can cause loss of control or damage.
  • Be especially conscious of traffic from behind.
  • Check with your DMV to find out where local safety classes are being held.
  • Get licensed. In Virginia, you must hold a valid class M endorsement on your driver license.
  • Register your motorcycle. In Virginia, you must have a VA title, registration card, and license plate.
  • Wear durable, non-slip gloves which provide firm grips on the controls along with long pants and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket.
  • Learn how to use both front and rear brakes.
  • Learn how to properly downshift through the gears as you slow down or stop.
  • Pass vehicles with extreme care.
  • Keep your headlights on both day and night.
  • Reduce your speed when riding over bumpy roads.
  • Check your mirrors and blind spots frequently.
  • Use caution when riding in bus traffic and watch out for buses pulling to and from curbs and passengers getting on and off buses.
  • Do not block sidewalks, handicap and building accesses, or emergency drives when parking your motorcycle.

You should follow all of these general tips, but keep in mind that this checklist is not completely exhaustive and you should check with your state DMV for state specific rules.