When my dad was in his 50s, he fulfilled a long-time dream of buying a motorcycle. Although I didn’t understand his drive (pun intended) to ride the shiny black and silver Honda, I appreciated that he did it safely.
May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. For many, riding a motorcycle is a preferred method of transportation. Some ride on a daily basis. Others, like my dad, might ride purely for recreation and enjoyment.
Regardless of why or how often one might ride a motorcycle, riding safely is critical.
Education is key to motorcycle safety
Taking a motorcycle safety course and knowing the rules of the road are important. Motorcycle safety courses can be found by inputting your ZIP code on the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website.
My dad was what is known as a “re-entry rider.” He rode a motorcycle early in life and then got back to it decades later. Riders like my dad, who might have ridden in their 20s and picked riding back up in the late 40s to 60s, need to maintain awareness that things have changed in that span of time when they weren’t actively riding. There is more traffic, more powerful bikes, different traffic patterns, more distracted drivers and physical changes to their bodies that might affect the way the ride or respond.
Regardless of how old you are when you learn to ride or if you’ve ridden a motorcycle previously, it’s a good idea to commit to brushing up on old skills and mastering new ones.
As of July 1, 2008, completion of a Florida Rider Training Program (FRTP) is required for all motorcyclists who wish to obtain a “Motorcycle Also” endorsement or “Motorcycle Only” license. Upon successful completion of the course, you may be entitled to insurance premium discounts through participating insurance companies.
Use – and protect – your head
Proper gear is imperative. Currently, only 19 states and the District of Columbia require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. For Florida riders, an exemption law went into effect on July 2, 2000.
According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, only the following individuals are eligible for the motorcycle helmet exemption law:
- 21 years of age or older and
- covered by an insurance policy providing at least $10,000 in medical benefits
Helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries for motorcycle operators and 41% effective for motorcycle passengers, according to Injury Facts® 2017.
The National Safety Council (NSC) provides several suggestions on helmet selection:
- A full-coverage helmet offers the most protection
- Look for the DOT sticker, which guarantees the helmet meets safety standards required by law
- Never buy a used helmet; helmets are useless after they’ve been worn in a crash
Other tips from the NSC include watching for hazards (like potholes, railroad tracks or puddles) and never drinking and riding.
It’s also recommended to use motorcycle headlights whether riding day or night. For safety’s sake – and to be a courteous rider – avoid weaving in and out of lanes, riding on the shoulder or between lanes.