The number of people who died in a motorcycle crash declined from 2016 to 2017. Almost 300 fewer people lost their lives, which is great news.
The bad news is that the fatality rate for motorcyclists remains sky high. A person on a motorcycle is 28 times more likely to die than a person riding in a passenger vehicle. The freedom of a motorcycle ride is a double-edged sword, as being that close to the elements also means you’re in more danger if catastrophe strikes. Here are some ways to protect yourself when you go out on the road.
Guard your head
Helmets are one of the best things you can do to protect yourself. Without a helmet, you’re putting yourself at risk of dying from a traumatic head injury. But while most states require everyone in a passenger car to use a seat belt, motorcycle helmets are required in less than half the states. The Washington Post traced the decline in motorcycle helmet laws to the mid 90s. That was when Congress decided to stop dishing out federal highway funding to states based on whether or not they had helmet laws. In turn, many states decided to repeal laws that were previously on the books.
A full-face helmet will provide more protection than an open-face helmet, but any helmet is better than none at all. And your helmet won’t be nearly as useful if it doesn’t fit right. Don’t just go to the motorcycle equipment store and make a guess about your head size. Instead, take out a tape measure. Get someone to help you if you need it. Don’t take any shortcuts when it comes to guarding your skull, and always replace a helmet after it’s damaged in a crash.
Watch your feet
It’s easy to get so preoccupied with your headgear that you forget about protecting your lower body, namely your legs and feet. Your feet are uniquely exposed when you’re on a motorcycle. Most motorcyclists occasionally use their feet to steady their bike, so you can’t have boots that are too slippery. Traction is vital for both your wheels and your motorcycle boots. Think of them like winter boots — you wouldn’t go out after an ice storm wearing house slippers, so don’t go out onto the asphalt wearing boots without a good grip.
Your boots also need to be sturdy and made of reinforced materials. Lightweight materials are not an asset when you’re shopping for motorcycle boots. Sure, they may be a pain to transport, but you’ll be grateful for them if an accident happens and your feet get tangled up with your bike. You can try throwing your motorcycle boots around to test them if you want, but we don’t recommend doing that in a store (that might cause a scene).
Protect your hands
You don’t think you need gloves because you live in a warm climate, think again. Like most safety equipment, gloves aren’t there to protect you when your bike is upright. They exist to protect you when your motorcycle goes flying and you land on your hands. Falling off a sofa and breaking your fall with your hands is a lot less dangerous than falling off a speeding motorcycle on the freeway. Motorcycle gloves should have a strap to keep them on your hands. If you aren’t sure what that strap looks like, go to a motorcycle equipment shop and ask about gloves.
Riding a motorcycle isn’t cheap. If you have enough money to invest in a bike, you should also have enough money to invest in the right kind of safety gear. This list is just a starting point — you should also consider buying special jackets and suits for when you ride. You can lessen your chances of crashing by riding slowly and paying attention, but there’s no way to eliminate the risk completely.