As a motorcyclist, you are among the road’s most vulnerable users. Speed, visibility, and a lack of protective barriers contribute to a heightened risk of injury-causing accidents. By adopting a defensive riding approach, you can significantly reduce these risks and increase safety for yourself, your passengers, and others on the road. Here are some key strategies for defensive riding.
Assume You’re Invisible
One of the main challenges motorcyclists face is the issue of visibility. Even in broad daylight, a motorcycle’s relatively small size can make it difficult for other drivers to see you. So, adopt an attitude of ‘invisibility.’
Always assume that other drivers can’t see you and take action to enhance your visibility. Wear bright or reflective clothing, use your lights effectively, and make sure to position yourself in the best possible space in the lane to be seen.
Keep Your Distance
Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. This allows for more reaction time if the car suddenly brakes, changes lanes, or if an obstacle appears on the road. A good rule of thumb is the “two-second rule.” Pick a landmark on the side of the road. As the vehicle in front of you passes it, count “one Mississippi, two Mississippi.” If you reach the landmark before you’ve finished counting, you’re too close. Adjust you’re following distance in hazardous road conditions or inclement weather.
Monitor Your Surroundings
Stay hyper-aware of your surroundings. Look far ahead for potential hazards, regularly scan the road for irregularities, and keep an eye on your mirrors to understand what’s behind you. Also, watch for car wheels turning or doors opening from parked vehicles. This continuous awareness helps you anticipate potential risks and take necessary action in time.
Take the Weather Into Account
Adverse weather conditions like rain, snow, or high winds can significantly increase the danger for motorcyclists. Not only does bad weather reduce visibility, but it can also make roads slippery. If you must ride in such conditions, reduce your speed, increase your following distance, and avoid sudden braking or sharp turns.
Master Emergency Maneuvers
Knowing how to perform emergency maneuvers like quick stops, swerving, and counter-steering can be lifesaving in a critical situation. These skills are best learned and practiced in a controlled environment, like a riding course. Always remember the knowledge of these techniques is useless unless combined with practice and the confidence to use them when necessary.
Maintain Your Motorcycle
A well-maintained motorcycle is not only more reliable but also safer. Regularly check your tires for proper inflation and tread depth. Ensure that your lights, brakes, and turn signals are working properly. Also, check your fluid levels and ensure that your bike is mechanically sound before you hit the road.
Always Wear the Right Gear
Even the most defensive rider can’t prevent all accidents, so it’s important to wear the right gear. A DOT-approved helmet, riding jacket, gloves, pants, and boots can significantly reduce the risk of severe injury in the event of a crash.
The essence of defensive riding is being prepared and aware. It requires constant attention, anticipation, and the right actions to prevent accidents. It may sound exhausting, but with time and practice, these habits will become second nature, ensuring that you enjoy your ride while staying safe on the road. Sadly, in the US, 5,932 motorcyclists were killed in 2021, riding defensively can help prevent you from becoming another lost life. Remember, as a motorcyclist, your safety is in your hands.