Tips for Improving Motorcycle Safety—For Everyone
Because motorcycles are much smaller than other vehicles, motorcycle accidents are oftentimes the result of another driver not being able to see the bike and, consequently, pulling out in front of or turning into the bike’s path. Compounding injuries and fatalities that occur is the motorcyclist’s failure to use a helmet and adhere to speed limits.
According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS), in 2010 alone, there were 1,819 motorcycle accidents that caused 1,984 injuries and 81 fatalities. Said accidents resulted in nearly 3,000 emergency department visits and 751 hospitalizations which cost $73.7 million. Between 2009 and 2010, motorcycle crashes rose by 5.8 percent; however, fatalities decreased by ten percent during this same time frame.
Motorcycle accidents can be caused by many things: from poorly maintained roads to other drivers’ negligence to drunk driving and beyond. Even though South Carolina has basic motorcycle safety laws and rules for obtaining a motorcycle-specific driver’s license, the state does lack in other safety areas including not requiring full safety equipment on motorcycles.
Tips for motorcyclists to stay safe
Of primary importance for motorcyclists—and other drivers—is to be aware at all times. Before entering an intersection, look both ways and in front and behind you for any oncoming traffic or other vehicles who may be turning left. In fact, nearly one quarter of all motorcycle accidents are the result of a vehicle turning left into a motorcyclist’s path. Similarly, maintain a safe following distance.
In addition to being aware of other vehicles, it is equally important to be aware of road conditions. Potholes, oil, road debris, water, railroad tracks, and other hazards may necessitate a sudden lane change that could result in loss of control or collision with other objects.
Among the most important safety tips for South Carolina motorcyclists include:
Take a motorcycle training and safety course.
There are numerous motorcycle clubs and community colleges across the state that offer training and safety courses. If you are new to riding, taking one of these courses to improve your knowledge, ability, and safety is highly recommended.
Wear a helmet
Even though South Carolina does not require motorcyclists to wear helmets unless they are under the age of 16, a helmet can prevent and significantly reduce head injuries such as skull fractures, concussions, facial damage, traumatic brain injuries, and other serious damage.
Leave adequate space.
Unlike a car, motorcycles don’t have the added safety benefit of a bumper in case of a collision that can propel you off your bike. Therefore, ensure you have adequate space between your motorcycle and any vehicle in front of you.
Do not drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
While this is a no-brainer, far too many people continue to drink and drive. Not only is this extremely dangerous for any motorist, but it becomes especially dangerous for motorcyclists given the smaller size of motorcycles and the lack of surrounding protection that a motor vehicle provides. As such, being impaired can lead to a failure to judge distances accurately which may result in potentially devastating accidents.
Inspect your motorcycle before driving.
Before you take your bike out, make sure that the tires, brakes, lights, turn signals, horn, and other critical functions are in good working order.
Keep your hands on the handlebars.
Removing one hand to answer your cell phone or adjust the radio, for example, can lead to distracted driving which may increase your chance of having an accident and becoming injured. Thus, it is critical to maintain a firm grip on the handlebars while you are operating your motorcycle.
This should go without saying, but there are far too many drivers and motorcyclists who become too complacent while driving. Regardless of what you are driving, it is critical to keep an eye on your mirrors to see what’s beside, ahead, and behind you at all times. Remember, you can never be too alert.
Follow all road rules.
Some motorcyclists use their smaller vehicles to weave in and out of traffic, exceed the speed limit, and fail to adhere to other rules. Not only is this extremely dangerous behavior, but it is also illegal and you could be subject to one or more citations for careless and/or negligent driving.
One of the most egregious rule violations among motorcyclists is lane splitting. Also known as white lining, stripe riding, and filtering, this practice involves riding your bike between lanes of moving, stopped, or slowed traffic and is illegal in South Carolina. In fact, all motorcycles are entitled to occupy a full lane just like automobiles do, and two motorcycles can travel side-by-side in a single lane. Among the various dangers of lane splitting include drivers not seeing you, cars changing lanes without signaling or otherwise warning, car doors being opened suddenly, and objects such as arms and dogs coming out of windows. To prevent injury and accidents from lane splitting, be aware of all vehicles around you, ensure that other drivers can see you, stay out of drivers’ blind spots, wear brightly colored clothing, and adhere to posted speed limits.
Educate your passengers in motorcycle safety.
Always have a spare helmet for any passengers who may ride with you. Further, make sure they are aware of basic motorcycle safety so that you are able to operate your motorcycle without any distractions.
Look twice at each and every intersection.
Just like we teach our children when they cross the street, it is critical to look left, right, and left again before entering an intersection. Sadly, far too many motorists fail to stop adequately at stop or yield signs—or run red lights—and, in far too many cases, drivers who are involved in motorcycle crashes report that they didn’t even see the motorcycle before it was too late. If you, as a motorcyclist, are proactive then the chance of crashes can be significantly reduced.
Tips for other drivers
Just like motorcyclists, it is critical for motor vehicle operators to remain alert for motorcycles that can oftentimes be difficult to see. Additionally, following the rules of the road, exercising care when entering intersections and turning, not driving while intoxicated, and sharing the road will go far in ensuring everyone’s safety.
Always look twice at intersections and when changing lanes. A motorcycle could be in your blind spot.
You can also help by not blowing yard debris into the roadway. Yard debris and grass clippings are very dangerous to motorcycles driving by and can cause them to lose control.
If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact Venus Poe today at 864.963.0310 or fill out an online case evaluation form. We have offices in Greenville and Fountain Inn, South Carolina to better serve you. Knowing your rights is imperative to ensure you are fully compensated for your injuries and other losses. Also, there is no obligation or charge for our initial consultation to see if we can assist you with your case.
The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should not read this article to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken to you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which you may have a case.