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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Safe Summer Driving: Tips for Motorcyclists

With the arrival of summer, a lot of motorcyclists will be pulling their bikes out from under their winter tarps and making plans for summer touring trips. For both bikers and motorists, this is a good time to review some motorcycle safety tips.

Motorists need to remember these facts about motorcycles. The highest death rate for motorcyclists (22.5%) occurs during the afternoon commute time from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. Fifty-eight percent of motorcycle deaths occur between the hours of 3:00 PM and midnight. There will be more motorcycles on the road during the warm months; tips for motorists include:
• Motorcycles are small and can easily be hidden in your blind spots; double check for them.
• A motorcycle's small size makes it appear to be going faster than it is.
• Normally, the safest place for motorcycles is in the middle of the road so they can look for and react to hazards such as potholes or obstructions in the road. To avoid those hazards, they will move from side to side in the lane. They are not showing off.
• Always give a motorcyclist the same respect and room you would give to a car.
• Motorcycles may need to and can stop more quickly than a car. Remain at least three to four seconds behind a motorcycle in case the rider needs to stop suddenly.
• Motorcycle turn signals are not self-canceling. Don't assume that a motorcyclist is going to turn when you see a turn signal.
• Look for motorcycles at intersections. When turning or crossing an intersection at a stop sign, look left, right, then left again. More than one-third of the crashes involving a motorcycle and another vehicle occur when the vehicle is making a left turn and the motorcycle is going straight.

For motorcyclists, whether your bike has been put away or not, this is a good time to check your bike for road worthiness. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation suggests that you follow the "T-CLOCS Inspection Check List." T-CLOCS is an acronym for:
• T - Tires & Wheels
• C - Controls
• L - Lights
• O - Oil & other fluid levels
• C - Chassis
• S - Stands

The warm summer months are an invitation to wear light clothing and shorts, but for motorcyclists, protective clothing is the only thing between them and the road surface if they have to lay the bike down. Whether state law requires it or not, safe motorcyclists (and their passengers) wear:
• A DOT approved helmet with a thick (one inch) polystyrene liner and riveted chin strap. The German or "skull cap" type helmets offer very little or no protection in a crash.
• Long trousers
• A long sleeve shirt
• A leather jacket
• Eye protection
• Boots that provide ankle protection

If you haven't ridden in a while, start slow and get a "feel" for the bike's handling characteristics. If you plan to carry a passenger, remember that a passenger will affect the cycle's handling characteristics. Motorcycle passengers will:
• Require a greater stopping distance due to the increased weight.
• Slide forward in a quick stop.
• Put more weight on and possibly make the rear brakes more effective.

Unlike a back seat driver, the passenger can act as an extra set of eyes and their warnings should be heeded.

Have a great summer and enjoy the freedom your motorcycle offers.

For more information on motorcycle safety, visit .

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