Riding motorcycles is dangerous. There’s no way to work around that fact, but at the same time, while you can’t entirely eliminate all the dangers, you can lower the risk based on your behaviors as a rider.
There’s a term called defensive driving that we often use in reference to car drivers, but it can apply if you’re on a motorcycle too.
The following are general things to know about defensive driving and how to employ some of these strategies on a motorcycle.
The Basics of Defensive Driving
Defensive driving refers to a situation where you’re using specific driving strategies to identify any potential hazards predictably. What you’re doing goes above and beyond the basics of traffic procedures and laws.
Many drivers take defensive driving classes, sometimes by choice and others in response to a citation.
In a defensive driving class, students learn how to anticipate situations before they occur to make informed decisions.
These decisions are based on many factors, stemming from the roadway and environmental conditions.
If you do get a ticket, taking a defensive driving class and reduce the number of points on your license and can help keep your insurance rates from going up. Even if you don’t have a ticket, taking one of these courses can help you reduce your insurance rates.
Roadway defensive driving courses cover a variety of topics, including traffic crashes and psychological factors.
For example, in a defensive driving class, you might learn more about negative psychological considerations that affect your driving ability, such as stress and fatigue. You’ll learn about specific crash prevention strategies, the proper use of equipment, and state traffic laws.
So, how can these concepts be applied to riding a motorcycle to improve your safety, the safety of your passengers, and the other people you share the road with?
Learn the Right Techniques From the Start
If you’re a relatively new motorcycle rider, one thing you can do is avoid learning bad habits that you then have to unlearn. It’s much safer and more effective to learn the proper way to do things from the start.
You might want to take motorcycle courses to learn the basics first, and once you’ve got those, you can take advanced maneuvering courses.
While above, we talked primarily about defensive driving for cars, there are motorcycle defensive driving classes too.
Maintain Your Motorcycle
Even small things that might be out-of-whack on your motorcycle can put you at risk.
Every time you’re going to ride, first, you should make sure you have plenty of fuel. Otherwise, you might put yourself at risk simply by sitting on a busy roadway.
You should also check your lights and fluids regularly and monitor your tire tread. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and don’t ignore warning signs that might indicate there’s a problem. When it comes to motorcycles in particular, erring on the side of caution is always best.
Motorcycles are less forgiving than cars, so something like blowing a tire can end up being a potentially fatal situation.
Before you ride, check your belts and brakes too.
Wear the Right Gear
Protective gear is not optional when you’re on a motorcycle. You always need the proper clothing and equipment, and it’s not about style. It truly is about safety and having the appropriate clothing and equipment is part of defensive driving and can be life-saving.
Look for clothing that covers all of your body. Even just a layer of denim can make a big difference if you’re in an accident.
As far as riding accessories, look for gloves, boots, and goggles, especially for motorcyclists. No matter the laws in your state, always wear your helmet.
Get In a Habit of Looking Around
The more you can make defensive driving strategies part of your habits and routine, the safer you’ll likely be. For example, rather than focusing on one single spot on the road in front of you, which is common especially among new riders, get into a habit of instead checking your mirrors. You should also be looking to the sides and far ahead of you, trying to anticipate possible changes in traffic patterns.
When you’re following defensive driving techniques, you’re giving yourself precious time to react. If you don’t know what’s happening around you, you’re less likely to have that time or space.
Be Confident but Not Aggressive
As a rider, you don’t want to be indecisive or nervous. You also can’t afford to be hesitant. Confidence is essential because when you aren’t confident in what you’re doing, you’re forcing other drivers into sudden reactions.
You need to be an assertive driver in whatever way the situation calls for. For example, maybe you need to speed up so that you’re in a space without any cars too close to you. Another way to be assertive and defense is to stay close to larger vehicles when you’re going through traffic lights, which can help shield you from some of the risks of the traffic turning left in the opposite lane.
Just be sure you’re not confusing confident driving with aggression. Things that are aggressive and not defensive include unsignaled lane changes, accelerating impatiently, or decelerating quickly.
Make Yourself Visible
Along with the fact that you don’t have the structural, protect elements of a vehicle, one of the general reasons motorcycles can be so risky is because you’re not highly visible to other people on the road.
You need to do your best to make yourself as visible as possible as part of your defensive driving strategies.
It’s hard to see you when you’re on a motorcycle and in someone’s blind spot.
Keep your lights on during the day and night. Don’t wear all-dark colors—instead, opt for bright colors.
Always ride your motorcycle assuming that other drivers can’t see you, no matter how close you are. That assumption is critical to being a defensive rider.