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Safety Tips for Riding Your Motorcycle this Fall

Image of Motorycle rider and illustration of proper and required gear. Beyond attending the required motorcycle training courses, active-duty riders are required to wear proper personal protective equipment whether riding on or off-base. Riders must wear long pants, long-sleeved shirt or jacket, a Department of Transportation-approved helmet, protective eye wear, full-fingered gloves and above-ankle shoes, preferably, steel-toed boots. (Photo illustration Navy MassCommunication Specialist 1st Class RJ Stratchko)

A study of motorcycle fatalities among soldiers conducted by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center earlier this year revealed the number one cause of fatal accidents between 2016 and 2019: mistakes made by riders. Findings from the study has fueled USACRC’s ongoing rider education and training to prevent motorcycle crashes.

For all service members who ride motorcycles, knowing how to be safe while on the road is key to stopping accidents.

Lucia Sanchez, director of media strategy at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and David Newman, the safety and occupational health manager at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital at Fort Polk, Louisiana, shared advice for new and seasoned riders.

Invest in Proper Gear for Protection and Visibility

  • Wearing a helmet is the most effective way to protect yourself from a head injury. Use a motorcycle helmet for every ride, and ensure your passengers also have one. “Checking the fit of your helmet ensures optimal protection,” Sanchez shared. Your helmet should also have a valid U.S. Department of Transportation label. It means that your helmet meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Novelty helmets without this label may not meet the same standard and will not provide the best protection needed if you are in a crash.
  • Make sure you have a sturdy jacket, pants, boots, and gloves. You should be comfortable in your gear. “Don’t go for the cheapest option. This gear will protect you during falls or crashes when you most need it,” Newman stated.
  • “Wearing high-visibility colors and retro-reflective materials will maximize the ability of drivers to see you,” Sanchez said. Each vehicle has blind spots, so avoid staying in those areas and decreasing the chances of being hit. Staying in your lane also ensures other drivers will see you. Weaving in and out of cars can be dangerous and increases the chances of being hit. The Department of Defense has specific guidance for attire while operating a motorcycle, with variances on each installation, so reach out to the safety office if you plan to ride on base.

Enjoy the Ride Safely

For many, motorcycles may have been a part of your life for years. Riding can become second nature, but you should not forget these routine checks and balances. Newman suggested finding an experienced rider to share the road with, allowing you to gain additional knowledge on keeping your motorcycle in top condition.

  • Understanding the motorcycle you ride and how it handles is important. “Each bike rides differently, which riders should be aware of before hitting the road. A safety course taught by a seasoned professional is also a great idea, as riders can learn to operate their machine more efficiently,” Newman said.
  • “Know and respect your riding abilities, instead of pushing the boundaries and causing unnecessary injuries,” Sanchez shared. When you want to practice riding, do so in a controlled environment, where you can keep yourself and others safe. Having a friend present is also a good idea, in case assistance is needed.
  • Newman also suggested planning your route if taking a longer ride. This can help with arranging your trip around construction areas, weather conditions, rest stops, and speed limits. Plan carefully for items you will need to pack in your bags, such as tool kits and patches. Different temperatures and elevations can affect tire pressure, so be mindful as you prepare to hit the road.
  • Tires, controls, lights, electrical, oil and fluids, chassis, and the side stand are areas to check before each ride, according to Newman. This can help alleviate any issues that might arise and avoid an accident. It is also a great idea to check your tire pressure when stopping to fill up on gas.

At the end of the day, being safe allows you to better enjoy the ride.

For additional motorcycle safety information, check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s motorcycle safety website. Contact your base safety office for more information on motorcycle safety, training, registration, and requirements.

 

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Last Updated: September 20, 2022

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