Never-ending quest for motorcycle safety

  • Published
  • By Eric T. Hoehn
  • Air Force Materiel Command Safety Office

Motorcycle Mishaps are a big safety concern for the Department of the Air Force, with the service averaging nearly 12 incidents per year over the past 10 years. Most motorcycle mishaps are preventable, and individuals can take steps to minimize the potential for injury and possibly even death while on the road.

You wear your personal protective equipment. You stay on top of your motorcycle’s routine maintenance. You follow all rules of the road when you ride. What more can you do to be a safe rider? A LOT!

Safety is one of those things in life that is never-ending. There is always something else you can do to be safe. Let’s look at a few informational safety items that you can take with you when you head out on the highway.

Hit the brakes

Braking is probably the most important action that a rider can perform. Braking allows a rider to quickly slow down and come to a stop before hitting an obstacle.

Most riders do not fully understand the distance that is required to bring the bike to a full stop. Braking distance increases with speed, and unfortunately the increase is not linear. If a bike that is doing 30 miles-per-hour can stop in 33 feet, it doesn't mean that the same bike doing 60 miles-per-hour would be able to stop in 66 feet.  It will actually take 134 feet for the bike to stop!

Speed kills! Slow down, and give yourself time to react.

Put yourself in a safe place

If you are riding in a driver's blind spot, they may not see you. Additionally, the driver may fail to adequately check their blind spots before changing lanes or making turns. 

Give yourself plenty of room. Car drivers are relatively limited in their ability to alter their position within the lane, since they normally occupy about 50 to 70% of it. Motorcycles, on the other hand, occupy a very small part of the lane and can use this to great advantage.

Remember to alter your road position to:

  • Improve your view of the situation ahead
  • Improve your chances of being seen by other road users
  • Avoid hazards in the road or improve surface grip
  • Reduce the severity of a corner or bend
  • Give information to influence other road users

This is especially important at night.  Oftentimes, the lone headlight of a motorcycle appears to be one of the headlights of an oncoming car. As it accelerates more rapidly than a car, a motorcycle may be well ahead of a group of cars leaving a traffic signal. Move across the lane away from the car that could pull out in front of you. This will differentiate you from the other headlights and indicate your speed to the driver.

It is also important that you do your best to ride in a safe, predictable manner. Give yourself room to maneuver if potholes, wet leaves, railroad tracks and other circumstances dictate that you have to take any action that fellow motorists may not anticipate.

These are just some ways that motorcycle riders can travel more safely on the road. Be alert and take precautions to protect yourself when riding. Your life depends on it.