10 tips for driving safely during motorcycle season

Participants in the Rolling Thunder annual motorcycle rally ride past Arlington Memorial Bridge during the parade ahead of Memorial Day in Washington, Sunday, May 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Videos by Rare

Videos by Rare

With summer making its presence felt, motorcyclists are taking full advantage of the warm temperatures to hit the open highways. You might be taking out a new bike, or seeing them around you on the road.

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Here are five tips for car and truck drivers who are seeing more motorcycles on the road.

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1. Follow the four-second rule

Give a motorcyclist plenty of space when following behind one. Maintain a cushion of at least four seconds — choose an object (a tree, road sign, or house) and count the seconds between when the motorcycle passes and when you pass. This cushion gives you time to react to the unexpected. Motorcycles can stop much more quickly than a car can.

2. Be aware of the weather

Bad weather is even more hazardous for bikers than it is for drivers. When rainstorms blow in (or sleet, or snow), it’s important to give motorcyclists more space as they deal with navigating the weather.

3. Look before you turn

Nearly half of two-vehicle, fatal motorcycle accidents in 2013 were the result of a car trying to turn left while the motorcycle went straight, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Many motorcycles aren’t equipped with self-canceling turn signals like cars are, so it’s possible that a biker might have his right turn signal on because he or she simply forgot to turn it off. If you have to pass or drive next to a motorcycle with a lingering turn signal, proceed with caution.

4. Check your blind spots

Motorcycles can disappear into your blind spot, whether it is a door or roof pillar of your car or a fence or tree outside. This happens especially when they’re attempting to pass you.

Keep your head on a swivel to check your blind spots regularly and, in particular, before changing lanes.

5. They’re moving because they need to

Motorcyclists often move around in a lane in order to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. It’s generally done with a safety-related purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.

Here are five tips for new motorcycle drivers:

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1. Don’t buy more bike than you can handle

While your buddies might be roaring down the road on huge chrome-plated monsters, don’t get caught up in keeping up with them. Start with a bike that fits you – you can sit on it and rest both feet on the ground and the controls are in easy reach – and has an amount of power you feel comfortable driving.

Test driving is important. If you’ve been off bikes for a while, you might be surprised by the performance of new models.

2. Invest in antilock brakes

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data shows that motorcycles equipped with ABS brakes were 37 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than bikes without it.

Locking up the brakes in a panic stop takes the control away, which can lead to a skid and crash. ABS helps you keep control during an emergency stop, and it can be especially valuable in slippery conditions.

3. Practice

Take lessons on how to properly operate your bike, and find places where you can practice safely. A good option is a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class, if there is one nearby.

An approved safety course may make you eligible for an insurance discount and, in some states, to skip the road-test and/or the written test part of the licensing process.

4. Helmets

It’s an issue for a lot of riders – many people feel passionately that they don’t want to wear helmets. Statistics show riders without a helmet are 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury in a crash and are three times more likely to suffer brain injuries.

If you decide to go with a helmet, a full-face helmet that’s approved by the Department of Transportation is the best choice.

5. Wear the right gear in bright colors

While the Hollywood version of a biker is traditionally in all black, that color scheme can often make you hard to see. Look for leathers in colors.

For maximum protection, get a leather or other reinforced jacket, gloves, full pants, and over-the-ankle footwear, even in summer. There are jackets with rugged padding and breathable mesh material that will provide protection and ventilation for riding in warm weather.

What do you think?

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