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Being Safe on the Road: Motorcycle Edition

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Most of us know someone who lives for "wind therapy" - that feeling of freedom that comes with riding a motorcycle. Maybe YOU are that someone. Spring and summer are by far the most popular seasons for motorcyclists, especially for those with a bike gathering dust in the garage all winter long. Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of all motorcycle fatalities occur from May through September each year, with the peak of these fatalities occurring in August.

How do you keep from being part of that statistic?

Rules of the Road

You probably know that motorcycles are required to obey the rules of the road just like automobiles do. But because motorcyclists don't have the benefit of all that sheet metal wrapped around them like someone in an automobile does, there are some additional precautions you would be wise to take.

  • Take a Motorcycle Operator Safety Education Course. Not only will you gain valuable experience and knowledge, but the Indiana BMV will waive the motorcycle knowledge and riding skills tests for individuals who complete this course.
  • Wear a helmet. Indiana's helmet law states that riders under the age of 18 as well as riders holding an instructional permit must wear a helmet. Even though the law doesn't require other motorcyclists to wear a helmet, protecting your brain should be Priority #1.
  • Gear up. Yes, it's tempting to ride in shorts on a hot day, but riding gear can protect you in an accident. Gloves, boots, pants, and jackets designed especially for ridingcan make the difference between a few scrapes and bruises and a serious case of road rash. And while black leather might make you look cool, consider reflective clothing of some sort to increase your visibility.
  • Ride with your headlight on during the day. A headlight will help to make your motorcycle more visible to motorists during daylight hours. Don't forget, the hours of dawn and dusk can be especially tricky for motorists to see other vehicles on the road. And of course it goes without saying that headlights are crucial at night.
  • Make sure your bike is properly equipped with rear-view mirrors, a speedometer, and turn signals. Additionally, make sure your front and rear brakes work properly and that your handlebars are no higher than 15 inches above the level of your seat. You will also need footrests for yourself and a passenger, if you ride double.
  • When riding in a group, ride two abreast. A single motorcycle may occupy a lane by itself, but may NOT share that lane with an automobile. And while we're on the subject, it's illegal and highly dangerous to split lanes - that is, drive between other vehicles.
  • Ride sober or get pulled over. Impaired driving laws extend to motorcycles, too. In fact, a motorcyclist who rides drunk is 10% more likely to be involved in a fatal accident. Law enforcement officials in the state of Indiana are participating in the"Ride Sober or Get Pulled Over" program developed by the NHTSA - you've probably heard the commercials on your radio. Take it seriously, and don't drink and ride.

Indiana's "Red Light Law"

Because motorcycles often are not heavy enough to trip road sensors for traffic lights, a law passed in 2014 now allows motorcyclists to proceed through a red light after being stopped for two minutes. In order to take advantage of this law, you must come to a complete stop, wait two minutes, and proceed only if there are no other vehicles crossing the intersection.

Keep Off-Road Cycles Off the Road

Off-road cycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are just that - designed to be used off-road, not on the streets and highways. These types of vehicles are missing equipment that is necessary for them to travel safely on a public road, including mirrors, brake lights, directional signals, and a speedometer. Still, this doesn't keep some people from riding them on public roads, and as a result more than 300 riders die each year in crashes on public roads. While some states allow these types of vehicles to be licensed for on-road use with equipment modifications, Indiana does not.

Motorcycle Safety is for Everyone

Motorcycles and automobiles must share the road and be aware of each other, particularly since motorcyclists are nearly 30% more likely to die in a crash than occupants of a car, and are five times more likely to be injured in a traffic accident. As we enter the final months of motorcycling weather, many people will take to the roads to enjoy fall colors and a bit of Indian summer. It will be a last hurrah before the motorcycle goes into storage for the winter, leaving riders dreaming of spring again. At Gerling Law, we encourage motorcyclists and drivers to respect each other and travel safely. If, however, you're involved in a motorcycle accident, you'll want an experienced attorney to help protect your legal rights. Contact Gerling Law today - it won't cost a thing to see if we can help!

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