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Take motorcycle safety in a love embrace: 5 tips

“Like a true nature's child/We were born, born to be wild/We can climb so high/I never wanna die”

--“Born to be Wild,” Steppenwolf

As the lyrics to “Born to be Wild” attest, the freedom of the open road is a big reason why motorcycles are so popular in the United States. A leather jacket and blue jeans, immediacy of the outdoors, a sense of solitude – it’s pretty easy to understand and appreciate the allure.

But as the song suggests, death and injuries are an all-too-common occurrences among motorcycle riders. Motorcycle safety overall has not improved in 15 years, although fatalities fell 7 percent in 2013, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, with 35 states including Pennsylvania reporting declines.

Based on information from the association’s Spotlight on Highway Safety report and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), here are five tips that can make your motorcycle experience a safer one:

1. Wear a helmet: Although Pennsylvania is one of 31 states that don’t have universal helmet laws, helmets have been shown to save lives. Nationwide helmet use dropped to 60 percent in 2012, down from 66 percent in 2011.

From the report: “Helmets are by far the single most effective strategy to prevent motorcyclist fatalities and serious injuries in a crash. Helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle operators and 41 percent effective for passengers.

NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,617 motorcyclists in 2011. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 703 lives could have been saved (NHTSA, 2013b).”

2. Don’t drink and ride: “In 2011, 29 percent of fatally injured riders had a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit of .08,” according to the report.

3. Don’t speed: Thirty-five percent of riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, and almost half of the crashes did not involve another vehicle.

4. Take a training course: The NHTSA notes that motorcyclists have to be “more careful and aware” at intersections, where most motorcycle-vehicle collisions occur.

It’s important to anticipate that drivers backing out of driveways may not see a motorcycle, and to be more cautious when riding in inclement weather, on slippery surfaces, or when there is an obstacle in the road.

5. Get a license: The act of taking the motorcycle license test prompts riders to complete a training course. “By encouraging licensing, states encourage training,” the report noted.

In 2011, 22 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes did not have valid motorcycle licenses, compared with 12 percent of passenger-vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes.

Motorcycle owners are required to have motorcycle insurance, which protects you and your bike. Besides a high incidence of motorcycle accidents, other risks include vandalism, theft and floods. Factors such as your driving record, where you keep your motorcycle, and whether it has an anti-theft device can affect premiums.

For more information about motorcycle insurance, contact us at 717-533-0252.


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