Motorcycle accidents result in thousands of deaths, and tens of thousands of severe injuries each year. Distracted motorists, dangerous road conditions, and inexperienced riders all contribute to the hazards of riding a motorcycle, but there are ways to combat these dangers. Through a combination of various defensive driving techniques, paired with the skills learned in an educational motorcycle defensive riding course, a skilled rider may avoid the pitfalls that catch many motorcyclists unaware.
Most defensive driving techniques are formed through a combination of driving skill, road knowledge, and frankly, common sense. The problem is, once out on a motorcycle ride, the exhilaration and freedom of the open road, a jumble of driving distractions, possible changing weather conditions, and a multitude of other drivers and vehicles, tend to melt away that common sense. It is therefore important that drivers be able to rely on ingrained skills and knowledge of defensive driving techniques learned before ever firing up the engine of a motorcycle. Allowing these abilities to guide and form rapid reactions to various conditions and situations will protect not only the motorcyclist but other drivers as well.
Defensive driving begins long before ever sitting upon a motorcycle’s seat. Making sure a motorcycle is clearly visible to other drivers comes first and foremost in defensive driving preparation. Wearing bright or reflective clothing, ensuring the motorcycle’s headlight is functioning and well lit, and that blinkers, reflectors and the horn are all attached and working, are keys to being visible on the road. But even if a motorcycle comes equipped with every bell and whistle available, they are worthless to defensive driving capabilities unless they are used. Ensuring other drivers know where a motorcycle is and where it’s going is the rider’s job. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to use the horn to make sure motorists know your vehicle is near, and don’t become complacent when it comes to using blinkers and hand signals in guiding other drivers to what your actions will be.
One of the greatest challenges motorcyclists encounter when it comes to defensive driving is the “right of way” mentality. Since the motorcycle is normally the smallest vehicle on the road, the rider often assumes he or she has the right of way. While the majority of the time this is the case, it challenges the defensive driving technique. Assuming that other vehicles will notice and yield to a motorcycle, decreases concentration and entrusts others with your safety. Placing your safety in other’s hands also opens you to other distractions, decreasing the attention you are placing on the ever-changing scene around you. Keeping your focus, and never assuming other drivers know you are present, will play important roles in maintaining a defensive driving posture.
Still, not all defensive driving techniques can be learned from a book or studied in the safety of one’s home. There are lessons and valuable experiences that need to be learned out on the road. But how do you gain that experience without risking your own safety or that of others? That’s where motorcycle riding courses can play in invaluable role.
Motorcycle riding courses are offered largely by local motorcycle dealerships and community colleges. The typical basic riding course averages 15 hours in duration, during which a knowledgeable instructor will guide students through motorcycle safety, driving skills and operation. These courses are normally broken into several sessions and take place over multiple days or weekends. Usual courses consist of a combination of classroom and actual riding exercises, which allows the rider to get a feel for operating a motorcycle in a controlled and safe environment. Motorcycle riding courses typically consist of small, classroom-sized groups, formed based upon the rider’s skill level or desired bike type (i.e. dirt bike, motorcycle, scooter). This provides a more personal experience, with the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback from the instructor.
The motorcycle riding course can be a vital tool in providing a new rider with the knowledge needed to safely navigate the roads, building both mental and physical skills. They can also mold even the most experienced riders into better and safer motorists. The riding course can also strengthen the ability of a motorcyclist to be more aware, more attentive, and a more defensive rider.
This article is for informational purposes only. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is at the reader’s discretion.