Motorcyclists in Alabama have the opportunity to use their bikes throughout much of the year. While we enjoy a fairly temperate climate compared to the rest of the country, we may also experience a higher rate of motorcycle injury and fatality as a result. Motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to lose their lives in an accident compared to someone operating another motor vehicle. Adherence to basic safety practices is essential to reducing the risk of an accident and subsequent injury.
Know Your Licensing Requirements – and Follow Them
Alabama offers a motorcycle endorsement to all eligible drivers over the age of 16. To obtain an M endorsement, you must either pass the knowledge exam or take a motorcycle safety course. The knowledge test is available at your local DPS office, just call to make an appointment. If you opt for the safety course, visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to get started.
Even if you pass the knowledge exam or take the safety course, it is a good idea to be comfortable with your motorcycle before you take it on the road for the first time. Motorcycles can vary significantly in their handling and responsiveness. Practice in a variety of conditions before taking it out into traffic.
Do a Safety Check
Many motorcycle accidents arise from equipment malfunctions, and a simple safety check before each ride can help minimize the risk of injury. Check tread depth, tire pressure, brakes, headlights, and turn signals, as well as fluid levels. If you are carrying cargo, take care to secure the load and make sure the weight is evenly distributed. Remind any passengers about proper riding etiquette – sit forward, keep both feet on the footrests and away from the muffler.
Wear Appropriate Safety Gear
Despite safe riding practices and preparations, accidents can still happen. How you prepare for a crash can make the difference between minor injuries and permanent disability. Should you ever be in a motorcycle accident, a helmet is the single best way to prevent brain damage or a head injury.
Purchase and wear a helmet that meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS) set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Simply check for a DOT stamp located on the back of the helmet. Some helmets also provide protection in the form of a plastic face shield, adding a layer of protection from flying rocks, wind, insects, and dust. Choose a model that fits securely to your head and always replace your helmet after a fall from the bike or other accident.
In addition to helmets, consider wearing protective gear such as reflective clothing and pants with reinforced knees or pads. The right protective clothing serves to make you more visible on the road and reduces the risk of road rash should an accident occur.
Never Drink and Drive
Even a single drink can impair your judgment and increase your risk of a crash. Taking prescription medications can affect your depth perception or judgment. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol or other drugs impaired 25% of motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes. Make sure you are sober and substance-free when you get on your motorcycle. Failure to abide by legal limits could result in deadly consequences.
Motorcycles can be a great way to see all Alabama has to offer. However, it is essential to observe some basic safety tips to minimize risk to both you and your passengers. Wear appropriate safety gear, follow all applicable laws and requirements, and never drink and drive. Safety checks and participation in a safety course can help prevent motorcycle accidents.