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| Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

With the increase of older novice motorcycle enthusiasts on the roads and highways, it’s critical that new cycle riders understand the top five critical safety tips to avoid injury or death on the Virginia (VA) or neighboring Carolina highways (or anywhere else for that matter). Our top five motorcycle safety tips are below.

Motorcycle Safety Tip 1

Proper riding gear is essential to your safety and includes – a DOT approved helmet (that complies with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218), eye protection, gloves, long pants and over the ankle boots.

Helmets protect the rider from head injury, flying objects, hearing loss and cold or sunburn. Head injuries (traumatic brain injury/concussion) account for the vast majority of motorcycle fatalities. Statistics show riders are five times more likely to sustain a critical head injury in a crash without a helmet.

In the past five years, motorcycle helmet use has been increasing slowly but steadily – from 48 percent in 2005 to 67 percent in 2009, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The American Motorcyclist Association has a state-by-state list of helmet laws for your reference.

Motorcycle Safety Tip 2

Riding at night can be especially dangerous as your perception is drastically reduced. Be careful not to override your motorcycle’s headlight (calibrate speed down to stay within your headlight range). Consider using a Halogen brake light bulb which is 35 percent brighter and can help call greater attention to your brake when applied.

Most importantly, wear bright clothing to make yourself more visible to other drivers.

Motorcycle Safety Tip 3

Slow down before you enter the turn; look as far ahead as possible through the turn. Slowly accelerate as you enter and drive through the turn, which creates stability which cannot be accomplished without properly slowing down and preparing for the turn.

Motorcycle Safety Tip 4

The first few minutes of a rainstorm pose the most risk as the water mixes with the oil and fluids on the roadway making it slippery. Try to ride in the tracks of other bikers in front of you as they force away the water and oils.

Motorcycle Safety Tip 5

Controlling your bike is a greater challenge when riding with a passenger. Make sure your passenger is wearing proper riding gear, knows how to sit and where to put their feet and hands. Your cycling passenger should be properly educated and ready to ride for your safety as well as for theirs.

It goes without saying that you should never get on your bike if you have consumed any drugs or alcohol. Your most important weapon on the bike, your judgment, becomes impaired and your reaction time is slowed.

May was Motorcycle Awareness Month sponsored by NHTSA. Read the agency’s report, "Traffic Safety Facts [2008 Data]."

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach InjuryBoard, Norfolk InjuryBoard, and Northeast North Carolina InjuryBoard as a pro bono service to consumers.

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