Whether you “ride to live” or “live to ride,” the goal is to stay alive. As riders know, motorcycle wrecks are almost always the fault of other drivers. Cars pull out in front of you or change lanes without looking, always claiming they “did not see you.” Other times, road conditions can turn dangerous without any warning. Loose gravel or sand, or even objects in the road, can cause you to lose control and “lay down your bike.” Carrying passengers presents a different set of problems. If your rider doesn’t “turn with you” or shifts unexpectedly, you can easily lose control and wreck. With essentially no protection from injury other than a helmet and leather clothing, motorcycle accidents almost always result in serious injury or death.
As a former intensive care Registered Nurse (RN), Attorney Robert J. Reeves of Reeves, Aiken & Hightower LLP has personally seen and treated the permanent, life changing injuries that can occur. He brings those insights to his 20+ years of trial practice and aggressively pursues the rights of seriously injured motorcycle riders. Undoubtedly, cruising with friends on a bright sunny day is one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have. But given the extreme risks, you have to be fully aware of all of your surroundings and drive defensively. Assume the worst and prepare for it. No matter what the law requires, ALWAYS wear a helmet (just make sure it is a cool one).
Live to Ride But Live to Ride Again
Whether you ride a Harley, a cruiser, or a scooter, there are certain basic steps you can take that help you avoid an accident and serious injury or death. After all, you are riding on only two wheels with no airbags, safety belts, or anything else around you for protection. A single mistake can cost you dearly. There are, however, certain minimum precautions you can take to help improve your safety and make it back home. With proper training and experience, you can enjoy one of life’s most enjoyable and relaxing pleasures – riding on the open road.
Before you ride, whether for the first time or after many years, it is best to take a motorcycle certification course. Most states, including South Carolina and North Carolina, require such training before issuing a motorcycle license. And, almost all insurance companies will give discounted rates for this type of training and education. Contact your state’s DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) for more information. Also, many motorcycle dealers offer such training or can direct you towards the best courses and instructors. And this time, everything you learn in the classroom will help you in real life.
Dress for Success
Helmets… ALWAYS. North Carolina law requires helmets. South Carolina law makes it a choice. Regardless, this basic safety precaution often means the difference between life and death, or serious closed head/brain injury. Full face helmets offer the most protection, but regardless of the type you choose, make sure it fits properly, is DOT approved, and above all, wear it.
Eye Protection… ALWAYS. When riding, your eyes are vulnerable. Any eye injury, whether from sand, road debris, or flying insects, will be serious and can easily cause you to lose control of your motorcycle. Never take that chance. A windshield is a good option but still does not protect you fully. Instead, make certain you have an approved shield on your helmet or fully enclosing, shatter proof goggles or glasses.
Jackets… ALWAYS. The only thing between your skin and asphalt is your motorcycle jacket. Denim is better than nylon, but leather is the best protection. Go to your favorite shop and look for good fitting, vented gear so you are safe, even in hot weather.
Pants… ALWAYS. Again, asphalt and your skin do not mix well. Wearing shorts is never a good idea, and blue jeans are not much better either. If you lose control and have to “put your bike down,” you are virtually guaranteed to have serious “road rash” on your legs and hips. Leather is always the best choice. Some shops even have jacket/pants combinations that actually zip together. Get what you like and fits comfortably. You more likely to wear it and be protected.
Gloves… ALWAYS. Even on hot days. Road debris, like a loose rock, can hurt and cause you to lose control. If you do “go down,” you do not want bare hands on concrete or asphalt.
Boots… ALWAYS. Motorcycle boots. Not cowboy boots. And, over the ankle boots, for better stability. Also, good rubber, non-skid, soles for best control, even on slippery surfaces and in rain.
Reflective Gear… ALWAYS. The brighter the better, but reflective is always best. As with other safety gear, never underestimate the value of being seen. Your clothing can protect you and even help prevent an accident. Also consider putting reflective tape on your helmet and even the back of your boots. Everything helps here.
Drive for Success
Headlights… ALWAYS. With newer bikes, the headlights are automatic. Regardless of the motorcycle you own, keep your lights on so that other drivers can see you. It actually helps, even in bright sunlight.
Signals… ALWAYS. Use turn signals every time, but turn them “off” when done. Otherwise, other drivers may assume you are changing lanes or turning and then “cut you off” or pull out in front of you unexpectedly. Also consider corresponding “hand signals” just to make sure everyone knows your intentions.
Defensive Driving… ALWAYS. Be aware of everything on the road. Know where other drivers are at all times. Constantly check your mirrors and track vehicles behind you. Look ahead, far ahead, and anticipate potential hazards. And always have an “escape” plan just in case someone does come into your lane or pull out in front of you. Absolutely keep your distance from other drivers and assume the other car does not see you.
Passengers… ONLY IF YOU MUST. Let’s be honest. It’s more fun to ride alone, and passengers can make it harder to be safe. The extra weight affects the handling of the bike, and it takes longer to stop. And, they always want to “help drive.” Instead, have passengers hold onto your waist or hips, have them lean forward when starting or accelerating, have them lean back when braking. Most importantly, tell passengers not to “lean” unless you do. The shift in weight can cause steering problems and loss of control. However, when turning or going around a corner, they should absolutely “mirror” your body dynamics and look over your shoulder in the direction of the turn. In this way, “two become one” and you both get to enjoy the ride safely.
Be Safe. Get Home. If you are in need of legal assistance, contact South Carolina attorney Robert Reeves.
Robert Reeves is a proud member of the Motorcycle Injury Trial Lawyers Association