Summer’s warm weather makes it a prime time to rev up your motorcycle and take a ride. New Jersey, of course, offers many great places to enjoy your motorcycle. For instance, you can take a trip to the shore, or you can tour along the Hudson to the Palisades.
But more time on the road and more traffic in general during the summer months increase the likelihood of a motorcycle accident.
Keep this summer safe for biking by following our motorcycle safety checklist:
Get Your Motorcycle Ready
- Tires and wheels. Check air pressure and tire tread, as well as wheel spokes, casts, rims, bearings and seals. Also, make sure your brakes function correctly. Check brake pads and discs.
- Make sure your handle bars, throttle response, levers, pedals, cables and hoses all work like they should. Check the horn as well
- Lights and electronics. Check the bike’s headlight, tail / brake lamp, turn signals, switches, wiring and battery as well as your reflectors and mirrors.
- Oil and other fluids. Check engine oil, gear oil, hydraulic fluid, coolant and fuel levels and whether there are any leaks.
- Examine the frame, suspension, chain or belt and fasteners for cracks, chips or breaks.
- Side stand. Check the center and side stands for bends and cracks and make sure the springs create proper tension.
Gather Your Gear
Gear is vital for your safety. You can avoid potentially debilitating, disfiguring and fatal injuries by wearing gear that includes:
- Nothing may be more important than strapping on a helmet every time you ride a motorcycle. For instance, one of every five reported motorcycle crashes involves head or neck injuries, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission reports in its operator’s manual for motorcyclists. Of course, helmets are also required by law in New Jersey. Riders who do not wear helmets can be fined.
- Goggles or a face shield that attaches to your helmet. You need to keep the wind out of your eyes, blurring your vision. Look for the ANSI label.
- Heavy-duty jacket and pants. Leather offers the most protection to your upper body and legs. However, sturdy synthetic material also provides good protection.
- Make sure your boots come over your ankles. Never ride with sneakers or sandals.
- Full-finger gloves. Wearing gloves will help you to get a good grip on your bike and protect you from friction burns in a crash.
- Hearing protection. You need to keep the wind out of your ears. However, make sure that you can also hear traffic and everything else happening around you.
Raise Your Profile
The last thing you want to hear after an accident is: “I never saw him!” The MSF states that riders need to pretend they are invisible to make sure they stand out. Steps you should take include:
Wear brightly colored clothing, including your helmet. At night, reflective or retro-reflective clothing is best.
Keep your headlamp on – even in daylight. Make sure your bike has other lights and reflectors as well.
Signal often.Use hand signals along with the bike’s turn signals. Tap the foot brake lightly before slowing down to flash the brake light.
Stay out of blind spots. Stay well behind or ahead of other vehicles, especially large trucks or SUVs. Never ride alongside of vehicles or share lanes with other vehicles.
Ride with a group if you can. A staggered formation is preferred.
As you ride, you want to constantly make safe decisions and prepare yourself to take action in traffic. The system for safe riding recommended by New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission goes by another acronym, SIPDE, which means:
- Always look ahead for potential hazards and give yourself time to react. The greatest potential for a hazard is at an intersection.
- Locate hazards and potential conflicts, which are likely to be other vehicles, pedestrians or animals or stationary objects such as potholes, guardrails, bridges or overgrown vegetation. Identify “escape” routes.
- Anticipate what danger could be posed by any hazard you have identified. If it is mobile, like traffic or an animal, determine which direction it is going.
- Determine how to mitigate the hazard. You might communicate your intentions with horn or hand signals, adjust your speed (up or down as appropriate) or adjust your position by, for example, changing lanes.
- If you must take action to avoid a hazard, you need to do it safely. It is always good to practice maneuvers such as tight turns, emergency braking, swerving, rapid down shifting and motorcycle balance.
Take a Motorcycle Riding Class
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission reports that, of some 2,500 motorcycle accidents on New Jersey roads each year, many are due to the motorcyclist’s inexperience and lack of training. In fact, 90 percent of riders who get into crashes have no formal training, the Commission states.
No matter your experience, you might consider taking a motorcycle riding class.
Go to NJSafeRide.org to learn about certified classes for beginning and experienced riders, which are offered at more than 16 locations across New Jersey. Any rider can learn something new or brush up on his or her skills.
Also, you should know that most insurance carriers offer a discount to motorcyclists who complete a certified training/defensive driving course every two or three years.