The Best Defensive Riding Strategies for Motorcyclists

People ride motorcycles for a variety of reasons. Some riders have financial limitations and seek an affordable alternative to owning an automobile. Others choose to use a motorcycle as their primary mode of transportation because they find it more enjoyable than driving a car or pickup truck. And certainly, there are many motorcycle owners who ride as a hobby because they love the feeling of the sun and wind on their bodies, and the exhilaration they experience.

Whatever the reason for riding, it’s important to have a game plan for staying safe. After all, the risk of death and personal injury to bikers due to the negligent driving of others is real. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best strategies for riding a motorcycle defensively.  

Risks Faced by Motorcycle Riders

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,985 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2018. The good news is that the cited death rate decreased by approximately 5 percent from the previous year. The bad news is that when comparing motorcycle miles traveled to passenger car miles traveled, a motorcycle rider is almost 28 times more likely to die in a crash than an occupant of a passenger car.

Even when death doesn’t occur, thousands of yearly motorcycle accidents result in serious personal injury. Some riders are lucky and recover completely from their injuries, but others suffer permanent and debilitating lifelong injuries.

Important Defensive Strategies for Safe Motorcycle Riding

Lots of things can contribute to a motorcycle crash. Sometimes the rider makes a mistake. Other times, an automobile driver causes an accident. In some crashes, road conditions contributed. Importantly, safety gear can also affect the severity of injuries if a crash does occur.

Below, we’ll discuss some suggestions designed to address some of these concerns.

  1. Always wear a helmet and proper clothing. Some riders insist that it’s just not the same to ride while wearing a helmet, but it’s just not worth the risk not to wear one. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that universal motorcycle helmet laws are the single best way to reduce deaths and economic losses from motorcycle accidents. CDC data further provides that wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces the chance of death by 37 percent and reduces the risk of head injury by 69 percent. Plus, Oregon law requires riders and passengers to wear DOT-compliant helmets. Additionally, many manufacturers also design and produce protective pants, boots, jackets, gloves, and other clothing designed to protect a rider in the event of a crash. Purchasing appropriate gear is a wise investment.
  2. Do not ride while intoxicated. According to the state of Oregon, 51 percent of motorcycle riders who died in accidents in 2017 had been drinking. Keep in mind that the smallest error while riding can cause an accident. Therefore, it’s crucial that a rider’s vision, judgment, and reaction time remain unimpaired.
  3. Obtain proper licensing to operate a motorcycle. Obtaining the proper license ensures that you have taken steps to master the skills and knowledge to ride a motorcycle safely.
  4. Practice makes perfect. Make sure that you are intimately familiar with your bike and how it operates. Additionally, before riding a motorcycle in high traffic areas, take time to practice in a remote/controlled area to ensure that you are comfortable handling the bike.
  5. Stay alert and avoid distractions. We have spoken many times about the dangers of distracted driving in the context of automobile and semi-truck drivers. It is just as dangerous for motorcycle riders. Make sure that you are not distracted, and be alert for other drivers who are.
  6. Follow the rules of the road. It can be tempting for a motorcycle rider to ignore certain rules of the road in the interest of having fun. But conditions can change and become dangerous in a split second. By following traffic rules, riders stay safer.
  7. Exercise crash avoidance. No matter how defensively one rides, a motorcycle rider will likely eventually be placed in a dangerous situation that requires crash avoidance skills. This could require stopping suddenly, swerving, or both. The Oregon Motorcycle and Moped Manual describes in detail how to handle your motorcycle under such circumstances. It also discusses how to control your motorcycle, strategies for riding safely on the street, and other helpful information.

Call with Questions

If you ride a motorcycle, you understand that it comes with certain risks. Unfortunately, no matter how carefully one rides, there are times that another person’s negligence causes a crash. If you have been injured in a motorcycle crash, the experienced motorcycle accident lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are here to help. We know you will have questions about your rights, and we’d be happy to answer them if you give us a call. We believe it’s important to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions so that all of society will be safer.


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