Ride smart with these tips for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Matt Saintsing
May 10, 2018 - 6:03 pm

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Most of the Justin Timberlake memes have come and gone, as have the cheesy Star Wars puns from the fourth. Spring is in the air and with summer just around the corner, you’re probably looking to dust off your chopper— if you haven’t already— and hit the wide-open road.

Bikers around the country are revving their engines as motorcycle season is once again upon us. And while the military is known for their litany of safety rules governing how and when service members can ride (looking at you reflective vest), the civilian world can be far less strict, but more dangerous on a hog.

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and here’s some useful information you’re going to want to check out:

For $99, first-time riders for all current and former U.S. military personnel can learn to ride through Harley Davidson’s New Rider Course. Courses are ongoing now until September 30, 2018, and first responders, such as law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical service technicians, can get in on the action.

And they’re extending the same course spouses of military and first responders.

Click here to find available classes near you, but offers are only valid in the continental U.S. and Alaska. Sorry Hawaii or overseas-based vets!

Courses like the one Harley-Davidson has isn’t just to help get you on two wheels quick, it’s also good for your health. Literally.

A total of 5,286 motorcyclists lost their life in 2016, according to the Department of Transportation, the largest number of motorcycle deaths since 2008 and more than double than 1997.

Motorcycle fatalities had been on the decline since the early 1980s, but began to increase in 1998 and continued to ascend through 2008.

The breakdown is particularly stark when it comes to gender. Men represented 91 percent of all motorcycle deaths in 2016, but 92 percent of motorcycle passenger deaths were women. That means the vast majority of men motorcyclists who were killed were drivers.

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And, size matters. Engine sizes, that is. Among motorcycle drivers killed in 2016, one-third drove bikes with engine sizes larger than 1,400 cc, compared with just nine percent in 2000 and less than one percent in 1990.

When looking at the states that have the most motorcycle accidents, Texas, Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Ohio come out on top.

Texas is particularly startling, considering the Lone Star state only had 386,938 motorcycles registered last year, but experienced more than 8,000 crashes that led to 459 deaths.

One reason for this could be that Texas doesn’t have universal helmet laws in place, and Texas residents aren’t required to wear a helmet as long as they’re older than 21 and can show proof of health insurance.

Another aspect to look at is how motorcycle-friendly a state is. Like, Florida who has given Texas a run for their money in motorcycle deaths. Warmer states with rural areas attract those who seek to travel open highways with forgiving weather.

What about helmets?

When it comes to motorcycle fatalities, it’s hard not to look into head injuries and individual state helmet laws. You can find helmet laws by state here, but the cases of Alabama, California and Georgia come into play as they have universal helmet laws, meaning every rider is required to wear a helmet, regardless of age.

The unhelmeted fatality rates are lower at 10 percent, 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively. States with no helmet laws, or partial helmet laws, saw a much higher rate of unhelmeted deaths.

So, even if you’re state doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to wear that helmet.