One of the best parts about living in the Sunshine State is being able to participate in outdoor activities year-round. Long after the people up north have to store their bikes for the winter, you can be out riding and enjoying the beautiful weather. But despite the sunny weather and great road conditions, safety is essential any time you’re on two wheels.
Florida had 574 motorcycle fatalities in 2016 – the latest year for which data is available – making it the deadliest state in the nation for bikers. Motorcycle deaths accounted for 18.5 percent of all traffic deaths, but riding in Florida doesn’t have to be dangerous. By taking a few precautions and following some safety tips, everyone on a bike can stay safe.
Wear a helmet
You’ve undoubtedly heard it before, but wearing a Department-of-Transportation-approved motorcycle helmet is the single most important thing you can do to stay safe while riding.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, helmets save the lives of nearly 2,000 people a year. The U.S. would save more than $1 billion a year in economic costs if every rider wore a helmet. Helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent, and reduce the risk of head injuries by 69 percent.
One of the biggest struggles motorcyclist face on the streets is visibility. The size of motorcycles compared to passenger vehicles makes them inherently harder to see.
Riders can combat this by making sure to use headlights, taillights and marker lights at night, at dusk, at dawn and during inclement weather. It’s also important to wear reflective gear where appropriate and to stay out of other vehicles’ blind spots as much as possible.
A study from the University of South Florida showed that in accidents between cars and motorcycles, cars were at fault 60 percent of the time. Distracted driving involving phone use and texting is on the rise, so motorcyclists must take it upon themselves to be vigilant. Watch out for cars changing lanes, pulling onto roadways from side streets, stopping suddenly and changing lanes.
To stay safe, avoid tailgating. Look out for passenger vehicles making wide turns and never ride too closely next to cars. Don’t be afraid to use your horn to alert drivers to your presence.
Motorcycles can easily lose traction, even in perfect weather conditions, so be on the lookout for any roadway hazards. Obstacles that cars and trucks can easily navigate – loose gravel, wet leaves, small debris – can be treacherous to motorcycle riders. Wiping out on pavement can not only damage your bike, it can lead to major injuries.