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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Motorcycle Safety Tips


By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy army.mil
There’s nothing like the freedom of the open road to a motorcycle owner.  The wind in the face and the roar of the engine as the dotted lines race by in a blur on the highway is like a Zen experience to most riders.  Better yet is if they live in Florida, it means they get to enjoy riding their bikes all year long.  That being said, the one thing that can ruin the bliss of biking is the possibility of getting cut off by another motorist or winding up in an accident.  To help all you easy riders out there stay safe, I decided to give you a few safety tips that can help you avoid becoming a statistic.

Riders in the Storm – While we almost never experience snow in sunny Florida, one thing we do see an awful lot of is rain.  Being that Florida is bordered on the east coast by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Gulf of Mexico means that the state is surrounded by water.  That and the southern latitude mean that rain can happen at any time of year.  If you have never experienced a blinding white squall that reduces visibility to nearly zero, you probably haven’t biked in the Sunshine State.  This is one reason you’ll see bikers huddled under an overpass on the interstate.  The problem is that in Florida, squalls can occur every mile or so.  Unless you want to spend the day stuck under the highway, there are a few things you can do to stay on the road when the weather turns wet.

      1.      Increase the distance between you and the vehicle ahead.  This is sometimes easier said then done when the rain comes down in sheets and you can barely see the taillights of the car ahead.  You need to bear in mind if a car or truck hits the brakes on a wet road, they are going to stop a lot faster than you can. 

      2.      The car behind could be blind if the rain is pounding down.  This means you need to not only keep an eye on the traffic ahead but the traffic in your side-view mirrors if you don’t want to wind up becoming a hood ornament.

Image courtesy Pixabay
      3.      A wet road is like riding on banana peels.  As soon as it starts to rain, the oil on the road rises to the surface making stopping and maneuvering on a bike next to impossible.  Once the rain begins, you need to brake with caution and avoid making abrupt turns or sudden accelerations. You should also try your best to avoid deep puddles or standing water as best you can. 

      4.      How slow should you go?  When the rain pounds down it’s a certainty that traffic will slow down.  The problem for bikes is if you slow down too much, you can suddenly become a hazard to navigation vehicles trailing in your wake.  Since motorcycles are much harder to see on the road in the best of circumstances, when it rains hard, this makes it even that much more difficult for other motorists to see you. Consider getting off the highway when the rain comes down in sheets.  It might take you a little longer to get where you’re going on feeder roads, but you’ll have a much better chance to arrive alive if you opt for roads with slower speed limits.

      5.      A helmet is a must in the rain. In Florida, riders aren’t required to wear a helmet.  That can be a big mistake when the skies open up.  Without a helmet, rain in the face feels like wet shotgun pellets and hail can knock you off your bike.  Not to mention that you will be all but blinded by rain coursing down your face.  My advice to those who choose to ride without a helmet in Florida is to stow one for use in the rain.  You can thank me later.

Sailor Sam – Another hazard that all too many riders fail to factor in is wind, of which we have plenty in Florida.  If you’ve ever driven a car on a windy day, you know how gusts can push your vehicle all over the road. Strong, gusty wind can cause even more problems for those riding the road on two wheels.  Gusts have been known to blow motorcycles into another lane or knock riders off their bikes.  Things like billboards, buildings, trees and tractor trailers can cause the wind to swirl and swoop, stop and start, making it hard for a rider to fathom which way to lean.  While leaning into the wind is vital to keep your bike from tipping in strong wind, leaning over too far can put you into the danger zone in a hurry.

What to Wear out There? – In the winter, it isn’t at all unusual to start the day in the fifties only to wind up in the seventies or low eighties by mid-afternoon in the Sunshine State.  That makes it difficult to dress for biking success if you’re planning to ride all day long.  Layering your clothing as well as wearing a jacket with a removable lining are a couple of ways of keeping from freezing in the morning only to wind up arriving at your destination as a sweat ball come afternoon. 

Scaly speed-bump image courtesy Public Domain Pictures
Born to be Wild – Another potential hazard on the roads of Florida is wildlife.  Down here we see everything from deer and dogs to gators and huge snakes on the highways and byways of the Sunshine State.  While deer, raccoons and possums tend to wander onto the roadway mostly at dawn and dusk, reptiles like to find a warm spot to get their body temperature up to speed tend slither onto the road in mid-morning.  Dogs can dart across the road at any time of the day or night.  The bottom line is you need to be vigilant not only of other motorists on the road, but you need to keep a weather eye out for critters that could choose to cross or lie on the roadway.

Drive Defensively – If you ride a bike, you need to assume that other drivers can’t see you.  I’ve seen many a case of road rage when a motorist cut off a motorcycle.  But in many cases, the biker was to blame.  Even vehicles that have all their mirrors positioned properly have blind spots.  The roar of your engine can be hard to hear inside a vehicle with the windows closed, especially if the motorist has the radio on.  That means if you don’t want to get cut off, you need to assess the traffic ahead of you, especially if want to pass.  When considering a pass, make sure that the driver ahead of you isn’t likely to change lanes.  Also, don’t dawdle when you pass and make sure you check your side-view mirrors to make sure nothing is coming up from behind.  Put on your turn signal at least three seconds before turning into the passing lane.  Then pass with authority before returning to the lane from which you started as son as it is safe.  Road hogging the left lane is asking to get rear ended.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/

2 comments:

  1. A buddy of mine came off his bike when he ran through a giant spider web that had been spun across a back road in Florida. You never know what can pop up on the roads down here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love motorcycles, however, you really have to be on your toes when driving one because other drivers are too busy looking at their phone.

    ReplyDelete

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