Easy ways to avoid being in danger on two wheels

June 02, 2003

Q: What are the typical causes of motorcycle crashes?

A: Wrecks often stem from a lack of basic riding skills; failure to appreciate the inherent operating characteristics; failure to appreciate the limitations of the motorcycle; failure to use special precautions while riding; failure to use defensive driving techniques; lack of specific braking and cornering skills; and failure to follow speed limits.

It's important to select a motorcycle that is a comfortable fit. A motorcyclist should be able to touch the ground with both feet when astride the vehicle. For carrying a passenger, make sure the motorcycle has a passenger seat as well as footrests for the passenger. Also, check the location of the controls. Make sure you can reach and operate them easily and comfortably.

Driving safety tips include:

- Drive defensively! Be especially alert at intersections. Seventy percent of motorcycle vehicle collisions happen there.

- Check rearview mirrors before changing lanes or stopping. Use signals and make a visual check to assure that you can change lanes safely.


- Watch the road surface and traffic ahead to anticipate problems and road hazards. Hazards include potholes, oil slicks, puddles, debris or other objects on the roadway, or road conditions such as uneven pavement and railroad tracks. Painted roadway markings and manhole covers can be extremely slippery when wet. Go around hazards if possible.

- Experienced motorcyclists often advise new riders to assume that you are invisible to other motorists and operate your motorcycle accordingly. Position yourself to be seen. Use headlights day and night; avoid riding in a car's blind spots so the driver can see you at all times.

- Maintain a safe speed consistent with driving conditions and your capabilities. Avoid sudden braking or turning.

- Sources:,

Christine L. Moats is a wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital

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