Road safety is important to all drivers, but if you drive a motorbike then road safety is a huge priority. According to the World Health Organisation, motorcycles account for almost a quarter of deaths on roads each year, a worrying statistic indeed. Motorcyclists are at risk on South African roads, and it’s up to you as a driver to make sure that you’re keeping road safety in mind.
Motorbikes can be a great and cost effective way to get around. And as petrol prices get higher more and more people are choosing to invest in motorbikes. If you’re one of these people, then you’ll want to keep reading to find out basic road safety rules for motorbikes.
Why Road Safety is Important for Motorbikes
A motorbike can be a good decision, saving you money, letting you easily get around, and even meaning that you can avoid traffic jams. But there are several reasons why motorcycles are more dangerous traditionally than cars:
You’re exposed: as a motorcyclist there is no metal protecting you in the event of an accident, unlike in a car;
You’re small: car drivers often don’t pay attention to motorcyclists on roads, and may not see you in time to prevent an accident;
You’re not protected: without the proper bike gear there’s nothing between you and the road except your clothes;
You’re unstable: with only two wheels, a motorbike is obviously less stable than a four wheeled car.
For all these reasons, it’s important that you keep road safety in mind. So what exactly can you do to protect yourself?
Road Safety Rule One: Motorcycle Helmets
By far the most important road safety rule when riding a motorcycle is that you wear a helmet. Firstly, this is the law, and any rider, whether passenger or driver, is required to wear a helmet. However, a helmet could very well save your life.
In South Africa a helmet must be approved by the SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) to be used for motorbiking. However, you might find it useful to also check out the UK’s SHARP rating system, a government programme designed to rate helmets for better road safety. The higher the rating of your helmet, the safer you will be.
Motorbike Gear and Accessories
When it comes to road safety, you need to be wearing the proper bike gear, no matter the weather. This means wearing full leathers, meaning both a jacket that covers your entire arms and trousers that run the full length of your legs. This is to prevent “road rash” should you have an accident. Leather is hard wearing and will prevent the road surface stripping your skin should you fall. Alternatively, you can wear reinforced clothing that you can buy at a specialist motorcycle shop.
At night you should be wearing fluorescent clothing, preferably reflective, so that you can easily be seen. And reflectors should be applied to the back of your jacket during the day, though some riders prefer wearing a reflective “road safety vest” since it’s a cheaper option and easier to put on and remove.
Finally, motorcycle boots should have a defined heel to help feet stay on pedals, you should never ride your motorbike in flip flops, sneakers, or other footwear that doesn’t have a heel!
Basic Road Safety
The basic road safety rules for driving a motorbike are the same as for safe driving in general (you can find tips for safe driving here), though there is one important difference. Of course, never drive drunk, don’t speed, pay attention to your surroundings and to weather conditions and drive appropriately. However, experts recommend that motorcyclists keep a 3 second following distance, rather than the 2 second distance recommended for cars. This simply means that there should be three seconds between you and the car in front, giving you enough distance to stop safely.
The Three Preventative Road Safety Rules
There are three rules for driving a motorcycle that should increase road safety by preventing accidents BEFORE they happen. These are the three things to keep in mind:
Scan: scan your surroundings constantly as you’re driving, not forgetting to check rearview mirrors and peripheral vision for obstacles or potential dangers;
Buffer: always position your bike so that there is the maximum possible space around it on all sides, particularly when in heavy traffic;
Set Up: apply your brakes gently as you approach something that you think could be a danger or obstacle, this will cut down your response time and your stopping distance.
Obeying these three rules should help keep you safe out there!
Bikes, Maintenance and Road Safety
Firstly, the kind of bike you choose is going to effect road safety. You need to be honest with yourself about your size, strength and ability to control a larger bike. If you’re still in the process of choosing a motorbike, then speak to experienced riders and test drive as many bikes as possible so you know what’s comfortable for you.
Maintenance, of course, is key to road safety. Tyres should be checked regularly for bald patches, and tyre pressure should be checked weekly. Ideally, your motorcycle should undergo a full professional check up twice a year, once before summer and once before winter. A safe machine equals better road safety!
Specialist Driving for Road Safety
In South Africa you are required to have a specialist motorcycle driving license, unlike in many other countries. However, if road safety is a big concern then you might want to consider taking specialist driving courses for motorcyclists. Many driving schools offer these courses, and they range from general classes to classes on driving in bad weather, or defensive driving. One nice consequence of taking a specialist driving class (other than better road safety), is that your motorcycle insurance premiums may go down since your insurance company will consider you less of a risk.
Know When NOT to Ride
Lastly, there’s nothing wrong with not riding at all. Before you plan a trip, whether that’s a commute or a longer journey, check the weather forecast. If rain, storms, snow, ice or hail are forecast then leave your bike at home.
Driving in bad weather is far more dangerous on a motorbike than in a car. Not only are roads more slippery and dangerous, but you don’t have windshield wipers, meaning your vision is far worse. If it’s at all possible then DON’T drive in bad weather.
Road Safety for Motorcyclists: The Bottom Line
Motorbikes are undeniably more dangerous than cars. However, with the proper gear, the proper training, and sensible driving, then driving a motorbike can be cost effective as well as fun. Keep road safety in mind, and invest in the right helmet and clothing so that you don’t become a statistic.
Main Subject: road safety
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