Motorcycle Safety Guide: Share the Road Responsibly

motorcycle safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified May as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Motorcyclists face specific dangers on our roads, which may be different or greater than those faced by other drivers. Our motorcycle safety guide will provide an overview of how to stay safe if you ride yourself and how other drivers can safely share the road with motorcyclists.

Motorcycle License and Registration

In the state of Virginia, you must have an M, M2, or M3 designation on your driver’s license or a motorcycle license. It is important to be trained and obtain the proper license before operating a motorcycle on your own. This helps to ensure your safety and the safety of other drivers.

Your motorcycle must also have a Virginia title, registration, and license plate in order to be operated legally in Virginia.

Helmets

In Virginia, all motorcycle riders, whether operators or passengers, must wear helmets that meet or exceed the specifications of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, or the Federal Department of Transportation. The Snell Memorial Foundation standards can be found on their website.

Helmets significantly reduce the risk of death or serious head injury in the event of a motorcycle crash. It is always a good idea to wear the best helmet possible to protect yourself.

Eye Protection

All motorcycle riders must also wear eye protection in addition to helmets. Helmets may be equipped with a face shield, or riders can wear goggles or safety glasses. Eye protection is essential since most motorcycles do not have windshields. Face shields or goggles protect the rider’s eyes from dirt, rocks, insects, and any other airborne debris.

Protective Clothing

It is important for motorcycle riders to wear protective clothing, even on very warm days. Thick and sturdy fabric provides some measure of protection from abrasion injuries in the event of a crash. Riders should wear long pants and long sleeves or jackets. Fabric should be sturdy, with leather or a synthetic equivalent being preferred materials.

Riders should also wear gloves that provide a sturdy grip on the controls in order to stay in control of the motorcycle at all times. Boots or other sturdy shoes that cover the feet and ankles are the best choice for footwear. Sandals or other open-toed shoes absolutely should not be worn. Not only will they not provide protection from scrapes and abrasion, but they could get caught and cause the operator to lose control.

Traffic Laws

It may be tempting to ride between lanes or around larger vehicles on the road, but motorcycle operators should remember to obey all traffic laws, just as other vehicles must. Another driver may not see a motorcycle if it is not in a designated lane or not following the usual traffic patterns. Never assume that other cars can see you. Drive defensively to keep yourself safe.

Other Drivers

Motorcyclists can take many precautions to keep themselves safe on the road, but other drivers share a responsibility as well. Drivers of cars and trucks should always stay alert for the possibility of motorcycles on the road. Motorcycles can be easy to miss due to their smaller size, so other drivers must be aware and double check before changing lanes or turning. Remember that motorcycles have the same rights and privileges as any other vehicle. Other drivers must share the road responsibly.

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Photo: Brandon Giesbrecht
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