We at Carpey Law go to great lengths to make sure you know the causes and statistics of accidents so that you may avoid them on the road. If you are new to motorcycles, or if you are interested in a review of the tenets of good riding, give this article a read. Here, we cover the fundamentals of braking, group riding, staying visible, and riding at night. Save it, print it, bookmark it: It may help to keep you and others safe.
Braking on Your Motorcycle
You should mostly apply the brakes as a means to slow down—rarely should you use the brakes to come to an abrupt stop as this can cause your bike to skid. Of course, some times you may have no choice but to skid and lay the bike down. In general, you should engage the front and rear brakes at the same time.
Coefficient of Friction: The coefficient of friction (or coefficient of traction) represents the amount that you are able to accelerate or brake on a given surface while maintaining your tire’s grip on the road. To accelerate to the point of “peeling out,” for example, is to exceed your bike’s ability to maintain a grip on the road. Likewise, if you apply the brakes too hard, you may cause your tires to “lock-up,” which means they no longer spin and, instead, slip along the surface of the road. The coefficient of friction is also determined by the condition of the road. Dry roads have an increased coefficient of friction while wet roads have a decreased coefficient of friction.
Braking on Dry Roads
The front brake being the more powerful, you should apply about 75% on that one while moving at speeds of over 20 MPH, applying the last 25% on your rear brakes. This is generally a good rule of thumb for dry road braking.
Braking on Wet Roads
You must exercise more caution on a slippery surface. For example, you will use the front brake less than on a dry surface, making the front/rear brake ratio about 50%/50%. Be aware: Even if it has not rained, morning dew can cause roads and painted road markings (like traffic lane indicators, crosswalks, and stop bars) to be very slippery. On a wet road, the coefficient of friction is significantly decreased, which makes it easier for your tires to slip. Always increase your braking distance on wet roads, and lightly apply your brakes every now and then just to test their grip on the road surface.
- Remember! Keep in mind that the first minutes of a rain storm are the most dangerous for riders. There is a good deal of oil in the road and, when it rains, the oil is brought to the surface, which increases the potential for slippage. As the rain continues to fall, however, the oil is washed away. For this reason, if you must ride in the rain, try to wait a while: even though the road will still be wet, the road oil will have had time to clear out.
Braking on Curves
You should remember not to apply the brakes on a curve unless it is necessary. Since you are leaning while taking a curve, pressing the brakes can be a bad move. But if you must press your brakes, press them lightly, especially in areas of low speed limits and sharp turns. If a motorcycle is going too fast, the tires could lose the grip needed to make the turn. Furthermore, you should always look ahead while taking a turn, never down.
Riding With a Passenger
When you take a passenger with you on your motorcycle, you must be prepared for the extra weight. This weight affects the way your bike handles, takes a turn and brakes.
Things to remember when riding with a passenger:
- Your passenger should wear the same quality protection that you wear.
- Your passenger should hold tightly to you throughout the ride.
- When taking a turn, your passenger should lean with you.
When participating in a group ride, you should always try to ride with bikers who possess a skill set similar to your own. If you are riding with more than five other riders, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recommends splitting your group into smaller groups made up of two to three riders: this reduces the possibility of stragglers being separated from the group by red lights and traffic complications. Ultimately, smaller groups create a safer environment for you and other automobiles on the road.
When group riding, adopt a staggered formation, with the first bike on the left side of the lane and the second bike on the right side of the lane, alternating like this for every rider in the group. Remember to maintain a two-second distance from the biker directly ahead of you and a one-second distance from the biker to the left or right of you. That way, your group can maintain closeness while also affording enough space and time for you to react should anything unexpected occur.
Be Seen on the Road
Did you know that the most common motorcycle accidents involve a car or truck driver claiming they did not see the motorcycle? This is why it is of the utmost importance that you do your best to be seen on the road, both during the day and the night.
Some tips to help you be seen on the road:
- You should use your headlights at all times. Even during the day, use of headlights can help to make your presence known to other drivers.
- Wear bright colors as often as possible.
- Flash your breaks before you slow down. This is especially important if someone is tailgating you.
Riding at Night
Riding your motorcycle is certainly less safe at night than it is during the day, for obvious reasons. To increase your safety, you should consider driving slower and creating more of a distance between you and other drivers on the road.
You should use your high beams as often as possible while driving at night. It also helps to pay attention to the lights of the car ahead of you—these lights can indicate the condition of the road ahead. For example, a bouncing taillight can mean that there are bumps or potholes in the road.
- Remember! Your single headlight can often blend in with the other headlights on the road, making it hard for other drivers to see you right away. Bear in mind that drivers may sometimes need an extra moment or two to notice you.
Riders should exercise caution around large trucks or other vehicles as a motorcycle can easily slip into a large vehicle’s blind spot. Do not try to pass unless you are sure the truck is not going to change lanes. If you do pass, do not linger next to the truck for very long.
For even more information on motorcycle accidents, check out our personal injury law articles section for articles on choosing motorcycle helmets and the major causes of accidents. Also consider requesting free copies of Stuart Carpey’s books Purchasing Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania and the 10 Biggest Mistakes that Can Wreck Your Accident Case.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.