two people on a motorcycle

A Basic Guide to Motorcycle Safety

The motorcycle is an icon of coolness. The wind in your face, the power of the engine, the maneuverability – it all generates a feeling of freedom. Vancouver’s nearby rugged coastline and mountainous areas makes it a beautiful place to ride a motorcycle. However, riding a motorcycle is not without serious risk.

In British Columbia, motorcyclists represent 10% of road fatalities, even though motorcycles are only 3% of the province’s insured vehicles.

Here are some more startling facts: Between 1996 and 2010, British Columbia had a 57% increase in motorcycle fatalities; the fatality rate for drivers under the age of 25 is 15 times higher than any other age group; and, riders without helmets are 40% more likely to suffer fatal head injuries, and three times more likely to suffer brain injuries.

In this blog, we outline how you can maintain your freedom as a motorcyclist and maximize your safety. Read on to learn more about provincial motorcycle laws, how to choose gear, defensive riding, and how to ride in a group.

Know the Law

British Columbia made riding without a helmet illegal. The helmet you wear while riding in British Columbia also has to meet Snell M2005, Snell2010, ECE, or DOT helmet safety standards. It cannot be a second-hand helmet.

If police officers suspect your helmet doesn’t meet any or all of these standards, you are required by law to produce it for them to inspect. If they determine that your helmet is, in fact, in violation of provincial safety standards, they will seize your helmet. They will likely tow your bike, as well.

Other riding laws also changed. Both drivers and passengers of a motorcycle must straddle the bike, with each foot resting on a peg or floorboard. The driver is responsible for underage passengers, who also must have an approved helmet.

Safety violations result in fines, ranging from $109 to $138.

Buy the Right Gear

What if someone told you that a single upgrade would decrease your chances of being in a fatal crash by almost 40%? Anti-lock brakes (ABS) do just that. Anti-lock brakes have a speed sensor on each wheel. These sensors detect when the brakes are about to lock up. The brake line’s valves can then prevent tires from skidding. Brakes are not, however, the only important aspect of a motorcycle to consider.

A bike’s size, weight, and engine power also relate directly to your safety. When you sit on your bike, the handlebars should be within arm’s reach, and your feet should rest flat on the ground. You need to be physically able to handle the bike’s weight and skilled enough to maneuver a fast, powerful machine through traffic.

Arguably the most important safety measure for a motorcyclist is protective gear. Invest in a leather jacket or a reinforced jacket with padding, as well as gloves, pants, and over-ankle footwear. Get gear in bright colours, including a safety vest for night riding.

Drive Defensively

Before you ride, check your bike’s brakes and tires for wear and tear. Worn-out brakes and poorly inflated tires limit your ability to handle your bike.

Though you cannot control other drivers, you can pay attention to their vehicles’ language. Front wheel movements and blinking signal lights are good indicators of lane-changing. Watch for drivers looking over their shoulder to merge or checking the rear and side view mirrors. Put enough space between the cars in front of you and your bike to ensure enough stopping time.

Avoid riding in bad weather. Water and oil residue on the road negatively affect tire tread and your ability to corner.

Drive in Groups Cautiously

Group riding involves six or eight people in fixed positions. Sometimes several groups join together, forming what’s called a pack. Though challenging, riding in groups provides an added level of safety because you are much more visible.

Here are a few of the various roles and formations of group riding:

Understand Group Dynamics

  • Road captain: This rider plans group rides, pre-rides the course, and assigns positions according to experience level within the group.
  • Lead bike: It’s the job of the first rider in formation to communicate information to other riders via signalling or radio communication.
  • Drag bike: Also known as a sweep, the rider has the last position in the group and notifies the rest of the group of any issues.
  • Staggered formation: The first bike rides in the left track of a lane, with the next two seconds behind it in the right track. This pattern continues throughout the group.
  • Two abreast: Typically used at traffic crossings, this technique involves riding in pairs in a parade formation.
  • Station keepers: The majority of the group members ride in the middle of the pack, with positions designated according to experience level.

Follow these basic guidelines to help prevent accident and injury. If you have been in a motorcycle accident, call us at Kenneth Cristall Law for a free consultation.

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