A recent motorcycle wreck in Whatcom County got me thinking about motorcycle safety. It was a young man whose “speed and inexperience” was blamed by investigators for the fatal wreck. It is one of those devastating pieces of news about a fatal vehicle crash we come across about our friends and neighbors some times. I’ve represented some victims of motorcycle crashes, and it’s always hard to hear about the severity of injuries and damage they incur. Sometimes there are assumptions about the fault of the motorcycle driver, since there is a widely-held belief that motorcycle drivers are reckless and break the laws. While this can be true, it can be true of any driver too, and as was the case for my former client, sometimes long-forgotten precedents can mean there is more to the story than just what is on the police report.

The majority of motorcycle drivers want to get to their destinations safely and in one piece while enjoying the ride. There is, of course, a way to find this balance. Luckily there is an organization that exists to train drivers in learning exactly how to drive this way. It is called the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. This organization offers online and classroom instruction on motorcycle safety, teaching riders how to ride beyond the bare minimum it takes to get licensed.

Take a look at their website and find a plethora of tips about how to ride this exhilerating and powerful machine that is a motorcycle. Here are a few I gleaned:

Did you know?…

  • Always apply both the front and the rear brakes at the same time. In emergency braking situations, you don’t want to lock the front brake. If the wheel does chirp, release the brake for a split second, then immediately reapply without locking it up.
  • Look ahead. Look to the side. Look in your mirrors. Look over your shoulders. Keep looking! Anticipate the oncoming, left-turning driver, the reckless fool coming up behind you, the car poking its nose out of the driveway, the guy beside and a little behind you who’s moving across the lane divider.
  • When driving at night, wear a clear faceshield without scratches. A scratched shield can create light refraction that might confuse you; two headlights can look like four, and you don’t know who is coming from where. One of your biggest hazards at night may be a “who” coming from a few hours of drinking. Be especially alert for drivers and vehicles doing odd things, like weaving in and out of traffic, and give them lots of room.

The MSF even has advice on how to handle rain grooves, which are usually built within concrete road surfaces, and are not popular with motorcyclists. Highways with rain grooves may have several dozen grooves running lengthwise down each lane. The purpose of the grooves is to prevent cars and trucks from losing traction when it rains. The reaction of the bike to these grooves often has to do with the tread pattern on the tires. Sometimes it feels as though the motorcycle is getting a flat tire, with a squishy back-and-forth sideways motion. The MSF says, relax and keep going straight, despite this unnerving feeling. Don’t fight the handlebars. There is nothing dangerous about these rain grooves – it just feels funny to ride on them.

When I think of how quickly an accident can happen, and how much knowledge and practice impacts our ability to respond, I wonder why anyone would get on a motorcycle without having this training. These are powerful machines. For example, take this street legal bike, the MTT Turbine Y2K Superbike. Engineers equipped it with a Rolls Royce Allison 250 series gas aircraft turbine. Yes, aircraft. What you get is a bike that tops out at 266 mph and can go a quarter mile from a standing start in a mere six seconds. Take a moment to imagine the G forces involved in accelerating that quickly. Not every rider is going to want to take on that kind of risk, but my point is, be aware of what you might be taking on when you get on your bike, and prepare yourself for the unexpected.

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle crash, call me right away. I can help you recover financially while you recover your health. Call me at 360-303-0601 or through my contact form. I and my team is skilled, knowledgable and experienced with personal injury law, serving Bellingham and Whatcom County.

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