Facts and Figures
Yeah, it's a bunch of numbers. And when you're on your bike, it's the last thing you're thinking about. But, the more you know about your chances of crashing before you ride, the better off you'll be.
In 2021, there were 3,580 motorcycle crashes in PA.
905 were seriously injured.
226 people died in motorcycle crashes.
Currently, based on vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclists are killed 27 times more often than car occupants (motorists). This understates the danger because the occupancy rate of cars is about 1.4 times that of motorcycles. When the occupancy rates are considered, motorcyclists are fatally injured an astounding 38 times more often than car occupants.
Another way to state the danger is that all other vehicles account for 99.4% of the vehicle miles traveled leaving only 0.6% of the miles traveled by motorcycles, yet motorcycle drivers account for 21% of all drivers killed!
MOTORCYCLES ARE ALMOST ALWAYS THE STRIKING VEHICLE.
Cars typically do not strike motorcycles! Incredibly, in 96% of fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States, the motorcycle is the striking vehicle (including single-vehicle crashes). This means we riders are going to have to slow down and learn to yield to other road users.
77% of multi-vehicle crashes occur in the 10, 11, 12, 1 and 2 o’clock positions of the motorcycle. This is the typical impact areas of a striking motorcycle that has not yet fallen over prior to impact.
SPEEDING CONTINUES TO BE A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR IN FATAL CRASHES.
Speed increases the chance of loss of control, as well as providing energy for injury. Ride at the suggested speeds. The roads are designed to have a minimum mishap rate for these suggested speeds.
HELMETS — IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE OR BRAIN SURGERY.
The fact is, helmets work. Riders who wear them are more likely to survive head injuries than ones who don't.
IMPAIRMENT CONTINUES TO BE A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR IN FATAL CRASHES.
It's already hard to operate a motorcycle, why make it harder?
Rider Safety Tips
SOME THINGS ARE BETTER LEFT UNSAID… THESE ARE NOT THOSE THINGS.
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And who are we to judge? Bottom line is that everyone needs to ride the bike that's right for them. Your feet should reach the ground when you're in the saddle, and the controls should be easy to operate. When you find a bike that's right for you, make sure you are familiar with every inch of its body before taking it out.
Many crashes happen when the driver of a car doesn't see you. No surprise there. So help yourself by wearing the proper clothing, using your headlight, and riding in the best lane position. And before making a move, always let people know what you're doing by using the correct signals.
Space is the best protection you have between yourself and the people who are not you. Keep your distance from others so you have more time to react and more space to adjust when someone else does something stupid.
Many crashes happen at intersections. Cars that turn left in front of you and cars on side streets that pull into your lane are big dangers. Always be looking for potential hazards, and anticipating how you will react. If a car can cross your path, assume that it will. That old saying about assumptions? It doesn't apply here.
It's pretty simple — if you have the right skills, you can react a lot quicker and help avoid crashes. Studies (here we go with the studies again) show that most riders involved in crashes either under brake the front tire and over brake the rear, or do not separate braking from swerving or choose swerving when it's not appropriate. Knowing when and how to stop or swerve are critical skills to keep your butt off the ground.
A common cause of single-vehicle crashes is riders running wide in a curve or turn and colliding with the roadway or a fixed object. Be alert to whether a curve remains constant, gradually widens, gets tighter, or involves multiple turns.
Potholes, wet or icy surfaces, railroad tracks, and tire scraps all increase your chances of going down. Avoid obstacles by slowing down or going around them — obviously, right? On slippery roads, reduce your speed, use both brakes, and try to keep your bike as upright as possible. When crossing railroad tracks, it's safer to stay in your lane rather than try to turn and cross at a 90-degree angle. For track and road seams that run parallel to your route, cross at an angle of at least 45 degrees to avoid edge traps.
Everyone knows that car drivers often don't see motorcycles, and the smaller the vehicle, the harder it is to judge speed. The slower you go, the more time you'll have to react when a car pulls out in front of you.
Traffic lights don't hate you. It's just that some of them don't turn green until they receive a signal from a metal detector buried in the pavement. But sometimes bikes don't have enough ferrous metal to make them work. Just try to locate the detector — usually a square or octagonal pattern of thin lines in the pavement — and ride along it.
Most motorcycle crashes involved — yup, you guessed it — only a motorcycle.
Gear and Upkeep
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A full-face helmet is highly recommended to ensure the most protection for that brain of yours. Make sure it is U.S. Department of Transportation compliant, fits snugly, and is free of cracks, loose padding or other defects.
A plastic, shatter-resistant face shield can help protect your face in a crash, as well as from wind, dust, dirt, rain, bugs, and stones thrown from cars up ahead.
Gloves allow a better grip and help protect your hands in a crash. Your gloves should be designed for riding and made of leather or similar durable material.
Your jacket and pants should fully cover your arms and legs, and fit snugly while allowing free movement. Wear a jacket even in warm weather to prevent dehydration.
Boots or shoes should be high and sturdy enough to cover your ankles and give them support. Soles should be made of hard, durable slip-resistant material. Tuck laces in so they won't catch on your motorcycle.
Clean and adjust both mirrors before riding. You should be able to see the lane behind you and most of the lane next to you.
Make sure high beams and low beams are working.
Make sure the clutch and throttle work smoothly. The throttle should snap back when you let it go. The clutch should feel tight and smooth.
Try the front and rear brake levers one at a time. Make sure each one feels firm and holds the motorcycle when the brake is fully applied.
Check the tire pressure and the condition of the tread.
Turn on left and right turn signals. Make sure all lights are working properly.
Try both brake controls, and make sure each one turns on the brake light.
Pennsylvania law requires that any person who operates or rides a motorcycle must wear protective headgear unless they are 21 years of age or older AND has been licensed to operate a motorcycle for not less than two full calendar years OR has completed a motorcycle safety course approved by PennDOT.
- Note: If an individual has a motorcycle learner's permit, a helmet must be worn regardless of age.
- Note: The passenger of a person exempt from wearing a helmet can also go without a helmet if he or she is 21 years of age or older.
PA law mandates the use of eye protective devices for all motorcycle riders unless operating a motorized pedalcycle or a three-wheeled motorcycle equipped with an enclosed cab.