Riding your Harley on Route 128 heading to Salem, Gloucester or elsewhere on Cape Ann, or perhaps heading north on Old Newburyport Turnpike (Route 1) to the Topsfield, Newburyport area: motorcycle safety is critical. To operate a motorcycle in Massachusetts requires a class M license, permit or endorsement. You must be 18 years or older; or if between 16 1/2 and under 18 successfully complete a Massachusetts rider education basic course and meet all Massachusetts junior operating requirements. Of course in the middle of winter we see fewer motorcycle operators on the roads or highways of the Northshore, but with the weather we have been having on the North Shore, there are still riders out there and summer will be here soon enough.
Whether you ride a motorcycle or not, it’s a good idea to review basic motorcycle safety. Do you pay attention to motorcycles when you are driving? Too many drivers forget to pay attention to sharing the road with motorcyclists. According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation “when motorcycles and other vehicles collide, it is usually the other (non-motorcycle) driver who violates the motorcyclist’s right of way.” Drivers often do not anticipate the motorcyclist’s movements and do not see motorcycles due to the motorcycle’s size and the car’s blind spots which may obscure the motorcycle and its driver. It is important for auto drivers to look out for motorcyclists and make sure to respect the motorcyclist’s right of way.
There are also safety tips for motorcycles drivers to keep in mind. Mass.gov recommends that before riding your motorcycle you should complete a road ready inspection, wear bright and protective clothing, and use proper lane position so drivers can see you, and always wear a helmet According to Massachusetts General Law M.G.L. 90 §7 and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles motorcyclists and their passengers must wear helmets that meet the current U.S. DOT’s Federal Vehicle Safety Standards and must also wear eyeglasses, goggles or a protective face shield if the motorcycle is not equipped with a wind shield or screen. According to the National Safety Council the most important equipment a motorcyclist can use is a helmet: “helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries for operators and 41% for passengers, and they saved an estimated 1,699 lives in 2012, according to Injury Facts 2015. An additional 781 lives could have been saved that year if all had worn helmets.”
The Massachusetts Registry of Vehicles also suggests the following precautions for motorcyclists:
- Before you settle into the saddle, walk around your bike and give it a quick road-ready inspection: Check your tire pressure and tread depth, hand and foot brakes, headlights, turn signals and fluid levels. Also, be sure to secure any cargo.
- Never ride without a U.S. Department of Transportation approved helmet. In Massachusetts, helmets are required by law, and must meet U.S. DOT Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. All approved helmets have a DOT sticker on them. Not only will a helmet protect your head in the event of an accident, but a face shield will also protect your eyes and face from wind, rain, insects, dust, and stones thrown up from cars.
- Arms and legs should be covered, preferably with denim, leather, or another heavy duty fabric. It acts as armor in an accident, protects your skin from sunburn, and can also help to maintain body temperature and prevent dehydration.
- Protect your legs and feet from injury by wearing sturdy boots that cover at least the ankle.
- Wear reflective clothing and stay out of other drivers’ blind spots. Most accidents are caused by drivers not being able to see motorcyclists.
- Don’t drink and ride! According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42% of motorcyclists who die in single-vehicle accidents are drunk.
- Obey all traffic laws.
As Winter sets in and ice and snow cover the roads it remains important that all operators of motor vehicles (cars, SUVs and trucks) pay attention to motorcycles on the roads – there are some hardy riders still out there; and motorcyclists must be especially aware of the conditions of the road and are taking proper safety measures.
For additional information on motorcycle safety please see the Registry of Motor Vehicle’s Motorcycle Manual.