Remember those drills in school for fire evacuations? Or how about the earthquake drills where you hid under your desk? We know. The ones you thought, “That’ll never happen.” Crashing a motorcycle may fall into that category too. It should never happen to you, but the truth is that most motorcyclists experience a crash at some point in their riding career. Riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. It is important to know how to crash safely and avoid injuries, even if you don’t believe it will ever happen. Here are ways to prepare for a crash, what to do if or when you crash, and how to move on from a crash.
How to Prepare Before a Motorcycle Crash
- Getting yourself proper training should be high on your to-do list before you start a long career riding a motorcycle. There are plenty of basic riding schools available, and they are worth every penny. If you’ve been riding a few seasons already, consider taking an advanced riding school to learn different techniques or branch out to different types of riding. We also have a few safety tips that you can peruse annually to help shake the winter rust off.
- Choosing the correctly sized motorcycle for your body and the type for how you plan to ride will make the difference between enjoyment and frustration. Your motorcycle should fit your inseam well, the motorcycle should be comfortable to sit on, and it shouldn’t weigh more than you can easily handle. Choosing the right type is also easier than ever. Don’t choose a lot slung cruiser if you plan to ride off-road, nor should you choose a full touring motorcycle to run a few simple errands. The right motorcycle will keep you riding with smiles for miles instead of wishing you chose something better.
- Maintenance on your motorcycle can keep you from having an accident or just a bad day sitting on the side of the road. Whether you choose to do it yourself or have a professional service your motorcycle, will be your choice. If you plan to buy a used motorcycle, ask about the maintenance done. Bonus points if the owner has records showing what was done at what mileage. If you plan to buy new from a dealership, ask what packages are available or if they can throw a couple of oil changes and checks into the deal. It adds to the value of the purchase when it will be maintained well.
- Protective safety gear should be at the top of your purchase list. A motorcycle helmet, riding jacket, good pants, and over the ankle footwear should be the minimum. And don’t forget gloves for your hands and eyewear for your eyes. Bugs are not your friend at 30 miles per hour.
- You should be familiar with T-CLOCS, which is an acronym for a pre-ride inspection. Quickly checking your ride before you swing a leg over the seat will keep you riding without concern that something will happen because of a missed check item.
- You should also check on insurance for your motorcycle, potential property damage, and of course yourself. A motorcycle and property can be easily replaced compared to what you can lose personally without insurance. The cost to keep you insured is significantly lower than the replacement and medical bills after an accident. Don’t sweat it. Buy the insurance and ride knowing you’re covered.
- Be prepared. That’s an old Boy Scout motto. In motorcycling, it means that you need to prepare for the worst every time you ride. Bad traffic. Distracted drivers. Mother Nature turning bright skies into cloudy days. Having a strategy to deal with it all means you can ride safely through anything.
- Lastly, never ride impaired. Riding is dangerous enough without something reducing your reaction time and causing your judgment to be lacking. Alcohol, drugs, prescription or over-the-counter medication, it all can lead to a crash in motorcycling.
How to Safely Crash a Motorcycle
You wouldn’t expect ‘safely’ and ‘crash’ to be paired together, but there are techniques to potentially save yourself in a motorcycle accident. These are what we suggest you become comfortable with:
- Before you crash, slow the motorcycle as best as possible with the brakes. The front brakes will offer the most stopping potential, so they should be applied progressively to reduce your speed. You can also progressively apply the rear brakes to reduce your velocity before the crash.
- Pick your spot to go down if possible. You wouldn’t think you have much of a choice, but you still have some control over the motorcycle just before a crash. You can give some direction of left or right to avoid oncoming objects and try to find the softest spot possible.
- Let go of the motorcycle once you’re down. A motorcycle can easily tumble and crush you if you’re caught under it on the ground. As soon as you’re down, let it go it’s separate way.
- Tuck your appendages and roll if you can. Don’t reach out to brace for impact as you’re more likely to break a bone (or multiples) trying to lessen the impact.
- If you’re able to slide, slide like you’re stealing a base. You can reach out with your arms and legs to spread yourself wide to add drag. This will help slow you down faster.
- It’s hard to think about relaxing in a time like this, but relaxing your body will prevent injuries to tendons and ligaments. Think of a stick and a rope. A stick will break, and a rope will not. Be a rope.
- When you think you’ve stopped sliding or tumbling, count to five. Don’t stand up immediately. Your balance could be off and you may actually be moving and not realize it. Counting to five will give you that extra time to be sure you’re stopped. After the five seconds, don’t stand up. Crawl away from the scene to safety. Standing up and walking away (or trying) can make you a moving target for another motorcyclist that they didn’t expect.
What to Do After a Motorcycle Crash
- After you’ve been in an accident or crash, the first thing you need to do is check that you’re ok. Are you bleeding anywhere? Is anything broken that you can tell? Is anything sore? You may find you’re bleeding and not in pain. Adrenaline does a great job of masking injury immediately, so a good head-to-toe check is in order.
- Manage the scene. If you are the rider that went down, once you’ve checked yourself, look around at what is around you. Where is your motorcycle? Was anything else involved in the crash? Is there impending danger elsewhere? If you weren’t the rider that went down, can you assist the one who did touch the tarmac in any way? Can you collect their motorcycle, call for assistance, or make the scene safer?
- Call for help if you need to. The police can manage the accident scene, and an ambulance or helicopter can get there in a hurry to transport an injured rider. The cost involved is little compared to seeing what happens next. Besides, you have insurance right?
- If there is a reason to, gather evidence appropriately. This isn’t the time to pass judgment or start taking statements from passersby, but taking a few photos of the scene is a good idea. You can also use your phone to dictate what you remember happening with audio and/or video while it’s fresh in your mind. This may also help with filing an insurance claim later on.
- The last thing to do after you leave the scene is recovering. You may not have any injuries to speak of, but you may harbor a small or large case of PTSD from the crash. It’s normal. You may have nightmares, wandering thoughts about the incident, or may just not want to ride again. You will need to work through the crash, potentially with professional help.
How to Prevent a Motorcycle Crash
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as the saying goes, and preventing a motorcycle crash may just save that and more. There are a few common crash scenarios, and know what they are will help you understand how to prevent them. These are the 10 common crashes in motorcycling and our suggestion to stay away from them:
1. A Vehicle Turned Left in Front of You
This is the most common accident out there for a motorcyclist, and it usually ends with the line, “I never saw the rider.” The driver of the other vehicle rarely recognizes the motorcycle or can’t accurately judge their speed as the approach. In order to avoid the collision, be prepared for it. You should be aware that a car is approaching from the front, may have a turn signal on, or may be sitting in a turn lane. Be prepared and play the ‘what if’ game. If they turn, what will you do? Have an out plan, whether that’s a swerve motion or maybe just stopping completely if there isn’t a vehicle behind you. Just don’t save yourself from one accident to cause another.
2. You Missed Seeing Road Debris in a Corner
Roads are notorious for extra things being in your way. Less traveled roads may hide extra gravel in the corners, while well-traveled roads may have chairs that fell out of a truck. Seriously, it does happen. Ride at a pace where your reaction time and ability to take action fit within your ability to see and recognize the danger in your path of travel.
3: You Entered a Corner Too Fast
Corners can be tricky, and winding roads are dangerous if you can’t make the turn. You may have oncoming traffic, an immovable object on the outside of the corner, or may find some debris you didn’t expect. It’s best to slow down and ride only as fast as the conditions allow. Keep good visibility for every corner and if you can’t see through the corner to the exit it’s time to slow down.
4: A Vehicle Changes Lanes into You
You’re tiny compared to most vehicles on the road. While ‘Loud Pipes Save Lives’ a loud radio in a closed vehicle can prove that to be wrong. Don’t ride in the blind spot of another vehicle, whether that’s a passenger car or another motorcyclist. Don’t ride next to vehicles too long, and always be on the move in your lane to keep yourself as safe as possible.
5. You Get Hit from Behind
You can stop faster than most cars on the road, and an inattentive driver may look straight through you when you’ve stopped. Traffic can make them blind to a motorcyclist as it’s just another distraction in their way. It’s best to keep a close eye on who and what is behind you at all times. As you’re approaching a stop, check for an escape route if the vehicle behind you doesn’t stop. Maybe they have a call to answer, a radio station to change, or they were thinking about that weekend trip coming up. In any case, give yourself an out.
6. Your Riding Friends Make Mistakes
Group riding brings its own special dangers as one misjudgment can cause a pile-up faster than you realize. Someone stops too quickly, someone doesn’t recognize a danger in the road, or someone swerves causing a chain reaction that could have been avoided. It can happen to anyone. The best way to avoid it is to make sure every rider is aware of proper group riding etiquette and knows what hand signals mean. You may point out an obstacle to stay clear of, and that may be exactly where they go because they didn’t know the signal. If you’re unsure of any of it, ask questions and cover it all before you leave on the ride together.
7. Locking the Front Brakes
The front brakes on your motorcycle are powerful. So powerful that you can flip over frontward, or just lock the front wheel enough to cause a crash. Progressive application of the brake is a skill you’ll have to master with practice. Avoiding it is going to take time and practice. Another option may be to purchase a motorcycle with anti-lock brakes. They aren’t a safety requirement, but some would call them a must-have.
8: Night Rider
Riding at night can cause a lot of issues to arise that wouldn’t in the daylight hours. The dark can hide road debris and pavement transitions, it can help animals disappear out of your headlight, and it can make sight difficult if there are no other lights available. Riding in urban areas with street lights can cast shadows that will trick your eyes, and riding in the country can hide everything not directly in front of you. Your best idea is to avoid night riding if possible, and when it’s not avoidable, slow down to give yourself extra reaction time. You can also look into upgrades for headlights and wear good retro-reflective gear that makes you easier to see at night to other motorists.
9. Slippery When Wet
The moisture of any kind can turn dry pavement into a skating rink. The first 30 minutes of a rainstorm will carry oil from the road surface everywhere and make the road dangerously slick. If you can avoid riding in the wet, do it. Take some time to allow the initial rain to wash contaminants off the road surface before you continue your ride. Also, slow down to give yourself some reaction distance between you and other motorists.
10: Riding Impaired
You would think riding sober would be easiest to remember, but many motorcyclists are lost every year because they chose to ride impaired. Over-the-counter and prescribed medications impair judgment, alcohol, and drugs can slow down your reactions. Riding anything less than perfect may just end in a crash.