Motorcycle fatalities are on the rise. Make sure you're doing all you can to protect yourself.
Step 1: Get trained Get a motorcycle license. Take a course to make sure you fully understand the rules of the road. Read your motorcycle manual and inspect your bike carefully so that you're familiar with it before you start riding.
Step 2: Wear a helmet Always wear a helmet that's securely fastened. And make sure it conforms to the standards set by the Department of Transportation. If it doesn't have a visor built in, wear goggles to protect your eyes from flying dirt or debris.
Step 3: Wear protective clothing Wear clothes that cover as much skin as possible, the heavier the better to prevent a nasty case of road rash. Gloves will shield your hands from flying rocks, and heavy, rubber-soled boots will protect your ankles and keep your feet from slipping.
TIP: Increase your visibility with reflective gear – like a harness, belt, or vest – and reflective stickers.
Step 4: Brake carefully Always apply the front and rear brakes at the same time, but not so hard that you lock up either wheel, which will cause you to skid.
Step 5: Approach intersections cautiously One quarter of motorcycle crashes are caused when a car turns left at an intersection, across a motorcyclists' path. Approach intersections cautiously, slowing down as you get close, flashing your brake lights once or twice, and making sure you're visible to the cars on either side of you.
Step 6: Pass carefully Before passing another vehicle, make sure your motorcycle is in the left portion of the lane and at a safe following distance. Don't accelerate if you're being passed.
Step 7: Keep your distance Try to keep several car lengths in front of and behind you. Keep a watchful eye ahead for potholes and debris, which can cause wipeouts. And continuously look ahead, to the sides, and in your mirrors to keep an eye out for other drivers.
TIP: Don't ride behind open trucks and cars with items strapped to the hood; if any cargo flies off, it could prove fatal.
Step 8: Avoid riding in rain A rainy road offers about half the traction of a dry one, and traction is critical to two-wheelers. If you must ride in a rainstorm, slow down significantly.
Step 9: Never ride side-by-side Never ride side-by-side in the same lane with other bikers. It compromises both of your safety by limiting options should a car swerve in front of you.
Step 10: Approach curves cautiously Approach curves in the road cautiously. After intersections, they are the most hazardous spot for cyclists.
Step 11: Never drink and drive Never drink and drive. And don't get on your bike when you're tired, either: Fatigue can slow reaction times as dramatically as alcohol does.
FACT: Motorcyclists are 35 times more likely than car passengers to die in a crash per mile traveled, and eight times more likely to be injured.