Motorcyclists hear this all the time: Be a proactive rider! But what does “being proactive” really mean?
The most important piece of advice you can start using right now: Don’t trust other drivers. You are responsible for your ride. It’s an unfortunate reflection of our current culture that people are driving distracted, wrapped up in themselves, and anxious. Taking control of yourself and your actions should be number one on your to-do list.
Being proactive and being a proactive rider means actively being in control of everything possible about you and your ride and not just responding when something happens on the road. There are things you can control and then there are things you can’t control.
What is in Your Control
Gear — Seriously! Ride with the right gear. Accidents, road debris, weather – they are going to happen. Recommended gear includes: shatter-proof eye protection, full-face helmet, full-finger gloves, sturdy boots, and long pants.
Also, do you have a first-aid kit? If you do, do you know how to use everything in the kit?
Your bike — Most riders love their babies so they have this one covered, but some folks do let maintenance and repairs slide. Don’t be that person that gets injured or stuck in a bad place because of an avoidable breakdown.
Get the right insurance — Because you absolutely cannot trust anyone else out on the road, assume the worst: that they have no insurance or the state minimum. (Don’t even get us started about hit and runs!) This means you must carry enough insurance to care for you and your family if the very worst happens. (Check out our insurance recommendations at riderjustice.com.)
Your skill level — Hone your riding skills. Harley-Davidson said it best: Great riders aren’t born; they’re made! This means new riders should definitely take a class. Experienced riders should keep taking advanced training classes to keep yourself sharp. Rider inexperience is the *number one human contributing factor in motorcycle accidents in Colorado and your skill is completely in your control. Any rider, no matter how many miles under their belt, can learn more.
Situational awareness — Is anyone around you in a state of road rage? Are others texting, distracted, or oblivious? Is there construction, bad weather, or an accident ahead? Recognize what is going on around you and adapt with the sole intention of keeping yourself safe. Don’t get sucked into road rage yourself or teaching someone a lesson. Adapting to avoid danger is a better goal. Another way to plan for safety is to check out the Denver Accident Map and plot your rides to avoid the most dangerous roads in Denver.
Self Awareness — Do you react emotionally to situations? Do you get so angry at other drivers that your hands shake and vision narrows? *Aggressive driving is the 2nd top contributing human factor for motorcycle accidents. Don’t be that guy. Take a deep breath and remember that keeping your cool is a better way to get yourself home safe.
Your Community — Do you know who to call for help if something goes wrong? Not just 9-1-1, but organizations like BikerDown exist to help riders after an accident and offer membership services that can keep you afloat if you get hurt.
Do you have a trusted legal resource, like Rider Justice in your phone so when you have questions you can get advice?
Do you carry an ICE (In Case of Emergency) card?
Ride sober — This one should be a no brainer, but still, *DUI, DWAI, and DUID is the 3rd most common cause of motorcycle accidents in the state of Colorado. Don’t be your own worst enemy! Anything that affects your perception, vision, reaction time, or attention span is taking your control away.
Safety training — If there is an accident, can you help? Do you know CPR? Take classes that train you to confidently deal with what may happen on the road to fellow riders. Follow our Facebook page for announcements for safety classes that we sponsor for riders: https://www.facebook.com/MotorcycleRiderJustice/
What is Not in Your Control
People driving with little or no insurance — No matter how irresponsible – people still do it. You can’t control what insurance they carry or if they drive with none at all. There’s no pot of gold if someone uninsured hits you – insurance is where the money comes from.
Distracted Drivers — These people are a serious danger to everyone on the road. Watch for them and get away as far away from them as possible even if that means letting them move ahead of you so you can keep an eye on them.
Road conditions — You can’t get CDOT to work any faster but you can watch the road carefully to avoid hazards and plan your ride to avoid construction zones.
You probably don’t have a hotline to control the weather (if you do, let us know- we have some requests). Check the weather and just don’t ride if there’s rain, snow, or intense wind in the forecast. If you choose to do so, recognize that you are giving up some safety control to the elements.
Public perception of bikers — This one is rough because we know bikers get a bad rap. It isn’t fair and we don’t like it but we find most drivers assume bikers are the bad guys. Just keep in mind cameras are everywhere and there is a better than good chance that in any road “situation” there will be a camera recording all or part of it. Make sure if you’re being recorded that it’s to your advantage.
The ride should be a beautiful thing, and sometimes beauty takes work and planning. The best thing you can do is take total control of yourself and your ride.
*MOST 2019 Annual Reports