motorcycle safety tipsOperating a motorcycle safely requires responsibility, skill, confidence, and common sense. Experienced riders know this and take precautions whenever they use their motorcycles, but many people make mistakes that can lead to serious and sometimes fatal accidents. If you own a motorcycle, always follow these rules to keep yourself, your passenger, and other drivers safe.

Learn about how your motorcycle works and how to drive it properly. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers courses across the United States to teach you techniques, maintenance procedures, and emergency evasive maneuvers. Enroll in one of these courses before you begin riding your motorcycle on the open road.

Always be focused and alert and drive defensively. Assume that other drivers can’t see you, especially in heavy traffic. Consumer Reports found that in accidents involving cars and motorcycles, the drivers of the cars were at fault 60 percent of the time. Always pay special attention to drivers using cell phones, keep a safe distance between your motorcycle and other vehicles, and be on the lookout for road hazards.

Dress appropriately when riding your motorcycle. Wear a jacket, gloves, long pants, footwear that covers your ankles, and a helmet. Motorcycle riders who don’t wear helmets are 40 percent more likely to die from a head injury in an accident. Wear a strong, lightweight, and comfortable helmet whenever you ride your motorcycle.

Make sure you buy a motorcycle that is the right size for you. You should be able to easily reach the handle bars, it should not be too heavy, and it should have the right engine for how you plan to ride. Know your skill level, and don’t try to do something that makes you uncomfortable, such as riding fast or weaving in and out of traffic, even if someone else asks you to do it.

Focus, balance, and coordination are essential to operate a motorcycle safely. Drinking can impair your ability and lead to an accident. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 percent of motorcycle riders who died in accidents in 2013 had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or greater.

If you operate a motorcycle, you should have motorcycle insurance. You never know when an accident might happen, and you should always be prepared.