With summer's warm weather, more motorcyclists are hitting the roads than ever before. According to a recent survey by the Motorcycle Industry Council, the number of motorcycles owned and used in America grew 19% since 2003. That means an estimated 25 million people — equal to the population of Michigan! — swung a leg over a bike and rode in 2009.
Baby boomers, many with their children grown and more time or their hands, make up 44% of all riders, according to the survey. Unfortunately, riders 40 and older also make up a large portion of motorcycle accidents, with fatalities in this group nearly quadrupling in the last 10 years, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Forty-five percent of those fatalities were caused by rider error.
"Summer is a prime time for motorcycle accidents," says Jim Millard, lead motorcycle instructor at the BMW Performance Driving School in Greer, S.C. "More motorcyclists and automobiles are sharing the road than at any other time during the year."
Millard suggests that riders take a refresher course with a qualified instructor before venturing out, and offers these rider safety tips:
- When riding, keep the eyes scanning! It's imperative that you look way ahead and gather information early so you have time to react. Always "lead" the bike with your eyes by looking where you intend to go. This means looking through a corner before you ask the bike to negotiate the corner.
- Understand your bike's braking capabilities. It's a good idea for riders to know their bike's ability to slow down. This can be a scary thing to learn, so a lot of riders don't learn it until they NEED their brakes' full potential and that is not the time to learn it. Good rider training classes will have a session on braking techniques and these exercises will give you the confidence and understanding of how to utilize your brakes effectively in an emergency situation. This should include bikes with and without ABS.