Motorbike accidents and fatalities remain a major cause for concern on SA’s roads. According to Hein Jonker, Founder and Chief Instructor of the Motorcycle Safety Institute of South Africa: “Most of the crashes happen in urban areas where there is a huge congestion of risk factors such as other vehicles, pedestrians and road surface issues.”
In addition to the risk factors mentioned by Jonker, the four main causes of motorcycle crashes, according to the Automobile Association (AA) are: speeding; right of way violations; loss of control in bends, corners and curves; and judgement errors.
To help address these key risk factors and causes, Auto & General suggests the following safety tips for both first-time motorcyclists and seasoned riders, as well as motorists:
Tips for motorcyclists:
- Know your ride: make sure that you are familiar with and well in control of your bike’s features, capabilities and limitations. Be especially careful when using someone else’s ride.
- Get the right gear: invest in quality protective gear and remember the golden rule of ATGATT: All The Gear, All The Time. If you prefer darker clothing, add something bright to your outfit, or purchase neon apparel sold by many motorcycle companies. The right pair of gloves are also essential. A thinner pair can provide better control.
- Keep a safe following distance and always have an escape route: by maintaining a safe following distance, you’ll have sufficient room and time to react should other vehicles make unpredictable and unsafe manoeuvres. Always look and plan ahead for hazardous objects.
- Move safely and swiftly: timing is imperative. Once you’ve identified what action you need to take, whether it be overtaking, changing lanes or turning, do so swiftly and safely.
- Avoid habitual errors: the AA highlights three bad habits that motorcyclists should look out for:
Overconfidence – no matter how experienced you are, there is always room to improve. Even the most seasoned riders can make common mistakes.
Attitude – destructive influences like peer pressure or intoxication can lead to making fatal decisions.
Ignorance – continuously improve your riding by training under the guidance of expert professionals and learning from more experienced riders.
- See, be seen and keep your eyes on the road: don’t fall in behind big vehicles or trucks that obstruct your view, and others’ view of you. Don’t rely solely on your mirrors and check your sides and over your shoulder before every manoeuvre. Signal every move clearly. Minimise distractions and concentrate on the road at all times.
- Get the right momentum for turns: too much clutch and no clutch can both lead to your bike tipping over. For slower, tighter turns, ensure that you feather your clutch. This will give you the ideal momentum needed to make the turn.
- Corner cleverly: when cornering, ensure that you start on the outside of the curve. Delay your turn-in so you can see further ahead, and give yourself extra space to manoeuvre. Always look where you want to go. This is also true for emergency escape routes.
- Never make assumptions: always be on the lookout for vehicles about to change lanes – don’t assume they see you. If necessary, move out of the way, and avoid driving into other road users’ blind spots.
- Don’t ride tired: A study in the U.S. found that driving fatigued is as dangerous as driving under the influence. If you’re travelling a long distance, stop every 120 to 200km. Each rider knows his/her own tolerance and may be tempted to push it. Rather stay on the safe side and make those regular stops. This way you will be alert and refreshed for your next stint.
- Ride with those you trust: if you’re driving in a group that is prone to pushing the limits too far and taking risks, this could endanger not only the entire group but other road users too. If you feel uncomfortable, rather leave the group than risk being involved in an accident.
Tips for motorists:
- Size matters: too many motorists who have hit and injured a motorcyclist claim that the motorcycle “came out of nowhere.” Because of its small size, a motorbike can be easily concealed in a car’s blind spots. Take an extra moment to look for motorbikes, when you are changing lanes or turning at intersections.
- Give it space: motorists should keep a safe following distance and allow approximately four seconds between themselves and a motorbike. Advances in braking systems allow some motorcycles to stop very quickly – making a four second ‘safety cushion’ a must.
- Shift-braking: motorcyclists often slow by downshifting, not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.
- Don’t trust the indicator: the indicators on most motorcycles are not self-cancelling and some riders, especially inexperienced ones, may sometimes forget to turn them off. Motorists are encouraged to make absolutely sure that a biker is intent on turning before crossing his/her path.
- Biker moves: motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily, avoid road debris and minimise the effect of passing vehicles and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to show off or be reckless, and allow them space to move.
- (Non)-sticky situation: be very cautious when it starts to rain, as this causes oil and other spills to rise to the road surface – something that is especially hazardous for bikers, as motorcycles have less than half the amount of grip as a car.
Keeping the above tips in mind will help make the roads safer for all road users – giving us all peace of mind.