Motorcycle Safety

motorcycle safety

Helping Motorcyclists Stay Safe In And Around Philadelphia

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), about 850,000 people hold motorcycle licenses throughout the state. In addition, many more people may be improperly operating motorcycles without valid licenses. Riding a motorcycle definitely has its benefits when it comes to convenience, parking, and fuel costs. However, everyone who plans to ride a motorcycle should understand how to take steps to keep themselves as safe as possible, as riding a motorcycle is an inherently risky activity.

The Levin Firm wants everyone to stay safe and accident- and injury-free when they head out on their motorcycles in the Philly area. We are also here to help injured motorcyclists in the event a crash occurs. Read on for some motorcycle safety tips and information, and never hesitate to contact our Philadelphia motorcycle accident lawyer to discuss your rights after a crash.

Motorcycle Accident Statistics in Pennsylvania

Everyone who rides a motorcycle should know how dangerous crashes can be. Obviously, motorcyclists have significantly fewer protections than motorists have, which means that accidents can cause particularly severe injuries. Consider the following motorcycle-related statistics as reported by PennDOT:

  • There were 3,194 motorcycle accidents reported in one year
  • 2,791 of those motorcycle crashes resulted in injuries
  • 180 of those motorcycle crashes resulted in fatalities
  • 93 percent of fatalities involved the motorcycle driver, while 7 percent involved a motorcycle passenger
  • 299 accidents involved a motorcyclist who had been drinking
  • 522 motorcycles were in single-vehicle crashes with fixed objects
  • 464 motorcycles collided with passenger cars
  • 387 motorcycles collided with SUVs or light trucks
  • 42 motorcycles collided with other motorcycles
  • 30 motorcycles collided with heavy trucks
  • 7 motorcycles collided with buses
  • 6 motorcycles collided with bicycles

Motorcycle crashes made up 2.5 percent of all traffic accidents in Pennsylvania. However, motorcycle fatalities constituted 16.6 percent of all traffic-related fatalities. This goes to show that there is a greater chance of death for motorcyclists than occupants of other types of motor vehicles. There was also a higher percentage of drunk motorcyclists than drunk drivers of other vehicles.

As you can see, motorcyclists can crash in many ways, including with many types of vehicles or with fixed objects. They can be in single-vehicle crashes or multi-vehicle collisions. In short, motorcyclists should always be prepared to avoid a wide variety of accidents. This can be possible by complying with all of Pennsylvania’s motorcycle safety laws and following important motorcycle safety tips.

Pennsylvania Motorcycle Laws

Our state expects motorcyclists to follow all speed limits, obey traffic signals, and comply with all other traffic safety laws, just as drivers of passenger cars and trucks must do. However, there is also a set of laws that specifically apply to motorcycles, which include any motor vehicle that has a saddle or seat for the driver and travels on two wheels (or three wheels if the bike has two stabilizing wheels at the rear). The following are only a few examples of motorcycle laws of which Philadelphians should always be aware.

Getting Your Motorcycle License

Most states require people to obtain a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license or a separate motorcycle license, and Pennsylvania is no different. In order to qualify for a Class M license, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Pass a test regarding motorcycle basics
  • Apply for and obtain a Class M learner’s permit
  • Only ride during daylight hours with a learner’s permit
  • Ride without passengers unless the passenger is a licensed motorcycle operator
  • For permit holders under age 18, they must have 65 hours of supervised riding and have the permit for six months
  • Permit holders under 18 must take the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Rider Course
  • Permit holders over age 18 may either pass a skills test at a Driver’s License Center or take the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Rider Course, of which successful completion waives the need for the skills test

If you already have a motorcycle license or endorsement in another state and move to Pennsylvania, you can transfer your credentials as long as they are not six months past the expiration date.

If you operate a motorcycle without a Class M license in the Philadelphia area, you can receive a citation that can result in a fine. If you are in an accident without proper licensure, it may be difficult to prove that you were not liable for causing the crash, as you will be considered an inexperienced motorcyclist.

Helmet Laws

One of the most important laws for motorcyclists involves wearing a proper helmet. While a helmet will not prevent head and face injuries in 100 percent of crashes, they do successfully prevent such injuries in many cases. As a result, state law requires motorcyclists and passengers to wear a PennDOT-approved helmet unless the following apply:

  • The driver is 21 years old or older
  • The driver completed an approved motorcycle safety course OR has had a motorcycle license for at least two years
  • Passengers who are at least 21 and riding with a qualified driver also can choose whether to wear a helmet

The law requires protective eyewear for all drivers and passengers unless they are riding in an enclosed cab of a three-wheeled motorcycle or on a motorized pedal cycle.

Requirements For The Motorcycle

The law sets out standards for motorcycles themselves, as well as the operators. Some of these requirements include:

  • Motorcycles must have suspension systems at least on the front wheel
  • Handlebars can never be higher than the shoulders of a driver while the driver is seated on the motorcycle
  • Each motorcycle must have one or two brake lights on the back
  • To carry passengers, a motorcycle must have a permanent seat, handholds, and footrests
  • Motorcycles must pass an annual inspection and have a valid license plate

Motorcycle Operation

The laws regarding motorcyclist dos and don’ts varies from state to state, so it is important to be aware of all applicable laws if you are riding in Pennsylvania. These laws include:

  • Motorcyclists have the right to use an entire traffic lane
  • Motorcyclists cannot drive in between traffic lanes
  • Motorcyclists may not pass another vehicle in the same lane
  • Two motorcyclists may ride abreast within a single traffic lane
  • Motorcyclists may not have any items or packages in their hands while they drive

When you take a motorcycle safety course, you will learn about all of the specialized laws that pertain to motorcyclists in Philadelphia. These laws exist for your safety and compliance can only increase your safety on the roads.

General Safety Tips

Aside from the formal safety requirements under the law, there are additional steps that motorcyclists can take to prevent accidents whenever they can. Some of these simple yet highly effective safety tips include:

  • Wear proper safety gear – Even if you can legally choose not to wear a helmet, you should always do so to protect yourself from head trauma and traumatic brain injury. Make sure your helmet is approved by the DOT and that it fits you properly. Ensure you have the necessary eye protection, as well. In addition to head and face protection, do not forget to wear proper attire on the rest of your body. Durable pants and jackets made from leather or another heavy material can protect your skin if you get thrown off your bike. Always wear boots or heavy shoes, gloves, long sleeves, and other appropriate clothing. While such safety gear will not prevent a crash, it can provide important protection if an accident happens.
  • Check your motorcycle – When you are getting out your motorcycle after the winter or after months of not riding, it is always wise to have it inspected or conduct a thorough inspection yourself if you know how. Each time you ride your motorcycle, do a quick check of the basic components of the bike. Do the brakes work? Do the tires have enough pressure? Checking these components can help prevent a malfunction that causes you to crash.
  • Know how to handle your motorcycle – Each motorcycle is different, and you should always ride a bike that is appropriate for your size and skill level. Understand the power of your motorcycle and how to control it. Know how touchy the brakes are so you do not over-brake suddenly. Know how to handle your motorcycle if you encounter potholes, gravel on the roads, or other possible hazards. Knowing what to do in these situations can often protect you from a serious accident.
  • Stay visible – Even if other drivers are paying attention, motorcycles can still be difficult to see, especially at night or in weather that causes poor visibility. When other drivers are distracted, they can easily miss a motorcycle in the lane next to them or in oncoming lanes. For this reason, motorcyclists should always stay as visible as possible. Use your lights and clearly signal before making turns or lane changes. Wear bright and reflective clothing, especially if you plan to travel at night. If another vehicle seems like they do not see you, never be afraid to use your horn to demonstrate your presence.
  • Watch the weather – The weather in Philly can be unpredictable during all seasons. Rain, sleet, or snow can start at a moment’s notice, and fog can set in when you least expect it. While you can never fully predict the weather, checking weather reports before you head out on your motorcycle can help ensure that you will have dry and clear conditions, which are always the safest. If weather suddenly hits, do not hesitate to pull over at a gas station or another establishment and wait until the worst of it passes.
  • Take a motorcycle safety course – Motorcycle operators under age 18 must take the approved safety course to get their Class M license. However, even if you do not have to take the course by law, it is always a good idea to do so. Instructors may teach you tricks and tools to stay safe in even the most hazardous conditions on the road. Even seasoned motorcyclists can benefit from taking a refresher course now and then.
  • Never drive after drinking – Driving a motorcycle and alcohol is a highly dangerous combination. While drinking may be part of the motorcycle culture for some, it can only lead to devastating accidents. If you drink, ensure you have another way home, as well as a way to get your motorcycle home or a place to park it. Additionally, avoid riding as a motorcycle passenger after drinking or with a drunk passenger on your bike. Such passengers can easily throw a motorcycle off balance and cause a crash.

All of the above are relatively simple steps you can take to stay safe while riding your motorcycle. You cannot control what other drivers do, but you can control your knowledge and carefulness when it comes to your motorcycle.

No Matter How Safe You Are, Accidents Can Happen

As mentioned, there is little you can do to prevent other drivers from driving in an unsafe manner around motorcycles. No matter how safe you may be, other drivers can be negligent and can crash into your motorcycle or run you off the road. Always know what to do if an accident occurs, including:

  • Call 911
  • Get medical attention
  • Tell the police what happened
  • Contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney

Motorcyclists often sustain life-changing injuries in crashes, so it is critical that they properly exercise their legal rights as accident victims. Having the right lawyer on your side who understands the nature of motorcycle accidents can help you obtain compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and much more.

Contact A Philadelphia Motorcycle Accident Lawyer For A Free Consultation

The Levin Firm represents injured motorcyclists throughout every stage of an insurance claim or personal injury claim. We’ve helped clients with a wide range of injuries, from the seemingly minor to catastrophic conditions. If another party caused your motorcycle accident, you likely have important legal rights. Call (215) 825-5183 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.