The beautiful weather during summertime has its perks. We can shed our winter coats
and bask in the sun. One thing is for sure though, if you are operating a motorcycle, be
sure to layer up with your protective gear. It may be hot, but as much as bikers love the
open road, motorcycle crashes do occur. Luckily, in New Jersey, motorcyclists are
required BY LAW to wear a DOT (FMVSS 218) approved helmet.

Of all the motorists who share the roads in New Jersey, motorcyclists as a group
represent the most vulnerable segment. Motorcyclists are more than 28 times more
likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and five times more
likely to be injured (NHTSA). Over the last 10-year period (2008 to 2017), motorcycle
fatalities have varied. The highest number of fatalities (93) occurred in 2011 while the
lowest number (50) occurred in 2015. From 2012 to 2016, there have been nearly
12,000 crashes in New Jersey involving motorcycles.1

Experienced and new bikers alike need to remain focused on safety to survive a
motorcycle crash. Even the safest bikers can still die in a motorcycle crash caused by
other motor vehicle drivers. Unfortunately, you have no control over other drivers. You
can, however, take some precautions to ensure your survival, or at least increase your
chances of survival, if a negligent or reckless driver causes an accident. Check out what
is most important to know while operating your motorcycle this summer!

Wear the Right Equipment Gear

If you get in a motorcycle crash, only your gear serves as a barrier between your body
and the road. Investing in the right gear can reduce the severity of injuries and
maximize your chances of surviving a crash.

Here are some of the most common gear bikers wear as a precaution to protect
themselves in case of a crash:

Helmets

Luckily in New Jersey, motorcyclists are required BY LAW to wear a DOT (FMVSS 218)
approved helmet. In some states this is not the case, for example Florida. Motorcyclists
who wear helmets reduce their likelihood of dying in a crash by almost 40 percent and
reduce their chance of suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) by about 70 percent,
according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In order for your helmet to do its job and protect you, it has to be changed occasionally.
According to Snell Memorial Foundation2, a non-profit that researches and tests
helmets, they recommend replacing your helmet AT LEAST every five years. Even if
you cannot see any visible wear, sometimes chemicals and oils from your hair will break
down the protective area on the inside of the helmet.

Protective Eyewear

How can protective eyewear protect me from dying in a motorcycle accident? This is a
commonly asked question, and it’s very simple. When and if an accident occurs, how
you handle your bike can determine if you live or die. If you can see clearly in a
motorcycle accident, you can make the best choices to control your bike, potentially
avoiding a guardrail or wandering into oncoming traffic. Making sure you have clear
vision and sight is one of the most important things you can do when riding a
motorcycle.

Protective Footwear

A good pair of quality motorcycle boots can be expensive, but they are an investment
worth making. In addition, they protect you from damage to your legs, ankles, and feet in
an accident. An even more important fact, these types of boots offer stability during a
motorcycle accident. Most athletic shoes will come off during an accident when a biker’s
feet get twisted or stuck in the wrong direction. Boots typically will stay on and keep you
stable in turn allowing you to keep your bike from falling.

Protective Clothes

New Jersey’s hot climates during the summer lead people to wearing shorts, t-shirts,
and flip-flops; however, wearing this kind of clothing on a motorcycle can lead to death
even if a biker wears a helmet.

If you do not wear protective gear while riding a motorcycle, you are susceptible to
getting road rash.

In severe accidents, road rash can scrape away layers of skin down to just bone,
causing the body to go into shock. Victims of severe road rash are also prone to deadly
infections because of open wounds.

This can be easily prevented, as it’s easy to just wear leather pants or chaps and a jacket,
but nowadays there are special padded motorcycle jackets that have breathable mesh
for those hot and humid days.

Know How to Handle Your Bike

Surviving a motorcycle crash might be dependent on the extent to which you can handle
your bike. When a vehicle hits your bike, you need to be able to have the appropriate
response that results in the least amount of damage. In some accidents, especially
those that occur at high speeds, you won’t have the opportunity to respond.

Yet, when you do have the opportunity to respond, knowing the correct actions to take
might save your life. The best way to ensure you can handle your bike appropriately is
by getting a bike that fits your body and taking one or more motorcycle safety classes.

Take a Motorcycle Safety Course

New and experienced bikers alike need to take motorcycle safety courses. Years of
riding experience can result in the creation of bad habits, so even long-time motorcycle
enthusiasts can benefit from a refresher or an advanced training course. These courses
help you learn ways to avoid motorcycle accidents as well as how to handle your bike if
you get in an accident.

NJ RideSafe.org has two class options available:

Check these out:

All NJ training providers offer courses that are certified by the Motorcycle Safety
Foundation (MSF). There are two basic types of courses:

  • The Basic Rider Course (BRC): Whether you’ve never ridden a motorcycle or
    just never had any formal training, the BRC is a great way to learn how to ride
    safely and responsibly. If you complete the course, you may not have to take
    MVC’s road test.
  • Basic RiderCourse 2 (BRC2) – (Formally Experienced RiderCourse –
    ERC): Even if you’ve been riding for some time, there’s always something new to
    learn. A BRC2 will help to hone your skills and the thinking needed for survival in
    traffic. Using your own motorcycle, you’ll practice techniques for managing
    traction, stopping quickly, cornering, and swerving. This class is a fun way to learn and meet
    other New Jersey riders.

Reduce Your Speed

The faster you are traveling when a motorcycle accident occurs, the stronger the
impact of the collision. When you know a crash is about to happen, you want to
reduce your speed as much as possible. Yet, you should also be careful not to slam on
your front brakes. In turn, this could risk locking up your brakes and getting
thrown off the bike or the bike can ultimately flip over. This puts you at risk for
getting run over by another nearby vehicle who isn’t able to avoid you and
suffering potentially fatal injuries. The better option is to apply your rear brakes
only.

Know When to Let Go

A point of no return exists when you know you have no way of keeping your motorcycle
off the ground and you will be going down with it. Your instinct might be to hold on to
your bike, but you might get crushed if your bike goes on top of you.

So instead, let go of the bike. This is simple physics, an object in motion wants to stay
in motion. When you let go of your bike, it will stay in motion for a while. Going along for
the ride could mean a fatality. Letting go is always a last resort, but if you must, make
sure to tuck your limbs and chin into your body and roll to avoid injury.

Get Medical Treatment ASAP

If you suffer a motorcycle accident and sustain injuries, one of the best ways to ensure
you survive your injuries is to get immediate medical treatment. Always remember
accidents pump adrenaline through a person’s body. Even if you walk away from a
motorcycle accident, it doesn’t mean this is a miracle and you have survived without
fatal injuries. Internal bleeding, internal organ damage, and traumatic brain injuries can
be silent killers. You likely won’t feel the pain or any symptoms for hours, maybe even
days, and if left untreated, you risk death. Let a doctor examine you and run any
necessary tests to ensure you didn’t suffer a fatal injury and will survive your motorcycle
crash.

Stay safe this summer and be sure to practice these safety measures at all times!

1 https://www.nj.gov/oag/hts/motorcycle/index.html

2 Snell helmets certification – About Foundation