The long days and dry weather of summer make it the perfect time for motorcyclists to get on the road. Compared to the risks of winter conditions, it’s safer and easier to go for a ride during the summer. However, just because the weather is cooperating doesn’t mean that a motorcycle is suddenly risk-free.
In fact, according to one study, the summer months are actually the most dangerous for riders. June, July, and August have the majority of all motorcycle accidents. July alone has 78% more accidents than average.
There are plenty of reasons why this may be the case. When more motorcycles are on the road, there are simply more opportunities for accidents. Meanwhile, summer holidays like Independence Day lead to a rise in reckless driving from both car and motorcycle riders.
That’s why it’s so important to stay safe on and around motorcycles this summer. Here’s what you need to know about California’s safety laws and how to avoid accidents as both a driver and rider.
Understanding California’s Motorcycle Safety Laws
In California, motorcycles are generally treated like any other vehicle on the road. That means that they are held to the same speed limits, signaling requirements, and reckless driving laws and protections as any other car.
There are just two exceptions. First, motorcycles are allowed to share lanes, or drive side by side in the same lane of traffic. They can also “split” lanes, or move between two lanes of traffic to pass cars. Second, motorcycle riders are required to hear helmets whenever they’re on their bike. This applies to passengers and drivers.
California laws have important implications for all road users. For motorcyclists, the regulations require them to take basic protective actions like wearing a helmet and signaling. Meanwhile, drivers are required to respect motorcyclists as though they were in a car, so they can’t:
- Block motorcycles who are passing legally
- Tailgate or crowd motorcycles
- Prevent motorcycles from sharing a lane
- Intimidate motorcyclists with dangerous behavior
You can do much more than simply follow the law to prevent deadly crashes. Here’s how drivers and riders alike can be safer on the road.
How Drivers Can Reduce Accidents
For motorcyclists, the biggest danger is the other people on the road. If you’re driving a car, then you need to take precautions to keep riders safe. More than 60% of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle. You can help keep people safe doing the following.
Expect motorcycles. During the summer, motorcycles are much more common. Simply being prepared to see motorcycles on the road can help you avoid them. Motorbikes are much smaller than the average car, so you need to take an extra second to check for them before crossing intersections. That can save lives.
Never drive impaired. There’s a good reason that drunk driving is socially unacceptable. Alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs impact your reaction times. There’s a good reason that you’re not supposed to operate heavy machinery when you’re using these substances. A split second can make the difference between hitting a motorcycle and hitting your brakes in time.
Always signal when driving. Motorcycles can easily hide in your blind spots when you’re driving. Just because you can’t see a bike doesn’t mean it’s not there. Always signal before changing lanes and turning. That helps motorcyclists know where you’re going in advance and stay out of your way.
Respect motorcycles like any other road user. Finally, you can’t violate traffic laws just because motorcycles are small. If anything, you need to respect road rules more around two-wheeled vehicles. An impact that would be a minor fender-bender between two cars could kill a biker. Rein in your road rage and give cyclists space on the road.
How Motorcyclists Can Stay Safe
Of course, not every driver will take precautions. Motorcyclists are still vulnerable to road rage, distracted drivers, and the laws of physics. If you want to go out riding this summer, you can and should take precautions to keep yourself safe. Here’s how:
Ride during daylight. One of the biggest problems facing motorcyclists is their size. Even the bulkiest motorbike isn’t as large as the smallest car. That makes you harder to see when you’re out on the road. You can combat that by riding during daylight and using high-visibility gear.
Follow helmet laws. The California helmet law is in place for a reason. The right helmet not only protects your face from the wind, but it can also save your life. Motorcycle helmets are designed to protect riders from deadly head injuries. Wearing your helmet reduces your risk of dying in an accident by more than a third.
Wear appropriate safety gear. Helmets are legally required, but other safety gear is still necessary. There’s a reason “dress for the slide, not for the ride” is a cliché. Wearing appropriate safety jackets, boots, gloves, and pants can save you from devastating injuries. You don’t need to wear leather, either. There are plenty of modern, safe alternatives that are breathable and comfortable in California summers.
Follow traffic rules. Just like cars need to respect you, you should also respect other drivers. Follow the speed limit, avoid tailgating other road users, signal where you’re going, and avoid unnecessary risks. Speed is a factor in a third of all motorcycle accidents, so following the law keeps you safer.
Stay Safe and Healthy and Hit the Open Road
There’s nothing like the freedom of hitting the road on your own motorcycle. Make sure you’re around for plenty of future trips by taking precautions today. As a cyclist, following traffic laws, wearing safety gear, and staying visible help you avoid and survive accidents.
If you’ve already been in a motorcycle accident with another car, it’s probably not your fault. You deserve to get back your health and your ability to ride. Reach out to an experienced motorcycle accident attorney if you need help. They can help you get the insurance funds you need to recover, rebuild your bike, and return to the road.