Summer is here, and in Chicago that means that motorcycle riding season is in full swing. We only get a few months of perfect riding weather each year, and avid riders will be hitting the road regularly over the summer months to get as much time in the saddle as possible.
When riding in Chicago, motorcyclists must prioritize their own safety. Unfortunately, accidents involving other vehicles are common, and riders must do their best to minimize their risk of serious (or fatal) injuries. While accidents will sometimes be unavoidable, following some basic safety tips can significantly reduce motorcycle riders’ chances of being injured by negligent drivers.
Safe Riding Tips for Motorcyclists in Chicago
So, what can you do to minimize your risk of injury while riding this summer? Here are 10 safety tips for motorcycle riders in Chicago:
1. Wear Your Helmet Every Time You Ride.
No, Illinois law does not require you to wear a helmet. But, this does not mean that riding without one is a good idea. Although Illinois is one of three remaining states without a motorcycle helmet law, studies have shown that wearing a helmet is one of the best and most important ways to reduce your risk of injury in the event of a crash.
If you do not currently own a helmet, when you buy one, make sure to pick a helmet with a Snell Foundation or U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) certification. If you have had your motorcycle helmet for more than five years, it is time to buy a replacement.
2. Practice ATGATT Every Time You Ride.
As most riders know, ATGATT stands for “all the gear, all the time.” Whether you are headed out for a long weekend or you are simply commuting to work in downtown Chicago, gearing up will help reduce your risk of being injured in the event that you go down. Along with wearing a helmet, following ATGATT means wearing a motorcycle jacket and motorcycle-specific boots, gloves, and pants every time you ride. Most accidents occur within five miles of home, so it is important to gear up regardless of where your travels may take you.
3. Inspect Your Motorcycle Before You Hit the Road.
Conducting a basic inspection before you hit the road can alert you to many potential issues that could increase your risk of being injured in a collision. It only takes a minute or two (at most), but it can save you a lifetime of consequences. Before you pull out of your driveway or parking lot, check your headlight, taillight, brake light, turn signals, tire pressure, oil level, controls, and chain lubrication to make sure everything is in order. If something seems wrong, don’t chance it. It isn’t worth it, and by staying safe you will ensure that you have another chance to ride.
4. Make Sure You Know Your Route.
These days, you can mount your smartphone on your handle bars and follow GPS directions just about anywhere. But, following GPS directions can also be distracting; and, if you do not know exactly where you are going, the need to make sudden turns and lane changes becomes much more likely. To avoid these issues, plan your route in advance, and take the time to study it if necessary. If you can keep your eyes on the road and avoid the need for sudden maneuvers, this will greatly reduce your risk of being injured due to another motorist’s recklessness or lack of attentiveness to their surroundings.
If you get lost or need to get reoriented, find a safe place to pull over. While this may cost you a few minutes, it could also save you from suddenly finding yourself in a dangerous situation.
5. Know the Warning Signs of Drunk, Distracted, and Inattentive Driving.
When you are on the road, you cannot control what other motorists choose to do, but you can protect yourself from their mistakes in some cases. As a motorcycle rider, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the warning signs of drunk, distracted, and inattentive driving. If you observe any of these behaviors while you are riding, leave plenty of buffer in front of you, and give the driver a wide berth if you need to pass:
- Weaving within the driver’s lane or drifting across lanes
- Sudden braking and/or acceleration in traffic
- Changing lanes repeatedly without signaling
- Running red lights and stop signs, and failing to yield when appropriate
- Following too closely and/or repeatedly having near misses with other vehicles
6. Observe the Rules of the Road
Of course, as a motorcycle rider, you are bound to observe the rules of the road just like everyone else. This means obeying the speed limit, obeying all traffic signs and signals, using your signals before turning or changing lanes, and staying focused on the road at all times. Not only is this the law, but it is also one of the best ways to reduce your risk of injury – and to ensure that the other motorist will be held liable in the event of a collision.
7. Ride Within Your Limits
When riding on public roads, it is important to always stay within your limits. Riding in traffic is not the time to work on increasing your cornering speed or to test your motorcycle’s ABS. If you are not yet comfortable riding in heavy congestion, time your rides for when less cars and trucks are likely to be on the road. If you are not comfortable riding in the rain, check the weather before you set off. When you are ready to test your limits, hire an instructor to teach you on a private track.
8. When in Doubt, Exercise Caution
If you approach a vehicle that is maneuvering erratically, slow down. If the sky turns cloudy and you are not prepared to drive on wet roads, find a place to take a break. If you have any reason to be concerned for your safety while riding your motorcycle, always err on the side of caution – even if it means that you may be late arriving to your destination.
9. Stay Calm and Ignore Aggressive Drivers
Aggressive driving is a common factor in motorcycle accidents and other vehicle collisions, especially in congested areas such as Chicago. If someone cuts you off, let it go. Do not try to get their attention, and do not “retaliate” by cutting them off at the next available opportunity. If someone tries to get your attention while you are riding your motorcycle, ignore them and stay focused on the road ahead.
10. Watch Out for Roadway Hazards
In addition to watching out for dangerous drivers, it is important to watch out for roadway hazards as well. Hazards that present minimal dangers to four-wheeled vehicles can present significant accident risks for motorcyclists. When encountered unexpectedly, gravel, grooved surfaces, oil patches, potholes, and other roadway hazards can all cause motorcycle riders to suddenly and dangerously lose control.
Protecting Your Legal Rights After a Motorcycle Accident
In addition to knowing how to reduce your risk of injury while riding your motorcycle in Chicago, it is important to know what to do if you get injured as well. If you are involved in a motorcycle accident in Chicago, you should:
- Prioritize Your Safety – Above all else, if you go down while riding your motorcycle, you need to absolutely prioritize your safety. Get yourself out of the roadway (if you are able to do so), and seek medical treatment right away.
- Collect Information about the Accident – If you are able to do so, take photos at the scene of the accident with your phone, and try to collect contact information from anyone who stopped to help. If the driver who hit you remained at the scene, take down his or her vehicle and insurance information.
- Contact Your Insurance Company – You need to report the accident to your motorcycle insurance company, but you do not need to give a recorded statement. Tell the adjuster when and where the accident occurred, and then let him or her know that you are seeking legal representation.
- Learn More about Your Case – The more you can learn about your situation, the better. Our motorcycle accident resource page is a good place to start.
- Speak with a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer – Protecting your legal rights after a motorcycle accident involves many unique challenges. In order to ensure that you are able to recover maximum compensation for your injury-related losses, you should speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Contact the Chicago Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at Malman Law
At Malman Law, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of injured motorcycle riders in the Chicago area. If you have been injured in an accident, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation about your legal rights. To speak with one of our experienced Chicago motorcycle accident lawyers in confidence, call 888-625-6265 or request your free consultation online now.