Motorcycle training at Fort Bragg-Police Motor...

Most motorcyclists should take regular refresher courses.

There are no police officers on motorcycles in the Twin Tiers region of New York and Pennsylvania where I live and ride.  Not in Elmira, Corning, Horseheads or Bath; none in Owego, Binghamton or Ithaca, either.  Its the same thing in Pennsylvania – I have never seen a motorcycle officer in Towanda, Sayre/Athens, or Wellsborough, or even the bigger cities of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Williamsport.  Since we don’t have any motorcycle officers in our area, its easyto forget what a great source of safety information for motorcyclists they can be.  They spend far more hours in the saddle every week than all but the most hard core bikers, and have the advantage of advanced training and testing.  Add their saddle time and training to their expertise in motorcycle accident investigation and reconstruction, and it is clear that all bikers should stop and listen when a motorcycle officer speaks.

One such officer we should all be listening to is Constable Hugh Smith of the Toronto Police Service in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Constable Smith spent 12 years as a police vehicle operations instructor, teaching officers how to safely ride motorcycles and other vehicles.

Here are his top 10 motorcycle safety tips, from

  1. Take a course: It’s important for you to learn how to safely drive a motorcycle and to be evaluated by an instructor. “What we’re looking for is that they control the motorcycle, the motorcycle doesn’t control them,” says Const. Smith.
  2. Make sure you have proper riding gear: A helmet is required by law in many places, but riders should also have long sleeves, long pants, ankle boots and a jacket, even when it’s hot outside. “The sun just drains you,” he says. Also – think about road rash.
  3. Make yourself visible: Many collisions are caused by a car turning into a motorcycle. So, you want drivers to see you. Wear a reflective vest or contrasting colours and make eye contact with drivers to be sure that they’re aware of you.
  4. Slow down: Most fatal accidents are caused by excessive speed. Motorcycles are unstable vehicles, says Const. Smith, and they have a limited grip on the road. You don’t want to lose control around a turn.
  5. Don’t ride impaired: You shouldn’t ride after drinking or consuming drugs, but you also shouldn’t ride when you’re tired, says Const. Smith. “You need 100 per cent of your attention.”
  6. Ride with a buddy: Riding with friends allows you to occupy a full lane, makes you more visible and you can keep an eye on each other if something goes wrong.
  7. Make sure your motorcycle is properly maintained: Check your vehicle frequently for problems. Tire pressure is especially important, says Const. Smith. A section of your tires about the size of a footprint is all that keeps you on the road, and any problems with tire pressure can be dangerous.
  8. Communicate with other drivers: Make eye contact with drivers and make sure they’re aware of your movements. Consider using hand signals while turning, as indicator lights on motorcycles are very small. And if you’re comfortable with a specific group of cars, stay with them.
  9. Scan the road: Many accidents are caused when cars turn into motorcycles or come out of driveways. If you’re aware of what’s happening around you, you can avoid dangerous situations. “Your head should constantly be moving on a motorcycle,” says Const. Smith.
  10. Refresh your skills: No matter how long you have been riding, you will still be rusty after a few months off. Take a refresher course if it’s been a while or if you have a new machine. “Ask yourself, can I improve? Am I the best and safest driver?” says Const. Smith. He points out that police officers, including himself, have to re-qualify every year to keep riding.

Pay special attention to numbers 8, 9 and 10 – watching other riders and the road – not the scenery – are very important. And a refresher course is a good idea at least once every two years.

My thanks to Constable Smith!

Thanks for reading, and ride safe!

ZiffLaw Attorney, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Accident Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062