Safety is key to riding a motorcycle in California. Here are key tips to avoid harm

A CHP motorcycle officer takes off with proper safety clothing and gear.
A CHP motorcycle officer takes off with proper safety clothing and gear. CHP

Do you ride a motorcycle? If the answer is no, chances are you care about someone who does. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, there are more than 900,000 registered motorcycles in the state and an additional 1.4 million licensed riders. With the return of warmer temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley, you maybe noticing an increase in the amount of motorists traveling on two wheels. The month of May is recognized as Motorcycle Safety Awareness month, and the California Highway Patrol, along with the California Office of Traffic Safety, have partnered to emphasize the need for all motorists to share the road and look out for one another.

California Highway Patrol officer Robert Montano JOHN WALKER Fresno Bee file

In 2018, 460 lives were lost as a result of the over 17,000 traffic collisions involving motorcycle riders in California. With your assistance, and safe motorcycle riding practices, we will be able to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries across the state. Let’s address important safety practices motorcycle riders can utilize to protect themselves before heading out on their next ride.

Wear the proper helmet. The law requires a motorcycle rider to wear a helmet at all times while operating a motorcycle. The helmet must meet U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. Check the DOT symbol on the back of the helmet.

Additional safety equipment is a great idea. Although not required by law, we encourage riders to wear gloves, body armor and a long-sleeve jacket, as well as long pants and boots to cover the lower extremities in the event a rider lays a bike down.

A defensive rider is a good rider. Never assume people in cars see you. Many motorcycle collisions are caused by motorists who simply did not see the motorcycle. Be predictable, be safe and be seen.

While we are on the subject of defensive riding, let’s talk about lane splitting. Officially, lane splitting is legal when done safely and prudently. If you decide to practice this form of riding, please be extra cautious. Know your limits, it can be easy to lose track of your speed on a motorcycle, especially for a new rider.

Be alcohol and drug-free at all times. Alcohol and drugs, including some prescribed medications, negatively affect driver judgment, depth perception, reaction time, balance, throttle control and ability to shift gears.

The CHP strongly encourages all riders to sign up for the California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) before beginning to ride. CMSP is California’s official motorcycle safety and training program administered by the CHP, offering courses for both the new and experienced rider. CMSP trains approximately 55,000 motorcyclists per year, and has trained more than 1.1 million motorcycle riders. For more information, or to find a training site near you, contact the CHP Central Division office at 559-277-7250.

Through education and awareness projects the CHP is determined to improve roadway safety for all who utilize California’s transportation system. On behalf of the California Highway Patrol, please ride safe!

CHP Officer Robert Montano can be reached at rmontano@chp.ca.gov. For more from the CHP Central Division, go to the division’s Facebook page.