Any enthusiastic motorcyclist will tell you that riding a motorcycle gives them a feeling of freedom. Unfortunately riding a motorcycle comes with its own specific risks. According to the OPP, as of August 2017, there had been 30 motorcycle fatalities in Ontario, a number that was approaching the 36 fatalities in all of 2016, which was the worst year in a decade.
Shocking statistics such as these highlight the vulnerability of even the most careful and experienced riders and the perils motorcyclists face when sharing the road with other vehicles. It is important for riders to recognize these risks and to take precautions to minimize the chance of accidents and injury. It is not sufficient to obey provincial motorcycle laws and regulations. In addition to following the law, riders need to:
· improve their defensive riding tactics and skills,
· ensure regular upkeep of tires and lights,
· wear gear that maximizes visibility,
· wear gear that reduces impact in the case of a collision or fall, and
· when possible ride in groups.
Motorcycle Training & Licensing
Getting a motorcycle license in Ontario is a two-stage process that takes at least 20 months to complete. Level 1 starts with a test of rules of the road and traffic signs. After passing this test the applicant is granted an M1 license. The applicant then takes a road test in order to earn an M2 license. Level 1 riders can only ride during daylight hours, cannot carry passengers, and cannot ride on roads with speed limits above 80 km/h. At Level 2, the only restriction on a motorcycle driver is a zero blood alcohol content while operating the motorcycle. Another road test is required to qualify for a full M license.
A driving course is not required for a motorcycle license but the extra training provided by such a course will teach skills that can save a rider’s life in an emergency situation.
Motorcycle Safety & Maintenance
A Safety Standards Certificate must be obtained through a garage licensed by the Ministry of Transportation in order to register a motorcycle. The safety inspection must be conducted by a certified mechanic and the Certificate remains valid for 36 days. While a motorcycle may be purchased and registered without a Safety Standards Certificate, the certificate is required in order to place plates on it and ride it on roads.
Maintaining your motorcycle is a basic part of staying safe on the road. Motorcycles require more regular maintenance than cars. Tires, signals, headlights and brake lights, chains or drive shafts, shock absorbers, and brakes are critical to the safe operation of your motorcycle and must be properly maintained. A detailed inspection of the motorcycle should be completed before every ride.
Motorcycle safety starts with the tires. The tires are the only point of contact between the motorcycle and the road and proper tire size is essential. Tires should be inflated to manufacturer specifications. If the tire tread is getting low or wearing unevenly replace them. Worn tires and inadequate tread depth reduce traction and braking power. This is especially the case on wet roads. Tires should also be examined for any visible damage such as cuts, cracks, scrapes, exposed cord, or abnormal bumps or bulges.
Wheels & Rims
Wheels should be checked for missing or loose spokes, and the rims for cracks or dents.
If the motorcycle bounces several times after crossing a bump, or a clunk is heard, this may be a sign that the suspension system needs to be adjusted, repaired, or replaced. Have it inspected as soon as possible.
Scraping sounds when stopping, or a spongy feeling when braking, means getting the brakes serviced immediately. If the motorcycle has hydraulic brakes then fluid levels must be checked regularly.
The helmet is the most important piece of a rider’s gear. The Highway Traffic Act makes it mandatory for all motorcyclists to wear a helmet that complies with the requirements of the Canadian Standards Association, Snell Memorial Foundation, British Standards Institute, United States of America Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (bearing the symbol “DOT”) or the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation No.22.
Full-face helmets provide the most protection but open-face and other helmets can comply with Ontario law depending on their rating.
Proper clothing can minimize injury in a fall or crash. Gloves, reflective clothing, body armour, long sleeves, suitable riding boots, and Kevlar jeans are purposely designed to provide riders with increased protection. Kevlar protects the wearer against cuts, abrasions and heat. Kevlar is more flexible and lightweight than leather and is ideal for padding shoulder and elbow areas, and in riding pants.
After colliding with a motorcycle many drivers say that they did not see it coming. This means that bright and reflective clothing is an important consideration for visibility, especially when riding at dusk and at night.
Motorcycles provide a feeling of freedom that is not available from driving any other kind of vehicle. But riding a motorcycle exposes the rider to a higher risk of serious injury or death. Motorcyclists can reduce the risks associated with riding their favourite ‘bike’ by regularly having their bikes inspected, performing necessary maintenance, and wearing proper gear. As you head out on the roads this riding season, please put motorcycle safety first.
This blog post was written by Edward (Ted) Masters, a member of the Disability Insurance Claims and Personal Injury teams. He can be reached at 613-566-2064 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.