Western Australia Motorcycle safety week has been an annual event since 1984, created to promote awareness of motorcycle riders and promote safety for both riders and other road users. At Accident Claims Lawyers we represent many clients who have been injured in motorcycle accidents across the state and we’ve seen the impact that these accidents have on people’s lives. Taking time to revise basic safety tips and ensure you’re following them when you ride can make a huge difference in reducing your risk on the road and preventing a serious accident.

Safety Gear

Wearing the correct safety gear can save your life in the event of an accident. This includes:

  • Helmet

The Road Traffic Code 2000 says that a motorcycle, including a moped, must not be ridden unless an approved standard or type of helmet is securely fitted and fastened to the head of the rider. Failing to wear a suitable helmet can cost you a $550 fine and 4 points on your license.

In Western Australia an approved standard of helmet includes:

  • Australian Standard (AS) 1698:1988, Protective helmets for vehicle users;
  • Australian Standard /New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS) 1698: 2006, Protective helmets for vehicle users;
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) 22.05, Uniform provisions concerning the approval of protective helmets and their visors for drivers and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds.

It’s important to choose a helmet that adheres to safety standards and is a correct fit for your head size. The Consumer Rating and Assessment of Safety Helmets (CRASH) offers advice to help you find the safest helmet for you. Find out your helmets crash rating on their website before making a purchase.

  • Clothing

In addition to a helmet, it’s advisable to wear strong, protective clothing to prevent injury in the event of a crash. Proper motorcycle gear will include abrasion resistant materials and impact protectors, and will hold together against impact far better than your day-to-day clothing.

There is no specified legal standard for motorcycle clothing in Australia, but there are resources to ensure that the gear you wear is suited to the highest safety standards. MotoCAP is a consumer information program that rates motorcycle jackets, pants and gloves on various safety aspects to advise riders across Australia and New Zealand. They also take into account breathability and comfort so you can ensure you stay protected without overheating while you ride.

  • Boots

Many riders believe that they can get by with a strong pair of workboots or other footwear instead of specifically crafted motorcycle boots. But specialist designs have many benefits that you won’t get from other boots.

High quality motorcycle boots will allow the flexibility and maneuverability you need on and off your bike, without sacrificing protective strength. Like your clothing they should be made from an abrasion-resistant material that holds up against gravel rash and friction burns, offer a supportive frame that holds up against impact, and keep your foot protected from the heat of the exhaust pipe.

You should also ensure you find a set of boots that fits your foot right, so they remain comfortable and distraction-free on long journeys.

Stay alert

In 60% of motorcycle crashes reported in 2016 there was no other vehicle involved. One of the most important thing when you’re riding your motorcycle is to remain focused on the road and alert for other dangers, whether that’s changes in the terrain, animals or other obstacles.

Make sure you take plenty of rests when driving long distances. Keep focusing on your surroundings as well as your route. And ff you’re tired, unwell or under the influence of alcohol – don’t get on the bike.

Get used to your motorcycle

If it’s your first time on a new bike, this isn’t the time to be covering long distances or riding through heavy traffic. Though it can be tempting to see what a new machine will do, it’s important to get used to a different bike – even if you’re an experienced motorcyclist. Changes in handling, weight and power can create a very different riding experience and it can be much easier to lose control or take your attention off the road.

Practice with an unfamiliar bike in a quiet area that you know well, and don’t take things too fast until you’re comfortable and familiar with it.

Learn (and relearn) the basics

Whether you’re new to riding a motorcycle or you’re upgrading to a more powerful bike or you’re getting back into riding after a spell without a bike, or you simply want a refresher – professional lessons are always a benefit. Working over the basics – even if you think you know them – keeps them fresh in your mind and helps prevent you from making a simple mistake that can get you in a lot of trouble.

There are many important techniques to learn, relearn and practice, and we certainly can’t cover all of them here. It’s best to take lessons from a professional and listen to their advice. But in the meantime these are a few safe riding tips and techniques offered by the Road Safety Commission.

  • Safe braking

When you’re aware of potential hazards up ahead, prepare to approach them safely by “setting up”. Brake lightly as you approach the hazard to give yourself more time and control if you need to avoid something. This technique prepares the motorcycle to stop without locking up the brakes and prepares any drivers behind you for more sudden braking.

If a more unexpected hazard arises and you need to avoid a crash, lean into the swerve and try to correct the motion as quickly as possible. Slow as much as you can and try to keep your eye on where you’re going so you don’t put yourself in the path of another obstacle.

Finally, if a blowout occurs while riding, don’t brake. Gradually close the throttle down and try to steer straight. Meanwhile shift you weight towards whichever tyre is still inflated.

  • Safe cornering

A common cause of motorcycle crashes that don’t involve another vehicle happen when a rider misjudges a corner and runs off the road. You should start wide and finish tight – begin your turn at a wide angle to the corner to allow yourself a clear view of the road you’re joining and any traffic that might be behind the bend. Then aim to finish in tight to give plenty of roadspace to oncoming traffic. Avoid the central “head-on” zone as you round the corner.

Remember to slow down as you approach a corner, change down to the appropriate gear then ease off the brakes as you enter the turn.

Factor in traffic conditions, weather, visibility and road conditions and adjust your approach to suit.

  • Difficult surfaces

Always ride to the conditions. That can include the weather condition, the condition of your bike or your own physical condition. But one of the most important is the condition of the road.

Rural lanes are known for uneven surfaces which can be difficult to see, so make sure you take it at a reasonable speed and focus on the road up ahead, slowing down at uneven or unfamiliar terrain to avoid having to make sudden swerves or finding yourself hitting unseen hazards.

Wet roads, steel surfaces and painted lane markings can create slipping hazards.  To manage these reduce your speed and lean your body into the bend when you turn to reduce the amount of lean on the bike. You can also ride in the tracks of a vehicle ahead of you to gain more traction.

  • Steering wobbles

Steering shakes or wobbles can arise from incorrect tyre pressure or weight distribution. If this happens you shouldn’t try to fight it or overcorrect the steering, but simply grip the handlebars firmly and gradually decelerate until the wobbling stops. At this point you can pull over to safe place to address the issue.

Stay safe

These are just a few tips to consider next time you ride, but there are plenty of other factors that you should take into consideration to ensure you remain safe on the roads. More tips from the Road Safety Commission can be found here and there are a range of additional material for Motorcycle Safety Week to be found on the Motorcycle Riders Association of Western Australia website.

Remember that according to government data, 22% of people seriously injured and 18% of those killed in motor vehicle accidents on Western Australia roads in 2018 were riding motorcycles.

If you do unfortunately find yourself in an accident that wasn’t your fault and leaves you with an injury, remember that there is help available. Accident Claims Lawyers can help you get financial compensation including recovering medical costs, damages and loss of income after a motorcycle accident in Western Australia. Find out if you’re eligible for compensation and how you can make a claim by contacting our legal experts today for a free consultation.