Motorcycle Safety is for All Drivers

Here's how to stay safe on the road and get the best coverage.

Motorcyclist on a remote road.
Standard auto insurance typically does not cover motorcycles.
Lukas Gojda / Shutterstock

A record 8 percent of U.S. households owned a motorcycle in 2018, an increase of more than 1.5 million households since 2014, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council, which released its latest owner survey in January.

With more riders out there, everyone should do their part to safely share the road, especially since motorcyclists are six times more likely to be injured and 27 times more likely to be killed than car occupants, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safety Essentials for Motorcyle Riders

  • Ensure you have proper insurance coverage. Motorcycles are generally not covered under standard auto or homeowners policies. Specialty policies offer broader coverage and options, specialized claims handling, and customer service. Sometimes, additional discounts are available for mature riders, completing training courses, or memberships in rider associations or clubs. A motorcycle policy includes replacement cost and travel loss reimbursement, and might also cover permanently attached accessories, safety apparel, and helmets.
  • Before you ride, check tire pressure and tread depth. Make sure brakes, headlights, and signal indicators are in working order.
  • Secure and balance any cargo, and adjust suspension and tire pressure to accommodate extra weight, if needed.
  • Wear a helmet that meets the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. Look for the “DOT” symbol on the outside back of the helmet. Helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington mandate helmet use by all riders.
  • Wear other protective gear, such as motorcycle gloves, jacket, and pants.
  • Make yourself visible. Keep your lights on, wear bright colors, and use reflective tape, even during the day. Position yourself in the lane where drivers can see you.
  • Follow traffic laws, always use turn signals, and combine hand signals with turn signals when you can to make your intentions even more clear.
  • Never ride impaired. More than 25 percent of fatally injured riders in 2016 were driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the IIHS.

Safety Essentials for Drivers

  • Check mirrors and blind spots for motorcyclists before entering or leaving lanes of traffic and at intersections. Most multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes occur when drivers simply didn’t see the motorcyclist. Both motorcyclists and drivers are responsible for sharing the road.
  • Signal before changing lanes or merging with traffic. Even when signaling, allow enough time to determine a motorcyclist's intention before you proceed.
  • Increase following distance behind motorcycles and provide enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.