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Angelo Patacca - motorcycleBike Week starts this weekend. And, if history repeats itself, we expect that nearly half a million motorcyclists will descend upon Daytona during the 10 days of celebration. It is the unofficial start of the 2014 riding season.

As both a motorcyclist for more than a decade and as a Florida motorcycle accident attorney, I have seen the catastrophic injuries and deaths that occur when motorcyclists go down. Most of the time, a motorcyclist gets hit by a car that cuts across the motorcycle’s path at an intersection.  It is almost always the same story – the driver just did not see the motorcycle. Usually, the most catastrophic injuries involve the rider’s head and torso.

In some cases, these deaths could have been prevented – or the injuries lessened – had certain safety gear been used to protect the rider and make him or her more visible.

See and Be Seen

Motorcycle safety starts with the motorcyclist and the phrase “see and be seen.” Be a defensive driver. Look ahead for potential problems and get away from distracted drivers, such as those texting and driving.

Intersections are a danger zone. Be aware, but also be conspicuous or noticeable. That’s where “high-viz” or high visibility clothing comes in. High-viz yellow (or high-viz orange) gear such as vests, jackets, helmets or gloves make you stand out to other motorists. They get motorists’ attention. The high-viz clothing industry is booming – this gear is easy to find at motorcycle shops, on the internet and even in your local hardware store.

Naysayers of high-viz clothing frequently proclaim ‘I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that.’ Frankly, that is the idea! High-viz saves lives on the streets. One study shows that high-viz and reflective clothing reduced the probability of a motorcycle accident by up to 37%. Is there any doubt why police officers, highway workers and even landscapers often wear high-viz clothing while working on our roadways?

Triangle of Light

To make my motorcycle more visible I use a “triangle of light” to be more noticed from the front. Adding two auxiliary lights on either side of the forks, well below the headlights, offers improved noticeability and a depth perception effect to drivers in front of me. In my opinion, the benefit of this additional visibility far outweighs the cost.

Suiting Up

In addition to being more visible to drivers, we have to protect ourselves physically. We do not have the barrier protection of a car nor the stability of 4 wheels if something goes wrong. Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and eye protection.  Fatal and catastrophic injuries usually are associated with head and brain trauma. A helmet is the first step in reducing that risk.

Motorcycle-specific gloves: when you have a “get off”, the most common reaction is to put out your hands to brace for impact. Without the protection of gloves and with a few feet of slide, you risk shredding your hands to the bone at any street riding speed.

Jackets and pants that contain padding in the back, elbows, shoulders and knees offer vital impact and skin protection in case of a fall. Choose traditional leather or modern synthetics – both do their jobs well. In a news station interview about motorcycle safety, I recently showed how a leather jacket sustained mere scratches and scuffs on the back and shoulder after a 25 mph slide. The same “safety test” without the leather jacket would have involved a trip to the hospital and possible skin grafts. As a motorcyclist and as an accident injury attorney, I have witnessed these painful injuries.

Lastly, do not forget your feet.  A sturdy pair of over-the-ankle boots with non-slick soles to grab the pavement is a must. Those red light stops are slick with oil, sand and debris. Boots will also protect your lower legs from debris that flies up while you ride.

As motorcyclists, we cannot eliminate all of the hazards of the sport and we cannot avoid every distracted driver. But, we can take matters into our own hands to reduce the risks. Be noticeable and be seen. Ride safe.

If you are in an accident and in need of a Florida motorcycle accident lawyer, we invite you to consider having Terrell Hogan represent you.