Rules of the Road: Safety tips for motorcyclists

By Charity Parris, ANAD Safety OfficeMay 27, 2021

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ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala --Over the last few years, motorcycles have grown in popularity. With the addition of trikes, even those not comfortable with two wheels can cash in on the fun. With more and more bikes on the road, motorists must be aware of their presence!

Motorcyclists must also be aware of the proper personal protective equipment to protect themselves.

Have you ever started to pull out into the road and looked but didn’t see any other vehicle only to pull out and there is another vehicle right there? Perhaps it was hidden from view in your side view mirror. I know I have had this happen to me.

Being a motorcycle rider, I started to consider if an entire truck or car can be hidden from view behind my side view mirror even for a second, imagine the many places a motorcycle can be hidden from your view. After all, they are much smaller in size. This is why the phrase, “Look twice and save a life,” is so important.

Military bases have more rules for motorcycles that must be followed due to service members riding motorcycles. Military bases are a little different. Operators of government-owned and privately owned motorcycles, street and off-highway, on Army installations must be appropriately licensed to operate on public highways except where not required by the applicable local laws. Active military are required to take a motorcycle safety riders course. All civilian personnel or contractors that are properly licensed to operate a motorcycle are not be required to receive Service-sponsored training or to prove that they have taken other motorcycle training in order to operate a motorcycle on a DOD installation

While riding at Anniston Army Depot, you are required by regulation to wear the following items: A Department of Transportation approved helmet, impact-resistant glasses, goggles or a full face shield, long sleeve shirt or jacket, full-fingered motorcycle gloves or mittens and long trousers. Over-the-ankle shoes or boots are also required to be worn (No sandals or open-heeled shoes). Outer upper garments must be brightly colored during the day and reflective if worn at night and passengers are required to do the same. Reflective belts are not acceptable. Your bike must have a right and left rear-view mirror, a headlight and it must be on at all times. For more information, reference DA-PAM 385-10, Chapter 11 and ANADR 385-17. Riders are highly encouraged to select PPE that incorporates protective padding, fluorescent colors, and retro-reflective material for maximum protection.

What follows are seven rules of the road written by Lori Carney, a motorcycle instructor since 2011 with Team Oregon:

Ride defensively and don’t count on eye contact.

On a bike, you are the smallest vehicle on the road. You are harder to see, and sometimes you think a driver sees you, but they may not. Sometimes, while driving, you may have a moment where you realize you have spaced out. Other drives experience this, too. You must stay alert so that you are able to act and not react.

Don’t hide in traffic.

Dress in colors that are easy to see, including your helmet. Make sure you are not in a driver’s blind spot. If you realize you are in a driver’s blind spot, move. If they can’t see you, they can’t see your turn signals either.

The bike goes in the direction your face is pointing.

Don’t just use your eye to look through the turn, turn your head. Aim to the end of the turn. You are constantly scanning for hazards you might have to avoid and when you are scared your body will tense up. This can cause your eyes to snap to where your face is pointing. By turning your head partially through the turn, you could end up on the side of the road or worse, going into oncoming traffic.

In life there is no such thing as “too smooth”.

Accelerating or decelerating, using the clutch, up shifting or down shifting requires smoothness.

Even if you have mastered this movement, adding a passenger changes things. A passenger completely changes the way the bike handles. And if you find yourself bumping helmets with your passenger…it is your fault as the rider. Your passenger doesn’t know when you are about to upshift or downshift, apply the brakes or accelerate. Smooth is the key here to prevent helmets from bumping.

Rule of Lug nuts/Tonnage – whichever vehicle has the most of either, has the ultimate right of way.

It is always frustrating when a driver violates our right of way or if you’re in a group and a driver squeezes in. Some drivers will get road rage and wave the finger. It is really about driving defensively. They are bigger and on a motorcycle, you won’t win that argument.

Pay attention to what they are doing and evade their cluelessness. You can catch up when it is safe to pass.

Ride predictably.

Most motorists expect drivers to act predictably. Most drivers are not riders and most are not interested in riding. They know cars and driving them, so ride in a predictable manner. Don’t hide in traffic, you will be less likely to surprise drivers around you.

Recognize fatigue/impairment.

When you are riding for a while there are many ways you can become impaired: Fatigue from time and distance, being distracted, anger or stress, temperature extremes, high traffic volumes, being sick, etc. Listen to your body and recognize fatigue or impairment. When your actions are no longer smooth and you are surprised by things and traffic, it is a clue that you are impaired. Take a break and regroup before continuing. Most people ride because it is enjoyable and when the wind hits you, you can leave your troubles behind.

By practicing safe riding it becomes a habit and that is a habit all riders need. Gear up and prepare for the unexpected. If the unexpected happens to you, you’ll be glad you were prepared.

If you are interested in a riding course, the University of Montevallo offers a Motorcycle Safety Foundation training course at sites throughout Alabama. They have a wide array of classes that includes: Basic Rider Course; Basic Bike Bonding Rider Course; Basic Rider Course 2; Advanced Rider Course; Ultimate Bike Bonding Rider Course; Rider Coach Preparation Course.

For more information, contact the Alabama Traffic Safety Center, University of Montevallo, 985 Shelby Street, Montevallo, AL 35115. (205) 665-6740 or visit