10 police motorcycle tips for on and off-duty safety

Whether you're a motor cop or you ride for fun off-duty, you need to stay extra vigilant on two wheels


Article updated on September 22, 2017.

By PoliceOne Staff

Lately we’ve had several news stories about police officers involved in motorcycle accidents – both off-duty and on. While fun, motorcycles do not offer the same amount of safety that cars do. With that, we wanted to offer some motorcycle safety tips to help you be better drivers and get home to your families after a long shift.

Just like anything else, motorcycle riding takes practice. To stay safe, always ride within your skill level. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Just like anything else, motorcycle riding takes practice. To stay safe, always ride within your skill level. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

1. Take a motorcycle safety course

Though it’s not required in all states, you can never learn too much about safety. These classes will teach you about traffic safety laws that apply to motorcycles in your state, how to respond to emergency situations on a motorcycle, and give you a chance to try out your new skills in a controlled environment.

Learn more about safety courses and where you can find one here.

2. Get the right gear

You don’t just want to look good on your bike, you also need to wear the right kind of gear to protect yourself in the case of an accident. There’s a reason most bikers wear leather: it’s strong enough to protect their skin if they slide along the surface of the road. Riders are also exposed to other hazards like rocks, bugs and cigarette butts. At 60 miles per hour, even a small rock can sting. Leather gear can protect you.

If you’d still like options aside from leather, many companies specialize in armored motorcycle gear, such as vented motorcycle jackets.

3. Protect your feet

No high heels or sandals here, folks; just like needing the right kind of gear, your feet need protection too. To shift gears on a bike, you lift up with your toes, plus you’re sitting on the engine and exhaust system while you ride, which means things heat up fast. It’s easy to get burned. You want sturdy shoes, something with a rugged sole. Shoes with smooth soles make it easier to slip. Motorcycle shoes should also have sturdy ankle supports and a low heel, all while being made of a durable material like, you guessed it, leather.

4. Ride within your skills

Just like anything else, motorcycle riding takes practice. To stay safe, always ride within your skill level. Don’t go super-fast, weave in and out of traffic, or attempt that very curvy road until you’ve been able to develop your skills. Of course, you can challenge yourself, but do it in a safe, controlled way. Take an advanced course to practice, or look into a racing school that will help you polish your skills.

5. Avoid distraction

This may seem like a ‘duh’ safety tip, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Just as you have to stay hyper aware on patrol, you need to remain vigilant while you’re riding your bike. Motorcyclists are harder for other drivers to see, especially those in large SUVs. You can’t afford to look at your phone or mp3 player while you’re driving your bike.

Don’t wear headphones, and put your phone where you can’t get to it. The less chance of distractions means a better chance of you getting home safely.

Also, don’t take your hands off your handlebars. This lessens your control of the bike even more than if you were taking your hands off the steering wheel of a car. Not only can you not control the bike, you also can’t accelerate or brake without your hands on your handlebars.

6. Leave enough space

This too goes back to being aware of your surroundings as an officer – always make sure you’ve got enough space to maneuver around cars. You may think you don’t need much when you’re on a bike, but you’ll need more than you think. Most bikes don’t have anti-lock brakes, leaving you at risk of locking your brakes in an emergency and losing control.

Just as though you were dealing with inmates, make sure that you leave enough space between yourself and any vehicles around you – along with an escape route, should you need it.

7. Watch the weather

Riding a bike in the rain is much riskier than driving a car due to the fact that two wheels offers much less traction than four. Plus, your visibility is compromised unless you’ve got some fancy helmet with windshield wipers.

Always keep The Weather Channel or a weather app on your phone to ensure you have the time you’ll need to make it to work and back on your bike. If heavy rain, snow or ice is predicted, leave the bike at home.

If you get caught in rainy weather, make sure you give the rain time to clear the roads for you. Go slowly, leave plenty of space for stopping, and if the weather gets worse, stop and wait it out.

8. Educate your passengers

If you bring someone along for the ride, make sure they’re aware of the same rules you are. They need to have the right gear on, and you should practice having a passenger on your bike before you actually try it for the first time. It will get you used to the extra weight and how they too will need to move with you through various maneuvers. Make sure your passenger knows not to distract you, and what things like stopping and turning on a bike feel like so they won’t panic.

If you’re carrying a child, check the laws of your state. In many states, you have to be over a certain age to ride on a motorcycle.

9. Look twice

This tip is more for drivers than bikers, but it’s worth mentioning. Motorcycles are small and fast, so always check twice before switching lanes or making that turn. You could save someone’s life.

Listen for bikers – some bikes have loud exhaust systems specifically to draw drivers’ attention. Always check your blind spots, and before pulling into traffic, look for motorcycles.

For bikers, never assume a car sees you. Ride defensively and take responsibility for your own safety around vehicles.

10. Wear a helmet

This is another ‘duh’ tip but also the most important. Always wear a helmet. Let’s say that one more time, out loud. Always wear a helmet. It’s the safest thing you can do when you get on a motorcycle.

But not just any helmet will work – make sure that you get a Department of Transportation-approved helmet, which has been tested and provide a minimum standard of protection.

It should fit properly, shouldn’t obstruct your vision, and should cover most of your head. For more protection, opt for a full-face helmet. A full-face helmet will have a piece that goes around your chin, ensuring that your face doesn’t make contact with the road.

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