Many Massachusetts motorcyclists are now planning road trips to enjoy the beautiful Fall foliage. If you are among these riders, we offer some safety reminders and hope you enjoy a fun and safe motorcycle ride, one filled with rich Fall color.
The first step is to consider your travel route. You may be thinking about taking a ride to Plymouth, Cape Cod or the North Shore because you enjoy driving to these destinations or friends have shared positive reviews. But really consider your route, the distance and weather forecast when you take your motorcycle.
Most of all, be realistic about your motorcycle riding experience. Many motorcyclists travel out to Western Massachusetts to explore the Mohawk Trail, Shelburne Falls or Mount Greylock. While there are majestic views, motorcyclists – and other drivers – may be surprised to find such narrow roads and sharp curves on their first visit. Learning a little more about road conditions may help you ride safer.
Planning a Safe Motorcycle Ride This Fall Foliage Season
Prepare yourself by learning a little more
Take a test run to your destination by car. Ask another motorcyclist about their experience. Or attend a motorcycle safety class to sharpen your skills.
Safety check for your motorcycle equipment
Have an experienced mechanic check that your motorcycle is ready for a road trip.
First, do your own initial inspection. Take out your motorcycle manual. Check your horn, brakes, mirrors and right and left turn signals. Check the handlebars, light switches and the clutch and throttle.
Next, clean your mirrors and adjust them. Check your tire pressure, general wear and tread. As a final step before you visit the mechanic, ask a friend or family member to watch as you ride around the block. They may observe a broken light or something you missed.
Check your auto insurance policy
Review your auto insurance policy before you take your motorcycle trip. Many motorcyclists – and other drivers – only purchase the minimum auto insurance coverages required under Massachusetts law. This may not be enough in the event of an accident.
Consider buying more optional coverages before your trip, starting with Medical Payments coverage. You may be able to purchase an extra $10,000 or $20,000 in Medical Payments coverage for a small investment, without taking up much time. This is really important for motorcyclists who, unlike other drivers, do not have access to PIP benefits (personal injury protection benefits) through their Massachusetts auto insurance policy.
We hope you take a few minutes to review your full auto insurance policy and purchase as much of the coverages as you can afford – to protect yourself and your passengers in the event of a motorcycle crash.
Gather your travel essentials
Gather all your travel essentials in one place, including your motorcycle license. Set up mobile app access for your auto club membership before you travel. Make sure your EZ Pass properly mounts if you plan to take one and pack an appropriate-sized bag.
Wear a Motorcycle Helmet and Proper Gear
Wear a motorcycle helmet
Massachusetts has a universal helmet law, which requires motorcyclists of all ages to ride wearing helmets which meet DOT safety standards. If you need a new helmet, now is the time to buy one before your road trip.
Motorcycle helmets are a critical tool. According to SafeRoads.org, wearing a motorcycle helmet can reduce the risk of a head injury by 69 percent and the risk of death by 42 percent.
For all the benefits, if you travel beyond Massachusetts this Fall, you may see motorcyclists traveling without the protection of a motorcycle helmet. We say may. Many motorcyclists are committed to wearing helmets for safety in case of a motorcycle accident, regardless of the state law.
Motorcycle helmet laws across New England:
- New Hampshire has no motorcycle helmet law.
- Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine all require helmets for motorcyclists under age 21 or those who have been licensed less than a year.
- Massachusetts and Vermont have universal motorcycle helmet laws for all ages, along with 17 other states.
Follow Massachusetts Traffic Laws and Stay Visible
Use your motorcycle signal and make sure it cancels
Use your signal when you turn, change lanes or merge with traffic. Once you turn, check that your signal has canceled. When your signal keeps blinking, drivers have no warning about your next move. It also pays to practice your hand signals before you travel.
Ride in the middle of the lane
As a motorcyclist, try to travel in the center of the traffic lane. This helps you stay visible and gives you more space. This also puts distance between you and bicycles. The state of Massachusetts has worked with many communities to expand bike lanes over the past few years. More and more cyclists are out using these lanes, which may change a motorcyclist’s experience on the road.
Motorcycle safety at intersections
Drivers should follow motorcyclists at a safe speed and give riders plenty of space to avoid causing motorcycle accidents in intersections. Still, expect drivers may come to close. As a motorcyclist, watch the traffic behind you in your rearview mirrors as you approach an intersection. Be predictable and use your signal if you plan to turn.
Use your headlight
Massachusetts motorcyclists and other drivers are required to use their headlights 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. Motorcyclists can also use their white front headlight to stay visible during daylight hours, except where prohibited by traffic signs. Ask another motorcyclist about their experience on past foliage rides. Cape Cod roads may be much different than the North Shore or Western Massachusetts in the Fall.
Avoid Fatigue, Exhaustion and Distracted Driving
Plan your motorcycle trip and regular breaks
Plan your motorcycle route so you can stop every two hours or 100 miles at a minimum.
Watch for fatigue and exhaustion
Riding a motorcycle is physically demanding and requires a high level of mental focus. Take as many breaks as you need to stay alert and rested. Avoid digital distractions, such as your cell phone, social media and email. You may take many beautiful photos on your trip. For safety, wait until you park for the day to share them and avoid causing a distracted driving accident.
Riding Alone, With a Passenger or in a Group
Are you ready to ride with a passenger?
Consider your skills and experience as a motorcyclist before you invite a passenger onboard for a Fall foliage trip. A few questions: Have you taken this road trip alone? And how much experience do you have riding with your passenger before you take the trip together? Is your motorcycle seat big enough to hold a passenger? Does your passenger have a motorcycle helmet that meets safety standards and is in good condition?
Motorcycle passengers have no special training, just your direction and experience. Start by showing them how to safely step on and off your motorcycle – and follow up with practice. Passengers should also be comfortable riding and leaning at different speeds on highways, curvy roads and through downtowns.
Riding with a group of motorcyclists
Before you ride with a group, how about signing up for a motorcycle safety class? This is a perfect time to brush up on your skills.
If you are leading a group, encourage all the motorcyclists to review Google Maps or another map app before you leave. Checking out street view can offer important insights about traffic conditions at intersections and highway exits.
The Massachusetts Motorcycle Manual encourages riders to limit groups to 5 or 6 motorcyclists at the most and offers more guidance, from how to position the riders and use a stagger formation. This creates more room for the group of motorcyclists.
When You Have Been Injured or Your Motorcycle Has Been Damaged
Before you leave, make yourself a promise to monitor yourself and recognize signs when you should stop driving. You should always stop and seek medical attention if you have been injured in a motorcycle accident or lose your balance and fall. Report the motorcycle crash to local police, before you move on. Likewise, you should always call your automobile club or mechanic if your motorcycle has been damaged or has a broken part. Be safe!
Reach Out to Breakstone, White & Gluck – Free Legal Consultation
Breakstone, White & Gluck hopes you enjoy the foliage season here in Massachusetts. Travel safely and stay alert on your motorcycle. We hope you are never injured, but if you or a loved one are, please feel free to reach out to our lawyers for a free legal consultation. Breakstone, White & Gluck represents those injured in motorcycle accidents, car accidents and other personal injury claims. We are also happy to answer questions about our article on auto insurance for motorcyclists.