Motorcycles do not have the protections afforded to the automobiles - which are equipped with roofs, doors and airbags - that share the highways with them. However, the joy of riding doesn't have to mean sacrificing one's personal safety. There are several different types of safety gear that should be worn, and in many states, are required to be worn.
Not only is wearing a helmet while riding the law in the Commonwealth – it’s a good idea. Riding without a helmet may increases one's chances of being severely or even fatally hurt if struck by another motorist or if your motorcycle malfunctions resulting in an accident.
“Helmeted motorcyclists were less likely to experience facial and head injuries compared to unhelmeted motorcyclists. Helmeted motorcyclists were significantly less likely to experience a traumatic brain injury…. [M]otorcyclists with TBI were much less likely to be discharged home and more likely to require rehabilitation or to be discharged to a long-term care facility following their hospitalization.” - National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration Report DOT HS 811 208 October 2009
Shopping for helmets can be overwhelming given the number of styles and the wide range of prices; so, although we know you want to ride in style, it’s very important that the helmet fits snug on your head and is comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time.
Per §46.2-910B of Virginia Code, helmets sold to Virginia drivers must meet or exceed the standards set forth by Snell Memorial Foundation*, American National Standards Institute, Inc. or Virginia's Department of Transportation (DMV).
You will also need to decide if you want a face shield or if you will want to wear goggles.
Motorcycle Face shield, G0ggles or Glasses:
In Virginia, goggles or glasses are only required if your helmet is not equipped with a face shield or your motorcycle is not equipped with a windshield. Bugs, dirt, dust, road debris and other airborne matter are only some of the things that can make their way into a motorcyclist’s eyes and cause severe eye damage when riding.
Goggles, safety glasses and face shields should be scratch free, shatterproof and well ventilated to prevent fog buildup. Another helpful feature to invest in are either tinted visors or glasses that are more effective than sunglasses at blocking the sun. Do not risk your eyesight. If a helmet doesn’t already come with a full cover face sheild, buy and wear full coverage, impact resistant eye protection whenever you ride.
Motorcycle Jackets, Pants, Gloves and Boots:
As all bike enthusiast know road rash, deep lacerations, broken or fractured bones, loss of limbs, and permanent scarring and disfigurement can occur if not properly outfitted. The general rule of thumb, in regard to road friction, is that you’ll lose 1mm of flesh for every 1mph you’re going over 30mph when you hit it. Now, consider that formula at 55mph and think about how much flesh will rip off. Any faster and the friction against the road will cause you’re body to wear down to its bones, which will likely cause a fatal bone infection. Leaving your skin exposed can lead to road rash or open wounds inviting in infection.
Humans instinctively reach out to catch our falls by throwing our hands in front of our bodies. Hands are extremely fragile and fleshy. A durable, non-slip pair of gloves will protect your hands from abrasion upon impact. They will also assist with holding onto the handlebars of the motorcycle during your ride.
Heavier materials and/or strong leather will provide much protection all times of incidents. Textile motorcycle jackets and leather motorcycle jackets can help protect you from such abrasions and road rash. Jackets that are waterproof and have extra padding called (body armor) around joints, chests and backs offer even more protecton.
When it comes to pants they should not be baggy or flared at the bottom, this is to prevent entanglement with equipment of the motorcycle. Pants that are made from thicker materials, such as special synthetic material or leather, add more protection than what is offered by regular jeans.
Just like your hands, your feet are fragile and need protection. Proper footwear involves thicker materials – such as leather – and closed toe and heal shoe or boot that covers the ankles. Sandals or sneakers will not protect you from crushing impacts or abrasions.
Another imperative when riding is to be visible to others on the road, so wear clothing that will make you visible. Whether its bright colors or reflective strips embedded in your gear, other motorists need to be able to see you on the road. This is the time that you do want to draw attention to yourself so that you are visible to everyone on the road.
* Quick note the Snell Memorial Foundation (http://www.smf.org/) is not a government agency but a non-profit organization that works on research, education, testing and development of helmet safety standards.
1) National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration Report DOT HS 811 208 October 2009
2) Virginia DMV website http://www.dmv.state.va.us/safety/#programs/motorcycle/index.asp