Don’t Outrun Your Headlights

And Other Pennsylvania Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Advice for Safe Nighttime Riding

motorcycle-attorney-night-ridingThis won’t come as real news to long-time riders out there, but night riding is one of the most consistently pleasant, and relaxing experiences you can have on your motorcycle. It is more quiet and private than riding during the day because there simply isn’t as much traffic to be aware of, and if you are taking a ride in the country, it’s a great opportunity to experience a bit of nature.

However; my Pennsylvania motorcycle accident lawyer brain has just kicked to remind me that night riders (wordplay!) need to take some extra precautions when they hit the road. Along with the joy and freedom of riding at night, there are some additional dangers to be aware of as well. The good news is with a little forethought, you can nip most of these right in the bud!

Illuminating Tips for Safer Night Riding

Before the Ride – Wear bright clothing. Your black leather jacket looks cool and all, but for a safe night ride, you need something reflective. Consider adding fluorescent highlights or reflective tape to the back of your jacket. Put some reflective tape or decals on the back of your helmet as well.  

Your lighting rig is very important. Riders have all heard the old adage “don’t outrun your headlights.” If you can’t come to a safe stop within the range of your headlights, you’re asking for trouble. The good news is, there are a number of fairly simple steps you can take to improve your bike’s lighting situation. Make sure your brake lights are appropriately sized (many manufacturers go too small with the brake lights for style). If they seem too small and dim, aftermarket lamps are plentiful and inexpensive. Brighter LED replacement bulbs are also available.

Next check the angle of your headlight. Raise the beam of the light to the maximum angle allowed by your state. In Pennsylvania, a motorcycle headlamp must be within 4 inches of straight ahead in any direction at 10 feet of distance. Aim your headlight at your garage door or wall from 10 feet away on level ground. Measure from the ground to the exact center of your headlight. Then adjust the beam projected on the wall by measuring to the center of the projection. Motorcycle or vehicle inspection stations can assist you with this check as well. Additional lighting regulations are available in the Pennsylvania Code. Your state likely has a similar resource available.

You may also want to consider replacing your factory headlight with dual running lights for additional noticeability at night.

During the Ride – Keep your speed under control. Remember the rule we just went over: don’t outrun your headlights. Don’t weave between vehicles at stoplights or on the highway. Don’t get cocky or try to show off. These are good rules to keep in mind for riding regardless of the time of day, but assume that if something is dangerous during a daytime ride it’s even more hazardous at night.

Be especially wary of other traffic. They may have an even more difficult time seeing you than they would during the day. Oncoming vehicles will forget to dim their lights. Keep your distance from surrounding cars and trucks, and follow the white lines to see where the road is.

Also keep in mind that drunk drivers tend to come out at night, so ride extra defensively. I have seen far too much tragedy in my career as a motorcycle lawyer for pain and suffering, thanks to DUI accidents. Stay off the roads if you can around closing time, and keep away from the roads where the bars and clubs are located. If you find yourself trailing a suspected drunk driver (weaving, etc), stay well behind them. If they are behind you, pull off the road and let them pass.

Animals, Like Freaks, Come Out at Night – Even a small animal can cause a big problem at night, especially outside of town. Last minute reactions to try to avoid animals crossing the road can lead to a devastating accident, even if you miss the critter. And hitting a deer or other large beastie is often fatal to both the rider and the animal.

Be Prepared – Make sure to have a small tool kit with you for any small repairs you may need to make to the bike. Your kit should include such key items as a key-ring flashlight or camping style headlamp, a spare bulb or two, and some fuses. Make sure someone knows that you’re riding and has a general idea of where you’re headed, and how long you’ll be out.

Finally, nighttime riding is not purely for enjoyment.

As peaceful and rewarding as a nighttime ride can be, many riders are actually commuting to work before dawn, after sunset, or both. And many others may finish a day of riding after the sun goes down. My point is that these safety tips are also for riders who are out after dark out of necessity.

Do you have any other questions about the joys and pitfalls of becoming a night rider? Pennsylvania motorcycle accident lawyer Lee Gaber, Esquire is at your service! Call 1-888-292-5352, especially if you’ve been involved in an accident. Your Pennsylvania or New Jersey consultation is absolutely free of charge.

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