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Motorcycling is a fun, exciting way to travel and experience the beauty of Virginia; however, riding a motorcycle is serious business and requires extra concentration and additional training. Virginia's motorcycle requirements are designed to ensure the safety of motorcyclists as well as others traveling on the road.
If you operate a motorcycle in Virginia, you must hold a valid Class M designation or a motorcycle driver's license.
Wear the Proper Riding Gear
Despite the best prevention efforts, motorcycle crashes do occur. In a crash, the most important factor for reducing injury to a motorcyclist is personal protection. The proper riding gear—a helmet, eye protection, leather jackets and trousers, durable gloves, and proper footwear—can provide this personal protection.
A helmet is the most important safety equipment a motorcyclist wears. Helmets are about 29 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. An un-helmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than is a helmeted rider.
In Virginia, motorcyclists and their passengers must wear an approved motorcycle helmet that meets or exceeds the standards and specifications of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, Inc., or the federal Department of Transportation.
Since many motorcycles don't have windshields, riders must protect their eyes against insects, dirt, rocks, or other airborne matter. Even the wind can cause the eyes to tear and blur vision, and good vision is imperative when riding. Motorcycle operators should choose good quality goggles, glasses with plastic or safety lenses, or a helmet equipped with a face shield. Goggles, glasses, and face shields should be scratch free, shatterproof, and well-ventilated to prevent fog buildup. Only clear shields should be used at night since tinted shields reduce contrasts and make it more difficult to see. Even if the motorcycle has a windshield, eye protection is recommended.
Jackets and Trousers
Clothing worn when riding a motorcycle should provide some measure of protection from abrasion in the event of a crash. The clothing should be of durable material (for example, special synthetic material or leather). Jackets should have long sleeves. Trousers (not shorts) should not be baggy or flared at the bottom to prevent entanglement with the chain, kick starter, foot-pegs, or other protrusions on the sides of a motorcycle.
Note: Upper body clothing should be brightly colored. Some motorcyclists wear lightweight reflective orange or yellow vests over their jackets. Use of retro-reflective material on clothing, the helmet, and the motorcycle helps make the motorcyclist visible to other motorists, especially at night. Many vehicle/motorcycle crashes occur because the driver of the other vehicle failed to see the motorcyclist in time to avoid the crash.
Durable, non-slip gloves are recommended to permit a firm grip on the controls. Leather gloves are excellent, as are special fabric gloves with leather palms and grip strips on the fingers. Gauntlet-type gloves keep air out of a motorcyclist's sleeves.
Proper footwear affords protection for the feet, ankles, and lower parts of the legs. Leather boots are best. Durable athletic shoes that cover the ankles are a good second choice. Sandals, sneakers, and similar footwear should not be used since they provide little protection from abrasions or a crushing impact. Motorcyclists should avoid dangling laces that can get in their way.
General Safety Information
Motorcycle crashes contribute significantly to the large number of injuries and fatalities on the roadways. Within the city of Chesapeake in 2007, there were 22 traffic fatalities. Of that number, six or 27% were operating motorcycles. Within the country in recent years,
- Alcohol involvement in fatal crashes among motorcycle operators as a long term trend has shown a slow but steady improvement. However still over 1/3 of operators were alcohol - positive in fatal crashes with a BAC greater than 0.08
- Among all motorcycle operator groups, 40 - 49 year old age group had the highest percentage of alcohol involvement.
- Alcohol involvement among motorcycle operators in single vehicle crashes was almost twice the involvement than multiple vehicle crashes.
- Motorcycle operators riding on 1,001 - 1,500 cc engines had the highest alcohol involvement in fatal crashes.
- Three fourth of operators involved in fatal crashes between midnight and 0300 were alcohol - positive.
- Motorcycle operators not wearing a helmet or who were improperly licensed or speeding at the time of a fatal crash were more likely to be alcohol - positive than other operators.