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Motorcycle Safety: Frequently Asked Questions


Motorcycle Safety - Frequently Asked Questions. South Dakota Rides - South Dakota Office of Highway SafetyWhat are South Dakota’s motorcycle laws?

Laws differ by state; please review South Dakota motorcycle laws here.

What safety gear should I use?

All riders should have a DOT-approved motorcycle helmet, eye protection, over the ankle boots with rubber soles and full-fingered leather gloves. In addition, wear clothing with long sleeves and long pant legs to keep you warm and protect you in an accident. Find more ways to ride safe with these Rider Safety Tips.

Does South Dakota have a helmet law?

Riders under 18 years of age are required to wear a helmet approved by U.S. Department of Transportation. A helmet law does not apply to riders over 18.

Are motorcycle helmets really effective?

In 2009, 4,462 motorcyclists died; an additional 90,000 motorcyclists were injured. Forty-three percent of fatally injured riders and 57% of fatally injured motorcycle passengers were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. It’s estimated that helmets saved the lives of 1,483 motorcyclists in 2009. If all motorcyclists had work helmets, an additional 732 lives could have been saved. 

Do helmets interfere with a rider’s vision and hearing?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studied the effects of a helmet on a rider’s vision in adjacent lanes and the ability to detect traffic sounds at highway speeds. Overall, helmet use didn’t restrict the ability to hear signals or see traffic. Any negative interference of rider vision is minor, especially in comparison to the protection offered in a crash.

How can I ride defensively?

Motorcycles can be hard to see, so it’s important to drive defensively and protect yourself:
  • Don’t ride in others’ blind spots.
  • Pay extra attention to other vehicles’ brake lights and signals. Give yourself extra stopping room and following distance.
  • Never ride in between lanes or share a lane with another vehicle.
  • Assume that you’re invisible to other drivers, and always position yourself to be seen.

Should motorcyclists change their driving in the rain?

In rain, the safest thing to do is pull over and wait it out. If you need to drive, remember to slow down. Rain may cause oil to accumulate on the road’s surface and create slick conditions. In addition, drive with your lights on and remember to allow more stopping and following distance (at least 4-5 car lengths).

How do I ride with a passenger?

Don’t ride with a passenger until you have some experience; it can be difficult to adjust to differences in balance and weight. If you ride with a passenger, make sure they wear the appropriate safety gear and know that their movements (leaning, tilting, etc.) affect the balance of the bike. When learning to ride with a passenger, go slower and brake earlier.

How do I secure a load to my motorcycle?

Most motorcycles are not really designed to carry much cargo. However, small loads can be carried safely if they are positioned and fastened properly. Keep the load low, fasten loads to the seat or put your things in saddle bags. Placing a load high raises the cycle’s center of gravity and disturbs the balance of the bike. You’ll also want to keep the load a bit forward, over or in front of the rear axle if possible. Mounting loads behind the rear axle can affect how the bike turns and brakes. Make sure to fasten the load with bungee cords. A loose load can catch in the wheel or chain (or blow off!).  And, make sure to stop and check on the load once in a while to make sure it hasn’t worked loose or moved.

What should you do in a motorcycle skid?

Since most of a motorcycle’s weight is on the front wheel, the rear wheel can lock up and skid easily. To control it, keep your eyes up and look where you want to go – not where your bike may actually be going. It’s important to practice braking to make it an instinctive reaction; inexperience and panic can cause riders to brake suddenly or skid.

How often should I inspect my motorcycle?

Give your bike a brief inspection before every ride, checking for low/flat tires, leaks, etc. It’s also important to inspect your battery, oil, fuel filter, shaft drive, belts, chain and sprocket on a regular basis. Read more about keeping your motorcycle in top condition with this T-CLOCS Safety Inspection List.