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Crashing 101: What happens When you Go Down?

Riding is thrilling, but you've also got to be aware of the cold, hard truth: it can turn just as dangerous. With all the freedom bikes give riders, they require an equal amount of alertness and responsibility to remain safe and secure.

We've all had our fair share of crashes. I doubt you'll be able to find one rider who can say they've never been crashed. Some even say that a crash is inevitable.

So prepare yourself for what could happen. What should you do when you go down? Is there a proper way to handle it to ensure survival or prevent serious injury? 

Common Causes and Types of Crashes

Unfortunately as the rider, not only do you have to mind your own riding, you have to watch out for other vehicles and assume that they don't see you. It's always your responsibility to be aware of traffic around you, to make yourself more visible, or to put yourself out of harm's way.

It's easy to say just don't ride like an idiot, but the truth is that most of the accidents are caused by others. Even the most cautious among us get unlucky at times. 75% of accident involve cars, with the most common causing being from cars that:

- Suddenly turn left
- Change lanes without warning
Rear-end bikers

The other 25% of accidents, though, are totally your fault and are entirely avoidable. The most common causes are:

- Taking corners/turns too fast
- Braking suddenly during high speeds
- Riding on worn down (or poor quality) tires

But in all seriousness, taking the proper riding precautions and not riding past your limit will cut down the risk of wrecks.

So, if you do find yourself about to go down, what do you do?

What to Do During the Crash

The first thing is to not panic. We know it's easier said than done. 

Especially at high speeds and on busy roads, it's important to maintain clear-headedness so you can assess the situation as quickly as you can and make a judgment call on the best course of action. You likely won't have much time to react, and bailing in the wrong direction could be deadly.

Do you lay the bike down?

One of your first instincts may be to lay the bike down, but no matter what, try to avoid doing so. The bike's weight + yours + inertia could lead to very bad results.

Think about it, if you're going 60 mph, what would happen when you and your huge metal machine is hurtling down the road at such a high speed? Serious. Disaster.

You will have absolutely no control in where you're sliding. You could go into oncoming traffic or go headfirst into an object. Your bike also becomes a threat as there's no way of controlling where it goes either.

What's the best thing to do?

Instead, the correct thing to do is to keep the bike upright for as long as possible, and slow down with your brakes. But don't over-apply the front brake or you're in danger of locking the front tire and flying over the handlebars. Not good either at 45 mph.

Try to steer your bike into the direction that will cause the least amount of damage to you (i.e. not towards oncoming traffic or a drop off). If you can't completely stop the bike, it's at least better to go into the crash at a lower speed.

What if I must slide?

Sometimes the only option is to lay the bike down and slide. In this case, we know it sounds impossible to do - but relax. Don't curl into a ball or try to force yourself to stop or into a different direction. At high speeds, that's very dangerous. There's nothing you can do about it until you stop naturally.

What to Do After the Crash

If you slid into a stop or you got thrown, the first thing is to remain calm and don't attempt to get up until you're sure that you can. Once you know you're okay to get up, move yourself out of harm's way as soon as possible. This means getting away from oncoming traffic, drop-offs, or leaking fuel.

Accident scene management

Assess the damages and check that everyone is okay. Since most accidents involve cars, you're most likely the one with the most injuries. If emergency services are needed, it will most likely be for YOU! It's probably in your best interest to get medical attention anyway because you may have internal injuries that you can't see.

Make sure you take photos of damages to your bike and other vehicles. As soon as you can safely get up, take pictures of the accident scene as it happened (before you and the other vehicle move). Also get pictures of the surrounding areas and any relevant road signs.

Exchange insurance information

Exchange insurance and contact info with the other people involved. Not all States will require that you call the local authorities if everyone is able to walk away from the accident. But it will probably be in your best interest to give the local authorities a ring. Either way, it'll be a great way to have an official record of the accident.

Contact your insurance company

As soon as you're able to, let your insurance company know about the accident. Pass along the contact information of the other people involved. They will also need to know about the damages to you and your bike. You want to make sure you're correctly compensated, so have your bike examined by a mechanic and you by a medical professional in order to get the most accurate assessment.  

Do I need a lawyer as well?

In many cases, a specialized motorcycle accident lawyer could be invaluable, especially if you are looking to seek compensation for your damages. A lawyer could help you if the other party is trying to wrongly impart blame onto you. 

Gear is the best insurance you have

Apart from how you handle yourself and the bike going into the crash, gear is extremely important in determining your survival or injury rate. A helmet could be the difference between walking away and permanent brain injury. The right riding jacket is the difference between skin on the pavement and minor scrapes.

You should be wearing at the very least:

- a helmet: DOT or SNELL certified
- leather or thick textile riding jacket with a back protector
- riding gloves with palm sliders, which will take the impact of your hand hitting the ground
- sturdy boots
- We also recommend proper riding pants, as your normal jeans will disintegrate quickly in a slide

It's better to be safe than sorry, so don't skimp on the gear. If you can't afford proper high-quality gear, then you shouldn't be riding. So dress for the worst case scenario and be prepared.

Final tips

- Since anything can happen while riding, it's a good idea to be prepared and carry a few personal details, such as emergency contact information, your blood type, and any allergies

- Inform loved ones where you'll be heading, especially if you're planning on an off-road jaunt solo. If something happens and you're incapacitated, you'll get help sooner than if you'd said nothing.

- Remember, the damages (both physical and psychological) incurred by a crash is not worth the extra speed or tricks or whatever you're trying to do. A lot of accidents - even the ones not your fault - can be prevented if you just looked further ahead more or slowed down when needed. So always be vigilant and never ride beyond your ability. Remember that as a rider, you need to do the work for both you and other drivers.

Have you been in a crash before? How did you handle it and what saved you?

By Daniel Relich

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