Open Road or Open Water? Think Safety First

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Let’s start with the Open Road…

Do you love sitting on a rumbling mass of polished chrome, an endless ribbon of highway urging you on? Have you finally dusted off your ride and taken in warmer days? There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of having the sun on your shoulders and the wind in your face.

Not to ruin the fun of the above imagery, but when you do take it to the road, please be sure you’re first familiar with all the safety aspects. Nothing ruins a good time faster than, well, a bad time. Always think safety first, for your well-being as well as those around you. Let’s take a quick look at some things you can do to help keep safety in the picture at all times:

Training—Over 90% of riders involved in accidents had no formal training. All riders should have a grasp on good, basic riding techniques. Click here for a listing of safety courses in your area.

Gear—There’s not much between you and the open road when on your favorite bike, that’s why it’s important to invest in good riding gear. And your gear should always start with a high-quality DOT-approved helmet. Let’s take a look at some helmet facts:

  • Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes.*
  • Helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal motorcycle injuries.**
  • For motorcyclists involved in accidents, riders not wearing helmets spend longer periods of time in the hospital.
  • Wearing a helmet that fits well actually improves hearing by streamlining the head/ear area and reducing noise.

Yes, we’re aware not all states require the use of helmets. We simply ask that you use common sense and pay heed to the facts, and the facts are, helmets decrease the severity of injuries, decrease the likelihood of death and decrease the overall cost of medical care. O.K., did we make our point about helmets? Let’s move on. Here’s some other gear to consider:

  • If your helmet doesn’t have a face shield, pair it with goggles/glasses with safety lenses.
  • Invest in a good leather jacket (and pants). This will protect you not only from nasty abrasions, but also from the exposed hot parts of the bike. And we know black is the color, but remember, you’re easier to see if you’re wearing something bright.
  • Wear non-slip gloves with full fingers.
  • Be sure to have boots that cover your ankles.

In addition to all of the above, make sure your bike is in proper working condition. And when on the road, YOU must be sure others are aware of you. Don’t assume other drivers see you.

  • Wear bright clothing and use reflective material.
  • Be watchful for vehicles moving in your direction.
  • Stay out of blind spots.
  • Don’t tailgate.
  • Don’t speed.
  • Be considerate on the road, signal intentions and don’t weave.
  • Use both brakes, slow and steady.

Now onto the Open Water…

Unless you’re a hardcore fisherman who doesn’t mind breaking ice at times to feed his passion, your boat has probably been in dry dock for the winter months. But now that the dogwoods have bloomed, you’re likely thinking about dipping your hull in the nearest body of water for a little boating activity. Whether that activity is sight-seeing, fishing, skiing or some other fun on the water, your first concern should always be safety; the safety of you, the safety of any passengers, and the safety of those who share the water with you. So, let’s take a look at some boat safety:

Boating education—Whether you’re a new boater or a veteran, it’s important to be educated, aware and prepared for every circumstance you may encounter while on the water. In the state of Missouri, if you were born after January 1, 1984, you must successfully complete a boating safety education course to legally operate any vessel on the lakes of Missouri. Click here for additional information about state requirements and online testing.

Watch the weather––Before taking to the water, check your local weather reports. Once on the water, pay attention to any gathering storms. Weather radios/stations are also available to keep you apprised of the weather situation. You don’t want to be caught on the open water in severe weather.

Co-Captain––Assign a secondary skipper, someone who knows how to operate the boat (throttle, stop, signal an emergency) in case the primary operator is injured or incapacitated. Someone will need to get all occupants back to shore safely.

Learn to swim––This may sound like the obvious, but the difference between knowing how to swim and not is life or death. Which leads us to…

Life jackets—Every person on board (whether he/she can swim or not) should wear a properly fitting life jacket that’s rated for the correct size of the wearer. Many drowning victims are found to not be wearing lifejackets. But you can swim, you say? What’s happens if you’re injured or knocked unconscious? Please, always wear a life jacket.

Boat condition—Always give your vessel a good check before heading out. Is it in safe condition, free from fire and safety hazards? Also, make sure you have all the required boat safety equipment you need.

And whether on the road or on the water, above all, please don’t drink and ride! Just as you can get a DWI on the road, you can also get a BWI (Boating While Intoxicated). Yes, it’s a real offense with real consequences. In the state of Missouri, the blood alcohol concentration for BWI is the same as for DWI, 0.08%. If you’re caught Boating While Intoxicated in Missouri, you’ll be penalized:

First convictionClass B misdemeanor (carrying up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine).

Second conviction—Class A misdemeanor (carrying up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine).

Third and subsequent convictions—Class D felony (carrying up to four years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine).

Whether enjoying the road or the water, it’s a great opportunity to relax and have some fun. But it’s also a huge responsibility. Please, always play it safe. Think safety first, last and foremost.

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*U.S. Department of Transportation/National Traffic Safety Administration
**NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2006
***Credit Union Insurance Agency, LLC, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vantage Credit Union.