According to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, about 15% of lethal roadway accidents involve motorcycle riders trying to avoid crashes. When riders are faced with imminent danger or realize that an accident is inevitable, they tend to lay down their bikes to lessen the effects of the accident.
Many riders do this because this “safety tip” has been around for decades, believing it works. However, it could result in graver consequences because the rider gives up whatever control they have of the vehicle. That can’t be good, can it?
What Does It Mean to Lay Down a Motorcycle?
Laying down a motorcycle is a practice by riders where they tip their bikes to the side to avoid a collision or bring it to a stop. Many riders believe that it helps mitigate the effects of a crash, but it is not so straightforward because the outcome of that act is usually a gamble. It is best to remain upright to avoid a collision because there is better friction and traction between your tires and the ground than between plastic, metal, chrome, and the ground.
Where Did Riders Get the Lay Down Technique?
Unfortunately, laying a motorcycle down was taught in motorcycle safety courses back in the day. You must be thinking, “if it was taught, it is probably a good move.” Well, it isn’t. When it was taught to riders, motorcycles were in a different stage and lacked many of the features they have now. Motorcyclists were very limited with options when it came to avoiding a crash. Other means of stopping a bike right before an accident were foreign to them.
Also, since it has been taught, riders have used this technique to escape “traumatic injuries.” Since they have seen it work a couple of times, they have taken it as the truth, not realizing everything was strictly only by chance.
What Has Changed?
Now, technology has improved and continues to do so, which has influenced the workings and wirings of motorcycles. Even with technological improvements, it still isn’t all right for riders to be in a horizontal position as they ride their bikes. Instead, riders have now been provided with other methods of stopping their bikes right before crashes.
The proper ways riders can stop their motorcycles before a crash include stepping on both brakes simultaneously or swerving. These are possible because motorcycles have improved brakes covering traditional and anti-lock brakes, better tires, and are now capable of maneuvering.
What Happens If You Lay a Motorcycle Down?
The results of laying down your motorcycle are usually not pleasant. Put more aptly, the results are generally up to chance, as it is a gamble. If you have done it and managed to get away unscathed, it is purely by luck because you did not influence how things played out. It is always better to handle an incoming crash when your motorcycle is upright because only then can you control it.
Laying down your motorcycle in the face of an incoming crash causes its body to drag against the floor and bounce. As a result, you could hit a pole, another vehicle, or any object at all. The effects can have grave consequences on the rider, such as:
- Head injury
- Road rash caused by the friction between the rider’s body and the ground
- Spinal injury
- Broken bones
- Bone infection
- Loss of life
These consequences extend to the motorcycle. The effects are usually cosmetic issues because the weight of the bike, about 600 pounds, will forcefully crash on the material (maybe plastic) used to make the body of the motorcycle. That cannot end well. The cosmetic issues include cracks, bent or broken mirrors and rear lights, and ugly scratches.
Lastly, this may seem unimportant, but laying down your motorcycle will leave a dent in your wallet. When you do that, you could hurt several parts of your bike, including the headlights, chrome engine, and exhaust pipes, and you will need a lot of money to fix these. You may be thinking that money would be the last thing on your mind in the face of a crash. However, know that you can use the time spent laying down your motorcycle to bring it to a stop.
Note: It is never okay to lay your motorcycle down, even if it is not in use. When you do that for an extended period, fluids such as battery acid and gas can spread to places they shouldn’t be in the motorcycle, resulting in an internal issue known as hydraulic lock, which can cause grave damage to your engine.
Better Ways to Avoid a Crash
With about 1.9 seconds before a rider is plunged into a collision, it may be hard to get your body to process the whole thing in time to act. If you can get a grip of yourself, there are better ways to avoid a crash.
Use Your Brakes
To bring your bike to a stop, it’s best to use your front and rear brakes simultaneously. Before stepping on those brakes, make sure to quickly assess your surroundings to know the best place to direct your motorcycle to—away from the object that will cause a collision. To make the stop happen easier and quicker, you should release your weight from the handlebars and direct it to the farther end of the seat. This creates better balance.
Once you find a good spot to direct your bike: step on both brakes simultaneously and keep your feet on them until your motorcycle stops. If the front wheel locks first, you have to release the brake before stepping on the rear brake again, but if it so happens that the rear wheel locks, then there is no need for any pause.
Based on the particular circumstances and environment, if you feel it is better to swerve than to stop, do that by all means. However, one thing you shouldn’t do is try to use your brakes and swerve simultaneously. In that split second, access your environment to ensure you won’t be swerving into something or someone.
Also, one swerve may not be enough, you have to be ready to follow it up with another, and in some cases, you may need to employ the use of your brakes as you swerve to avoid the crash.
It sounds crazy, and I know it is going to be hard, but you have seconds to alter the outcome of events; these seconds shouldn’t be spent panicking. Many riders that indulge in laying down their motorcycle panic and just do the first thing that comes to mind. Make use of the seconds wisely. If you don’t, the first two tips would be useless.
How to Reduce Your Chances of Getting into an Accident
Sometimes, the occurrence of an accident is not your fault, but some of the things you can do to reduce the chances of an accident are:
As a responsible driver, you should always carry out proper maintenance on your motorcycle. Check and fix everything that needs to be fixed, and do it regularly. Checking out the brakes should also be part of your maintenance routine. Imagine swerving with worn-out tires; the chances that the results won’t be ugly are slim.
Also, being responsible includes obeying traffic laws. Obey speed limits, don’t try to go all “Fast and Furious,” and follow stop signs. And you should always drive sober, never under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Telling you to practice may seem like an odd thing to recommend, but you should get to know your bike very well, and the only way to do that is to go on as many rides as possible. Know your bike as well as your body because it may be your saving grace at some point. Test out the feels of your bike’s maximum braking force.
Is There Any Situation Where It May Be Suitable to Lay Down Your Motorcycle?
There are very few situations where the only thing you can do is lay down your motorcycle, especially if you are not using an older model motorcycle. However, if you are sure that laying down your bike is the best thing to do, you have assessed the circumstances and determined that it is impossible to swerve or bring your bike to a halt, then do so. But make sure it is the right choice and that you can afford to give up control of your motorcycle.
I understand that it is easier said than done. When faced with an incoming collision, it is not easy to assess the situation to make a swift decision. This is why you should do all you can to avoid getting into an accident in the first place. However, sometimes, the accident is not in any way your fault, and you have to make a decision.
Always have it at the back of your mind that it is best to have control of your bike and that laying down your motorcycle should be your last resort.