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May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and the Missouri Highway Patrol has several suggestions for motorcyclists to stay safe. We'd like to emphasize one: Wear a helmet.

We know. Helmets are no longer required for all motorcycle riders in Missouri. After more than a generation of lobbying by motorcyclists, lawmakers relented and relaxed the rules.

Any qualified motorcycle operator who is 26 years of age or older may operate a motorcycle or motortricycle on any Missouri highway without wearing protective headgear. This is allowed only if the motorcycle operator maintains proof of financial responsibility in accordance with state law. They also must be covered by insurance that will provide the person with medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a traffic crash while operating or riding on a motorcycle or motortricycle.

So, yes, many riders have the right to go without a helmet. Still, we urge you to wear one. Like seat belts in other vehicles, they've been proven over and over to save lives.

In 2020, there were 173 motorcycle crashes in Missouri. That added to 157 people who were injured and 11 killed. That's far too many.

In addition to wearing a helmet, here are a few other suggestions offered by the patrol for riders:

Be visible. Motorists often have a hard time seeing you. Keep your headlight on, day or night. Use reflective strips/decals on your clothing and on your motorcycle. Be aware of other vehicle's blindspots.

Dress for safety. Wear eye protection and bright clothing. Wear thick or leather clothing for protection.

Think safety while riding. Give yourself space to react to other motorists' actions. Use lane positioning to increase visibility. Watch for turning vehicles. Signal your next action in advance. Pretend you're invisible and drive defensively.

Know your bike. Get formal training and take refresher courses. Practice riding your motorcycle before going into heavy traffic. Know riding laws and how to handle your motorcycle in all types of road conditions.

Motorcycles offer a sense of freedom and excitement that you can't get from any other type of ride. So use your head and keep yourself and others safe on the roads so you can enjoy riding for many years to come.

News Tribune

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