By Dom Mozzone, Safety Officer
We’ve probably all done this after a long ride on the highway when we’re thirsty, tired, need gas and need a trip to the restroom. The plan is to get off at the next probable area that will satisfy all of the above. Scenario: You’re going at a speed of 65-75 MPH and approaching an unfamiliar exit. Entering the exit lane after a lengthy ride at 70 MPH tends to dampen your senses regarding the right speed to safely exit. You’re passing a ‘curve sign’ on the exit ramp with a 25 MPH speed limit on it and you’re going around 40-50 MPH, which seems like you’re standing still after 1½ hours of doing 70 MPH. All of a sudden, you see that arching curve ahead and think S*&T and you brake hard, hopefully going straight, so you can slow down and not overshoot the curve into an oncoming lane and/or slide off the road. Sound familiar? Most of us have probably experienced similar close calls … causing us to change our underwear once we safely stopped at our destination.
Improper speed when entering a curve or approaching an object is the 2nd highest cause of motorcycle accidents. Many factors need to be considered and ingrained in the way you ride to avoid situations that can rapidly turn ugly. Managing your speed on the road and being able to assess changing conditions to modify your approach is critical to keeping safe. Wet roads with leaves, sewer covers, sand and road condition signs all require attention and appropri-ate riding modifications to safely enter and exit each ramp.
Wet roads, in particular, require acute attention at exit ramps since oil slicks will be hard to see and can come up quickly causing you to go down. This happened to one of our experienced members a few years ago while riding to meet the club in Vermont. It was early morning and he was riding double with his spouse when he entered an exit ramp that was wet and slick after riding on a dry highway. He was going straight, attempted to downshift and brake when the motorcycle lost its rear traction and slid from under them … throwing them both off the bike onto a grassy area. The rider broke his shoulder and was in a cast for several months. Fortunately, his wife obtained only a few bruises.
Dry roads at exits can give us a false sense of security after a long ride as well. Two years ago, I was leading a ride back from NJ when we were exiting a ramp into a rest area on the NJ Turnpike when one of our new rider mem-bers went down after approaching the ramp too fast and slid on sand enter-ing a curve. Fortunately, he only received a few minor scrapes and bruises. The bottom line is: Be aware of your speed and road conditions entering an exit ramp and follow signage MPH posts to ensure your safety. It’s a hell of a lot safer to have to accelerate through a turn than to approach it too fast. The consequences of the latter are completely avoidable if you scan, ap-proach and execute your speed accordingly.
As you can see from these two examples I referenced, whether you’re an experienced rider or a new rider, ‘stuff happens’ when the speed approaching an exit ramp exceeds the limit of the conditions you’re riding on. Be on your best game when entering an exit ramp! Ride safe all!!!