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To the average driver, motorcycle riders might seem to fit cartoon stereotypes: leather, sunglasses and tattoos. However, there’s more to a rider’s story than being a rebel.

Understanding why riders choose to do these things can help other motorists see the road through their eyes. This may encourage drivers to behave extra cautiously around riders and prevent accidents.

One thing that non-riders might not understand is why almost every rider wears the same “tough-guy” fashion. While many riders enjoy the aesthetics, there’s a reason why riders dress the way that they do: safety. The typical leather jacket acts like a second skin to protect riders if they fall off their bike. Boots and jeans also protect their body from road scrapes and debris. Along with a helmet, the outfit is a suit of armor while on the road.

Motorcycle riders are also no more aggressive than regular drivers. Although riding a motorcycle may indicate that they are more comfortable taking risks, riders know that they are in more danger than other drivers. A crash that leaves a minor dent in a vehicle could be fatal for a rider. Like driving, riders must have a license and follow the rules of the road. If they act recklessly, they may lose the privilege of riding their motorcycle altogether.

Finally, riders aren’t exclusively violent gang members. Thankfully, this stereotype is dying out, but it’s worth mentioning. Riders who travel in groups could be part of a so-called “biker gang,” which usually means that they are a community of friends who enjoy practicing their hobby together. Scheduling group rides allows them to take advantage of safety in numbers; in a crash, fellow bikers would be there to help.

Drivers don’t always know what the road is like for motorcycle riders. If drivers aren’t careful enough to watch for them on the road, riders might pay a high price. This may allow the rider to sue them for negligence.