By January 13, 2010

Random Motorcycling Tip #13: Prepare For the Worst

Let’s face it. Motorcycling is a dangerous activity. If you have training, gear, and experience motorcycling might be less dangerous than if you have none of these, but the fact of the matter is you never know when something unexpected is going to happen. A truck could run a red light and smash you to bits. That lady eating with both hands and steering with her knees might drift into your lane too fast. Hell, you might even get hit in the face by a bird and go down on an isolated stretch of highway. And let’s not even get started on forest rats — I mean — deer.

You can do one of two things: continue riding as if nothing can touch you and forgive any preparations, or do the most you can to mitigate your risks and prepare your a potentially serious or fatal accident.

I’m a “preps” kind of guy. I try to find a balance between doing the things I want to do and being as ready as possible for unfortunate circumstances. On one hand, you can’t be crippled by fear and not do the things you want, but on the other hand you have to a plan.

Here are some of things I do to prepare for the worst.

  1. Have good motorcycle insurance. You should have insurance on your motorcycle, along with general health insurance. Depending on the value of your bike you may not have a lot of coverage on the bike itself, but you should have as much medical coverage as financially efficient. How much is “financially efficient?” It depends on your other coverage. For example, if you already have Accidental Death and Dismemberment coverage on your health insurance, you may not need it (or as much) on your motorcycle insurance. Get multiple quotes when shopping around for motorcycle insurance. Companies often cut quotes on one of two criteria: the type of the bike (sport, cruiser, standard) or by engine size. If you switch bikes make sure you get new quotes — depending on how your current carrier determines premiums you could save a lot of scratch by switching.
  2. “Motorcyclist-ize” your health insurance. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, insurance companies or agents typically don’t push for extended AD&D, long-term disability, or life insurance coverage. You may be a family man (or woman) during these years, so this may not apply to you, but generally younger riders have the bare minimum medical coverage to get by. This is okay, statistically … unless you are a motorcyclist. I recommend to double-check your long-term disability and investigate any job loss protection or credit protection products your carrier offers. I don’t personally have job loss protection or credit protection but depending on your financial situation this may be a good idea for you.

    The idea is that you may have an accident that keeps you from working for an extended period. For example, I work with my hands all day, and if I broke my right wrist it would be pretty hard for me to do my job. Breaking your wrist is a common motorcycle injury, so I make sure I have extra long-term disability insurance in case something happens.

    Think of your insurance needs through the eyes of a motorcyclist, not through the eyes of your particular age group. It may change your coverage.

  3. Get more life insurance than you think you need. A motorcyclist famous on the Internet was in a serious accident last year. She decided to ignore traffic priority and turn before a construction truck at a stop sign. The truck didn’t see her and turned, crushing her midsection. She survived, but the medical costs are going to be astronomical. As bad as that is, it would be even worse if she went through a long treatment cycle (or was in a coma, etc) and died. Make sure your life insurance not only covers your family’s needs after you are gone, but could also handle a reasonable amount of out-of-pocket hospital costs.
  4. Carry multiple forms of identification. If you’re smashed up on the highway there is no telling where all of your shit is going to end up. I always ride with my driver’s license (obviously), but who knows where my hard luggage may come to rest after a wreck. I wear a MEDS sticker pouch on every one of my helmets. The MEDS pouch contains a piece of waterproof, tear-resistant paper wherein you can write your name, two emergency contacts, and any important medical notes. Mine notes my potential fatal allergy to penicillin, but you may put any medications you’re on, or any pre-existing condition. There is also a neat product that bundles similar information in a waterproof fabric pouch that goes around a zipper, or can be ironed on to your gear.
  5. Set up In Case of Emergency (ICE) contact information, either on your mobile phone, or at least written down where a medical professional or law enforcement officer may find it. One of my motorcycling friends has custom-made dog tags with their emergency information on it. First responders to an accident won’t take the time to call anyone, but this information will come in handy once you get to the hospital — or the morgue.
  6. Have a will. Even if you don’t think you have a lot of stuff, it is important to have at least a rough outline on what to do with any assets you may have, or what to do with any money that comes out of your life insurance benefits (see above).
  7. Have an advance medical directive, if necessary. I don’t want to be kept on a machine for life support, so that’s part of my advance medical directive, a legal document that helps answer delicate questions for you when you are otherwise incapable.
  8. Find an executor. My right hand man Stilts is my executor of both my will and my advance medical directive. Although it is a huge burden for his hand to be on my switch should the need arise, I know I can depend on him to do as I ask. I can’t say the same for some of my family; I know it would be very difficult if not impossible for my mother to follow my desires should something terrible happen to me.

I know this is a pretty “downer” of a post, but if you are going to make motorcycling your way of life you have to take the good with the bad. Something may happen to you, and you can either prepare for it and turn a blind eye and hope for the best. I find that the motorcyclists who have lived the longest, and with the fewest injuries, are those who plan ahead and calculate their risks as much as possible. If you’re the hoping kind, you may want to find another way to pass your time.

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