Getting ready to drive
This chapter tells you how to get yourself and your motorcycle or moped ready to drive. This includes being in good physical and mental condition; wearing a helmet and the proper clothing; knowing your vehicle and its controls; and making sure your vehicle is safe to drive.
Get into the right frame of mind
Driving a motorcycle or moped is different from driving a car or any other kind of vehicle. It takes your full concentration and attention to remain safe and in control. This means that you need to be in good physical and mental condition. Do not drive when you are sick, injured, tired, upset or impaired in any way. You need to be calm, alert and focused every time you drive.
Avoid drugs and alcohol
Drinking alcohol increases your chances of having a collision. Alcohol can begin to affect your ability to handle your motorcycle safely at blood-alcohol levels far below the legal limit. Your balance, steering, speed control and distance perception may be off. Because alcohol also clouds your judgment, you may not recognize these symptoms of impairment until it is too late.
Besides alcohol, almost any drug can affect your ability to drive a vehicle safely. This includes illegal and prescription drugs. It even includes non-prescription drugs such as cold tablets or allergy pills. These drugs can leave you weak, dizzy or drowsy. Make sure you know the effects of any drug before you drive. If you feel dizzy or weak while driving, stop and wait until you feel normal.
Read chapter 4, “Keeping your driver’s licence”, in the Official MTO Driver’s Handbook, to understand the consequences of driving while impaired.
Cell phones can be an important safety aid for drivers, but using a cell phone while riding takes a driver’s attention away from the task of driving and increases the risk of collision. Viewing display screens unrelated to driving is prohibited while driving. Distracted drivers are more likely to make mistakes or react too slowly. A driver who talks, texts, types, dials or e-mails using hand-held cellular phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices faces a large fine and demerit points applied to their driver’s record under Ontario’s distracted driving law.
Stay calm and alert
Do not drive when you are tired. You might fall asleep while driving, risking your own life and the lives of others on the road. Even if you do not fall asleep, fatigue affects your ability to perceive and react to emergencies. Your thinking slows down and you miss seeing things. In an emergency, you may make the wrong decision or you may not make the right one fast enough. It is also important not to drive when you are upset or angry. Strong emotions can reduce your ability to think and react quickly. Be especially careful not to fall victim to road rage, or you could find yourself in a vulnerable and dangerous position.
Wear a helmet
A helmet is the most important motorcycle or moped accessory you can have. Wearing a helmet can protect you from serious head injury. Ontario law requires you and your passenger to wear approved helmets with the chin strap securely fastened every time you drive a motorcycle or moped.
Note: An exemption to Ontario's mandatory helmet law applies for Sikh riders who meet the requirements of the Highway Traffic Act see Ontario.ca/laws.
An approved helmet is one that meets standards approved for use in Ontario. It must have a strong chin strap and fastener, and be in good condition. Approved helmets come in a variety of styles and prices. It is important to choose one that is well constructed and will protect you. A full-faced helmet offers the best protection and the most comfort. A helmet with bright colours and reflective devices may make you more visible to other drivers.
Make sure your helmet fits snugly and does not slide around on your head. Always keep the strap securely fastened. Studies of motorcycle collisions show that a loose helmet will come off in a collision.
Besides protecting you from head injury, a helmet can make you more comfortable when driving because it reduces the noise of the road and keeps the wind, bugs and other debris from blowing in your face.
Wear protective clothing
Protective clothing can help protect you from injury in a fall or collision and from the impact of wind, rain, insects, stones and debris. It can also help reduce fatigue by keeping you warm in bad weather. Bright colours and reflective items, such as a safety vest, make you more visible to other drivers on the road.
Wear a jacket and pants that cover your arms and legs completely, even in warm weather. Leather offers the best protection, but riding suits made of special synthetic materials, can also give you a lot of protection.
Your clothes should fit snugly enough to keep from flapping but still let you move freely. Consider wearing protective equipment such as back protectors, kidney belts and body armour as inserts in your protective clothing.
In cold or wet weather, your clothes should keep you warm and dry as well as protect you from injury. Driving for long periods in cold weather can cause severe chill and fatigue. Rain suits should be one piece and brightly coloured. Those not designed for motorcycle use may balloon out and allow wind and water to enter when driving at freeway speeds. A winter jacket should resist wind and fit snugly at neck, wrists and waist. Layer your clothes for extra warmth and protection.
Choose boots that are sturdy and high enough to protect your ankles. Soles should be made of hard, durable material that will grip the pavement when you are stopped. Heels should be short so they will not catch on rough surfaces. Avoid shoes with rings or laces that may catch on the motorcycle’s controls.
Gloves are also important in both cold and warm weather. They give you a better hold on the handgrips and controls. Gauntlet gloves that extend over your wrists are recommended because they protect your wrists, as well as your fingers and knuckles. Look for sturdy leather gloves designed for motorcycle use.