A Facebook post has been making the rounds, put up by user Zairul Ezam, who remarked on the fact he saw 63 motorcyclists over the course of 18 days wearing their jacket on backwards. This means the rider simply puts his or her jacket on back-to-front, arms in the sleeves and unfastened at the back.

Zairul terms this a danger, relating the story of an accident that occurred when he was in secondary school, when a senior was riding his motorcycle wearing his jacket in the aforementioned manner. As he was riding, the back of the jacket, flapping in the wind, got caught on the edge of a cement lorry deck while he was overtaking, and the rider was flung to his death under the lorry.

Since then, Zairul has tried to advise motorcyclists to wear their jackets in the proper manner, to avoid instances where the rider’s jacket may get caught in a car’s wing mirror or door handle, while negotiating traffic. Zairul relates two instances where he spoke to riders on the road, and asked them to wear their jackets properly.

The first rider quickly tucked in his jacket before riding off, while the second looked at Zairul up and down before staring him in the eyes and saying “Innalillah” (we belong to Allah) and riding off. Zairul mentions he wears a water-proof jacket while riding on his daily 68-kilometer commute and expressed hope that riders wear their gear properly.

It cannot be denied that many Malaysian motorcyclists have a lackadaisical attitude towards correctly wearing proper riding gear, let alone wearing gear at all. It is understandable that many consider wearing motorcycle gear a nuisance in our tropical weather, preferring to just ride around in a t-shirt and shorts or jeans, with feet shod in sandals and hands left bare.

Even helmets are sometimes an after-thought, with cheap plastic helmets well past their use-by date, frayed chin strap undone, slammed onto the rider’s head any old how. A lot of this comes down to the lack of rider education and more importantly, the rider’s attitude and perception towards safety.

Too many riders are careless to the extreme about personal safety while riding on Malaysian roads, preferring to blame the other party, usually a car driver when an accident happens. While statistics show that the majority of motorcycle fatalities are caused by cars, the onus remains on the rider to be aware, defensive and take responsibility for their personal safety.

This means that a rider should be wearing safety gear, like in the case of France, which mandates all riders wear, at a minimum, a helmet and gloves. For our riding conditions, with the heat that riders have to deal with, vented mesh jackets with inserts in the shoulders and elbows are available, and typically cost around RM400 for the lower-end models, going up to thousands of ringgit for Italian designs.

Gloves are similar, with simple woven nylon gloves from around RM200 easily available in most motorcycle accessory stores. No one is saying every rider needs to wear leather racing gauntlets with kevlar reinforcement and titanium knuckles – the author has several pairs of these for racing, and they cost well above RM1,000 – but a modicum of money spent on hand protection pays dividends when, and we say when, not if, a rider takes a spill.

And touching on the issue of helmets, most Malaysian motorcyclists buy a helmet that meets the bare minimum of safety regulations at the cheapest possible price. Matters like fit, impact protection, eye protection and the like are put aside, as long as the helmet is cheap and the police don’t stop them.

At the end of it, wearing proper motorcycle riding gear, manufactured to genuine safety standards, is the best personal protection a rider is going to get. Good equipment is not cheap, no doubt, but the price of injury or death can be beyond measure.