One of the most dangerous aspects of motorcycling is the prospect of traveling on crowded roads and interstates alongside other vehicles. The majority of car drivers do not own motorcycles and are not familiar with the way motorcycles accelerate, slow down, and stop. Because of their small size, motorcycles are often difficult to spot– adding danger to an already dangerous situation.
If motorcyclists weave in and out of traffic lanes, they can take motorists by surprise. Caution needs to be exercised by both motorcyclists and traditional motorists to help avoid collisions and injuries.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) suggests these tips (along with many others) for safely riding a motorcycle:
- Remember that motorists often have trouble seeing motorcycles and reacting in time
- Be aware of the blind spots cars and trucks have
- Flash your brake light when slowing down and before stopping
- If a motorist doesn’t see you, don’t be afraid to use your horn
- Dress for safety
- Constantly search the road for changing conditions (weather, traffic, construction, etc.)
- Give yourself time and space to react to changes
- Give other motorists time to react to your actions
- Ride in the part of the lane where you are most visible
- Signal your next move in advance
- Avoid weaving between lanes
- Pretend you’re invisible, and ride extra defensively
It is crucial for motorcycle riders to be hyperaware of their surroundings and of the actions of vehicles around them. Motorcycles are, by nature, more dangerous than cars. They lack seat belts, windshields, air bags, and the overall security that comes with riding in an enclosed vehicle. The moment a rider sits on a motorcycle, they have made themselves more vulnerable and susceptible to injury in the case of a collision.
Just as there are safety tips for motorcycle riding, traditional motorists share equal responsibility for keeping the roads safe. Esurance.com proposes 5 rules to car drivers to help them share the road with motorcyclists:
- Follow the 4-second rule: Stay far enough behind motorcycles on the road. If you are driving behind a motorcycle, watch it pass a stationary object like a tree or a billboard. At least four seconds should elapse before you also pass the object.
- Respect Mother Nature: Because motorcycles are not enclosed, riders are significantly more at risk for weather-related injuries. When cars are forced to slow down because of rain or snow, motorcyclists will need to slow down even more. Esurance suggests giving motorcycle riders plenty of room to move around and adjust to weather changes.
- Look before you turn: When you approach an intersection, try to make eye contact with any motorcyclists you see. Do not try to turn left until you feel you have safely communicated your intentions to the motorcyclists—they may be intending to go straight through the light.
- Check your blind spots often: Before you change a lane or attempt to slow your car down significantly, check your blind spots for motorcycles. To be safe, physically turn your head around and check behind you instead of relying entirely on your car’s mirrors.
- Have patience: Cut drivers and motorcyclists some slack and allow them to make mistakes without becoming excessively angry.
In order to drive safely on the road, drivers of all kinds must be patient and aware of their surroundings—it takes the vigilance of both motorcyclists and motorists to maintain safe traveling conditions for everyone.
Photo Courtesy of Angelo Amboldi and Creative Commons.