Most collisions between a motorcycle and another vehicle occur because the driver does not recognize that the motorcyclist is an oncoming vehicle. They either pull out from a side street or turn in front of them, into their path of travel.
Regardless of who’s at fault in an accident with another vehicle, the motorcyclist is the one who’s most likely to be injured. There are a few simple guidelines to reduce your chances of being hit and increase the odds of a fabulous ride!
- Wear high visibility gear. You’re a lot smaller and narrower than other traffic, thus harder to see. The more you can increase your visibility and reflective strips on gear, the more likely you’ll be seen and reduce your odds of a collision.
- Choose a motorcycle color other than black. Bright colors are easier to see. Even better, add reflective tape or stickers in places where headlights are going to find them.3
- Use hand signals in addition to the bike’s turn signals. Any additional movement can be the one that alerts a driver that you’re about to change direction.4
- Ride on the inside tire track on 2-lane roads. This maximizes your chance of being seen by oncoming traffic. I like to “wiggle” the bike a bit approaching intersections, especially if I can see someone ready to turn left. It’s another movement to catch their attention.5
- Tap your brake to activate the light when slowing down, even if you don’t need to use your brake. It helps the vehicle behind you to realize you’re decelerating.6
- Guard your position when making a turn. While the exact positioning varies with lane configuration and dedicated turn lanes, generally position yourself in the left tire track if you’re making a right turn and the right tire track in a left turn lane.7
- Keep group sizes manageable. Wise leaders keep group sizes no larger than 8 motorcycles. If your group is larger, break it into smaller numbers, each with a leader and sweep rider. It’s way safer and easier to manage the group but beyond that, it’s difficult and dangerous for a car to pass a large group. Fatalities have occurred when a vehicle tries to pass a large group on a 2-lane road and because of another oncoming vehicle, can’t pass the whole group and cuts in midway through. You have nowhere to go.8
- Leave a buffer between you and the vehicle ahead to allow time to react to traffic or obstacles. If a car driver doesn’t see the ladder or exhaust pipe across the lane until the last minute, he can still get over it. Not so likely for you.9
- Leave more than enough space for braking. You can stop faster than most other vehicles, including the one behind you. Just because your bike is capable of doing it doesn’t mean it’s safe to leave stopping to the last minute.10
- Make sure you’ve got the skills before you put yourself in a position that you don’t belong in. Others can detect nervous riders and it can make them do irrational things. If you don’t have the skills to be riding with a group or keeping up with traffic on the freeway, practice. Build your confidence and skills first, then go out.
We share the roads with other vehicles and all have a right to be there. Do your part to help reduce the chance of a collision. Next week we’ll talk about how car drivers can do theirs.