Driver Tips: How to Share the Road with Motorcycles and Save Lives
Driver Tips: How to Share the Road with Motorcycles and Save Lives
Motorcycles are a popular mode of transportation for many people, especially during warmer months. Riding offers a sense of freedom, adventure, and fun that is hard to match with other vehicles. However, motorcycles also come with some unique challenges and risks that drivers need to be aware of and respect.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 5,932 motorcyclists killed and an estimated 82,686 injured in traffic crashes in 2021. Many of these crashes could have been prevented if other drivers had followed some simple tips to improve the safety of riders. As drivers, we play a significant role in reducing the number of vehicle-motorcycle crashes and saving rider lives. Through simple actions, we can help make the road a safer place for everyone.
Here are a few tips for drivers to share the road with motorcycles and save lives:
Look Twice for Motorcycles
One of the most common causes of motorcycle crashes is when a driver fails to see a motorcycle and rider approaching and performs a maneuver that jeopardizes the rider. Vehicle drivers often say things like “He came out of nowhere!” or “I never saw them!” Motorcycles are smaller and less visible than other vehicles, and can easily be hidden by blind spots, glare, or other objects.
To avoid this, drivers should always look twice for motorcyclesand scan the driving environment specifically for their presence. Always check mirrors, blind spots, and intersections before changing lanes, turning, or merging. Drivers should also be alert for motorcycle signals, such as brake lights, turn signals, or hand gestures. By looking twice for motorcycles, drivers can prevent many collisions and injuries.
Give Riders Space to the Side
Another way to improve the safety of riders is to give them enough space to the side when driving next to them. Driving too close to a motorcycle can cause erratic bike handling, due to the movement of air around your vehicle that impacts the motorcycle. This can make the rider lose control, or swerve into your lane.
To avoid this, drivers should maintain a safe distance from motorcycles on both sides. Vehicle drivers should not try to squeeze past them, or share a lane with them. Drivers also should avoid cutting them off, or passing them too closely. By giving riders space to the side, drivers can reduce the risk of side-swiping or forcing them off the road.
Give Riders Space to the Front
Another tip for drivers is to give riders plenty of space when following them. Motorcycles can brake much more effectively than a vehicle and therefore stop in a much shorter distance. This can surprise many drivers, particularly those who are distracted, and can result in a rear-end collision.
To avoid this, drivers should follow the four-second rule when behind a motorcycle. This means that they should keep at least four seconds of distance between their vehicle and the motorcycle in front of them. They can measure this by picking a fixed point on the road and counting how long it takes for both vehicles to pass it. If it is less than four seconds, they should slow down and increase their following distance.
Give Riders Greater Clearance in Bad Weather Conditions
Driving in inclement weather conditions can be challenging for anyone, but especially for motorcycle riders. Rain, sleet, and snow make it harder to see because of the water on the rider’s visor. These conditions also can make the road slippery and reduce traction and stability. Additionally, wet riding makes the handlebars more difficult to grip and operate.
To help riders in these situations, drivers should give them extra clearance and consideration. They should reduce their speed and increase their following distance when behind a motorcycle in wet weather. Drivers should also avoid splashing them with water or spraying them with windshield washer fluid when changing lanes, or pulling further ahead of them.
Be Cautious Around Motorcycles at Night
Seeing motorcycles during the day can be difficult enough, due to their smaller size compared to other vehicles. Seeing motorcycles at night can be even more difficult as they use a single headlight. Additionally, judging the distance and speed of a single headlight can be tricky, meaning that drivers might misjudge when they need to turn.
To avoid this, drivers should be extra cautious around motorcycles at night. Drivers should use their low beams when approaching or following a motorcycle to avoid blinding them, and assume that they are closer than they appear to give them more time and space to make their maneuvers. By being cautious around motorcycles at night, drivers can prevent many accidents and injuries.
Change Your Perception of Distance
Research has shown that many people are not as able to detect the movement, distance, and speed of smaller objects. This can lead to drivers underestimating how close or fast a motorcycle is and making unsafe decisions.
To avoid this, drivers should change their perception of distance when dealing with motorcycles, and should always assume that the motorcycle is closer and faster than what they think. Drivers should allow motorcyclists more time to make their maneuvers, and give themselves more time to make theirs.
Understand the Rider
Finally, drivers should understand that motorcycle riders are not just machines on wheels. They are human beings— with lives, families, and friends. They are someone’s son, daughter, mom, dad, neighbor, etc. They have feelings, emotions, and dreams, and deserve respect, courtesy, and care.
Drivers should not purposely put riders at a higher risk for a crash by driving aggressively, impatiently, or carelessly around them, as they are much more vulnerable than you. Don’t EVER honk unnecessarily, tailgate, or harass a motorcyclist. Motorcyclists are not obstacles or annoyances, and you should always treat them as you would want to be treated with yourself, or your loved ones to be treated.
Put yourself in the place of the rider: if you think this way, drivers can foster a more positive and cooperative attitude towards motorcyclists, and share the road with them in a safe and harmonious way.
Motorcycles are a great way to enjoy the road and scenery, but they also pose some unique challenges and risks that drivers need to be aware of and respect. If you try to share the road with motorcycles safely, it can save lives and make a difference in reducing the number of vehicle-motorcycle crashes and fatalities.
Remember: Look twice for motorcycles, and give them plenty of space to the side and front, as well as greater clearance in inclement weather conditions. Always be cautious around them at night, change your perception of distance, and try to understand the rider. This helps make the road a safer place for everyone.
We at the Herd Law Firm, PLLC, are drivers and motorcycle riders, too! We support drivers, bikers and motorcyclists injured on the road, and have successfully represented such victims seeking the assistance and compensation they so need and deserve.
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With over three decades of experience, Charles Herd concentrates on Jones Act and maritime-related claims, maritime products liability cases and maritime-related commercial matters. He also handles and resolves insurance coverage issues, commercial truck and vehicle wrecks and other serious injury or damage claims.
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With over 35 years of litigation and management experience, Charles Herd concentrates on Jones Act and maritime-related claims, maritime products liability cases and maritime-related commercial matters.