Fifty-six percent of motorcycle accident deaths occur in collisions involving motorcycles and passenger vehicle. This grim statistic shows that we still have a long way to go when it comes to making our roads safe for all kinds of vehicles. Unfortunately, these accidents often happen simply because drivers aren’t aware of motorcyclists or watching for them on the road.
Since drivers and motorcyclists don’t have Bluetooth communication devices that allow them to communicate directly with each other, everyone needs to develop good habits that help vehicles stay out of each other’s way. Passenger vehicle drivers can do their part by putting these eight tips into action and staying aware of motorcyclists when driving.
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1. Train yourself to watch for motorcycles.
The first step to driving safely around motorcycles is simply remembering that they exist and that you need to watch for them. When you spot a motorcycle in traffic, practice maintaining awareness of it.
Don’t focus on it to the exclusion of everything else, but be aware that it’s there and that you need to be sure that you’re looking for a smaller vehicle. Gradually, you’ll build the habit of looking for motorcycles all the time.
2. Be especially careful when turning left at an intersection.
A large percentage of the accidents between motorcycles and passenger vehicles happen when a vehicle turns left into an intersection in front of a motorcycle. Drivers are often expecting a car or a truck but may not be ready for a motorcycle, leading to a high rate of motorcyclist injuries in these scenarios.
Thus, it’s on every driver to do better and practice careful left turning. On a green light, always be aware of whether you have a protected or unprotected left turn, and keep a sharp eye out for motorcycles proceeding through the intersection.
3. Keep your phone out of sight and out of reach when driving.
Distracted drivers present a big hazard to motorcyclists, and the number one source of driver distraction is our constant companion, the smartphone. Between the texting, the Tweeting and all of the other things that our digital lives offer us, there’s just too much for our brain to latch onto to safely use a phone while driving.
The best option for storing your phone while driving is just to leave it in the glove box. Many cars now offer the ability to pair your phone’s interface with your vehicle console, although it’s still not a good idea to use it while in motion. Hands-free headsets, similar to the motorcycle Bluetooth headsets that riders use, offer the best choice if you need to be on the phone in the car.
4. Never tailgate a motorcyclist.
Tailgating any vehicle is always a bad idea, but it’s especially bad for a passenger vehicle to tailgate a motorcycle. The much larger size of your vehicle means that even lightly rear-ending a motorcycle can seriously injure or kill the rider.
When in doubt, remember to practice the Three Second Rule. Increase your distance under circumstances where your stopping distance might be longer, such as wet road conditions. Finally, remember to also give a motorcyclist space from the side and avoid riding in their blind spot.
5. Practice good mirror and blind spot discipline.
Your mirrors are among your vehicle’s most important safety features. Use your mirrors to stay aware of your surroundings, and always note when you spot a motorcycle. Many riders travel slightly faster than traffic, so remember that it may take less time than a passenger vehicle would to overtake you.
Good blind spot habits are another important part of motorcycle awareness. Before changing lanes, drivers should always do a shoulder check in their blind spot to verify that there’s no car, truck or motorcycle present there.
6. Never drive motorcycles when you’re tired or intoxicated.
Driving when you’re tired or under the influence of anything is a bad idea for all kinds of reasons. But it can be especially dangerous for your ability to perceive small moving vehicles like motorcycles, and intoxicated or distracted drivers are a huge hazard for motorcyclists.
The solution is to do what everyone knows is the right thing: Call a cab or a rideshare whenever you’ve had too much to drink to drive safely. Drunk driving is exceedingly dangerous for you and everyone else on the road, and it only takes one time making the wrong choice to do something you’ll always regret.
7. Keep alert for road construction.
Are you noticing a theme here? Many of these tips are things that drivers should be doing anyway, and here’s another one: Watch out for construction work zones. Avoiding work zone accidents is always crucial, and having motorcycles in the mix raises the stakes even more.
That’s because some work zone road conditions are more challenging when you’re on a motorcycle. Sudden changes in pavement type or grading, or the use of steel plates in the road, can cause problems for motorcycle riders, so be prepared for anything when entering a work zone.
8. Ask your passenger to point out hard-to-see motorcycles in traffic.
Two sets of eyes are better than one. If you’re in heavy traffic and are worried about missing a motorcycle, ask your passenger to help you keep an eye out for the small, quick-moving vehicles.
Passengers in the back seat can be helpful, too. Everyone has a different view of the road, and thus may be better able to see someone in one of the driver’s blind spots. The more all passengers help the driver stay alert, the more easily everyone can stay safe.
Motorcycles and passenger vehicles will likely never have to stop sharing the road. And motorcyclists need to be responsible, too, using their motorcycle Bluetooth speakers at reasonable volumes and obeying all the rules of the road. When everyone comes together to share responsibility for safe highways, more people will get home safely from their journeys.