According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,976 people died in motorcycle accidents in 2015. That figure is up 8.3% from 2014 and continues to rise.
The government estimates that fatality rates are 27 times the rate for cars per mile traveled.
Over half of all motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle, more often than not, the motorcyclist isn’t at fault.
Reading those statistics, you’d have to see why much of the medical profession refer to motorcyclists as ‘Organ Donors’.
But with a little more awareness, you don’t have to become one of those statistics – these are our ten best tips for sharing the road with motorcyclists.
The Age Old Problem
For many riders, a motorcycle is more than just efficient transport, it becomes a way of life, but the dangers are very clear and always present.
Arguments exist for better driver education, but unless legislation changes, it’s up to the rider to ensure their own safety.
Part of the problem is that motorcycles are small and can easily be lost in a blind-spot, especially when you’re driving a truck.
We also should consider the approach speed – a motorcycle doesn’t necessarily have to be breaking the law if it’s coming past you – it’s just better in traffic.
This means that while you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic at 20 MPH, a motorcycle could easily pass you at 55 MPH.
Lane splitting is a gray area in the U.S. – it can be argued as to the legality of it, but the fact is this – motorcyclists do it.
With today’s technology, many car drivers become complacent – the car is a place of safety and comfort – about 37% of all U.S. drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel.
- Most modern motorcycles have the same braking distances as a car, but most riders use only about 30% of the front brake power – this increases the stopping distance significantly.If you’re following a motorcycle, you should adjust the gap accordingly.
- Be aware of slowing down and stopping – thanks to low mass, engine braking and reading the road, many riders slow down without hitting the brakes.You may not get any warning in the form of glowing taillights, keeping alert is the best way to avoid rear-ending a motorcycle.
- If you drive a diesel, PLEASE make sure that you aren’t leaking any as you drive away after filling up.A wet road covered in diesel is akin to an ice-rink for a motorcyclist and an accident is almost guaranteed – the only warning we have is the rainbow-colored sheen on the pavement.
- When you’re stuck in traffic, be aware that a motorcyclist has the ability to lane-split and will more than likely do so.While you may not like it, it is doubtful that they will hold you up. Equally, be very aware of motorcycles coming up behind you in traffic – last minute lane changes are almost impossible to anticipate.
- All riders use the ‘lifesaver’ check – looking over their shoulder before swapping lanes.If all car drivers did the same, our world would be a happier place. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of proper and clear observations.
- Always look before you turn, and then look again. Many accidents are caused when vehicles turn across the path of a motorcycle because they either didn’t look correctly or have misjudged the approach speed.Judging the speed of a motorcycle is inherently difficult, thanks to its size.
- Clearly signaling your intention to perform a maneuver (swapping lanes, turning and the like) gives a motorcyclist the best chance of anticipating where you’re going and what you’re doing, they can then place their motorcycle accordingly.
- Remember that motorcyclists are vulnerable – what could be a minor fender-bender with two cars could result in hospitalization for a motorcyclist.
- Give a rider plenty of room – despite being small and narrow, you really can’t pass a motorcycle in the same lane.Not only are you forcing them into a part of the road they don’t want to be, but if it’s a rookie rider, there is a good chance that target-fixation will set in and as they’re staring at your vehicle.
- Be aware of bad riders – even though they are at significant risk, there are still plenty of bad riders out there and they are the most dangerous. Just how you should avoid intimidating other road users, don’t let their actions intimidate you.
We’ve given you ten top tips, but there are other considerations that could be called common courtesy:
Try not to activate your windshield washers with a motorcyclist behind you.
Equally, those cigarette-ends thrown from a window aren’t pleasant.
And let’s not even start on kicking up gravel and dust from the edge of the pavement.
Perhaps one of the best ways to think about sharing the road with motorcycles is to imagine if the roles were reversed.
How would you feel riding a motorcycle when someone with your driving habits is on the same route?
Of course, not all motorcyclists are polite and courteous, they can be just as dangerous as a bad driver, the main difference is that they (generally) only hurt themselves in an accident.
We believe that a motorcycle rider is responsible for his or her own safety – relying on others to ensure their safety is only going to end up one way.
If riding a motorcycle for a year was made mandatory, accident rates would be dramatically reduced.
Until that happens, remember that motorcycles and their riders have a right to share the road, and despite looking a little grizzly, most of us are human!
While motorcycling is generally becoming safer (with accessories such as the Sena 20s to help with communications, or ABS fitted as standard), they are still at risk.
The best advice that we can give is to just be sensible and respect all other road users – imagine if that was your mom that you cut-off in the morning.
Sharing the road with motorcycles is no different to any other vehicle – a little common courtesy and respect can go a long way.
Society as a whole needs a little love to get along – start yours on your daily commute.