When you start talking about buying a motorcycle or getting your motorcycle license, you may hear a lot of statistics and a lot of chatter about the dangers of motorcycle riding. Friends and family members may worry that you will get into an accident.
Motorcycle riders have a higher rate of accidents and accident fatalities than those in passenger vehicles.
Motorcycle riders may face a higher risk of traumatic brain injury and other severe injuries in an accident.
Other drivers have a harder time seeing motorcycles, which means that they may plow right over the top of them without ever noticing them.
You know the facts. Still, riding a motorcycle sounds like an unmatched experience. Can they offer a safe riding experience?
Driver Behavior and Risk for Motorcycles
Ultimately, whether motorcycle riders can count on safety on the road depends heavily on the behavior of other drivers. Larger passenger vehicles can pose a substantial danger to motorcycles, especially at high rates of speed. Motorcycles have only basic protection from the road and contact with other vehicles, including larger passenger vehicles.
As a result, the way other drivers behave on the road can have a huge impact on motorcyclists’ safety.
1. Drivers need to look out (and look twice) for motorcycles.
During motorcycle season, especially when the weather turns nice and more bikers take to the roads, drivers must exercise additional care to ensure that they do not mistakenly miss the presence of a motorcycle out on the road.
Drivers need to pay careful attention to the motorcycles on the road around them, including making sure they keep track of where those motorcycles travel. Sometimes, that may mean looking twice to ensure that a motorcycle has not entered, or remained in, a space that the driver intends to use.
Identifying a motorcycle visually and reacting appropriately when it appears can prove more difficult for many drivers. Motorcycles create a much smaller visual profile than the average passenger vehicle.
Drivers, when behind the wheel, often default to looking for things the size of an average passenger vehicle rather than paying attention to everything that happens around them. As a result, they may have a harder time noticing the presence of a motorcycle, which takes up much less space on the road and may even move differently than a passenger vehicle.
2. Drivers need to allow motorcycles to have a full lane in which to drive.
Sometimes, drivers become tempted to ease into a motorcycle’s lane, pushing the motorcycle over to pass another driver. Motorcycles, however, deserve just as much room on the road as other vehicles, and drivers should not enter the motorcycle’s space in the lane for any reason. Lane splitting, or the practice of traveling between two lanes of traffic, can carry heavy consequences, including posing an immense danger to everyone else on the road.
Drivers often try to take advantage of motorcycles, using their larger size to try to push the bike off the road or to take up space that the motorcycle should occupy. Drivers of larger vehicles may also ignore the motorcyclist’s right of way at stop signs and intersections, or fail to allow adequate room for a motorcycle to merge into traffic. Those errors can prove catastrophic for motorcycle drivers as they attempt to safely reach their destinations.
3. Drivers must provide adequate following room when sharing the road with a motorcycle.
It can prove tempting to creep close to a motorcycle on the road. They seem much smaller than the average passenger vehicle, which can make it more difficult to gauge their speed. Drivers may also think that they can ride as close to a group of motorcycles as those motorcycles ride to one another.
However, motorcycle riders can react much faster than the drivers of passenger vehicles. Their smaller, more maneuverable vehicles can respond faster to potential hazards, turn faster, and stop faster. If drivers fail to consider that, they could inadvertently cause a serious accident with a motorcycle.
4. Drivers need to get to know their blind spots extremely well.
Most passenger vehicles have at least some type of blind spot: an area where the driver cannot see anything clearly, especially when using his mirrors alone. The average passenger vehicle has a blind spot that a motorcycle can easily get lost in. Larger passenger vehicles may have even larger blind spots, including blind spots large enough for a car to slip into unnoticed.
Drivers of passenger vehicles need to know exactly where their blind spots are and monitor them carefully. While those drivers can't see what happens in their blind spots, they can monitor what happens around them, which can provide them with a better idea of when a motorcycle has entered that area with inadequate visibility.
5. Drivers should signal clearly so that motorcyclists can react appropriately.
Drivers frequently fall into the practice of failing to signal when they need to change lanes, make a turn, or even come to a stop. That practice can prove extremely dangerous for any driver, but it can prove especially catastrophic for the driver of a motorcycle, who may have a hard time determining what maneuver the driver will complete next.
A motorcycle rider might assume that the driver plans to continue straight and try to pass, or might not realize that the vehicle has started to change lanes until it enters into his lane. Signaling clearly and giving adequate time for the motorcycle rider to respond can make it much easier for the rider to stay out of danger.
6. Drivers need to remain conscious of poor weather and low visibility.
In conditions with poor weather or low visibility, motorcycle riders frequently have a harder time out on the roads. They can prove difficult to see at the best of times. During poor visibility times, including late at night, fog conditions, or heavy rain, motorcycle riders may disappear much more easily, especially if the driver of a passenger vehicle needs to focus more on the road instead.
Furthermore, those conditions can make it much more difficult for the motorcycle to maneuver in general. Motorcycles have a lighter weight than passenger vehicles and may pull out of control more easily, whether on ice, in the rain, or even when driving on gravel. Exercising care around a motorcycle can make it easier to avoid a potential collision.
Motorcycle Riders Can Help Protect Themselves
Other drivers play a key role in keeping motorcycle riders safe out on the roads. However, around 40 percent of motorcycle crashes involve a single vehicle. Motorcycle riders may need to take many key steps to help protect themselves out on the road and ensure that they have as safe an experience as possible.
1. It starts with choosing the right motorcycle.
In some states, motorcycle riders can only legally operate a motorcycle that offers a good fit for their bodies. A motorcycle needs to have a seat positioned so that the driver’s feet can sit flat on the ground on either side. Riders should not have their arms out above shoulder height when riding. Choosing a motorcycle that offers a good fit for the rider’s body can make a big difference in the rider’s overall control on the road.
Riders also need to pay careful attention to the weight of the motorcycle and how easily they can control that weight. Frequently, a too-heavy motorcycle can cause serious injury, especially in a collision. A lighter-weight motorcycle, on the other hand, can prove easier to manage on the road.
2. Riders need to make sure they wear the right safety equipment every time they ride.
As riders become more comfortable on their motorcycles, they may become tempted to ignore safety precautions: leaving a helmet back at home, failing to wear protective gloves and gear, or wearing lightweight shoes or clothing that may interfere with the ability to ride safely.
Safety equipment, however, can make a huge difference in a potential accident scenario! Not only can a helmet substantially reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury, it may decrease the risk that the rider will experience neck and facial injuries.
Furthermore, wearing a protective jacket and gloves can help reduce the risk of road rash. On hot days, riders can wear temperature-control suits that offer protection while keeping them comfortable on the road.
3. Riders should take adequate safety courses and become comfortable with the motorcycle.
Getting comfortable on the motorcycle can prove crucial to avoiding an accident. A rider with plenty of road experience may get better at avoiding collisions and responding to potential emergencies on the road, regardless of what other drivers might do. A rider with little experience, on the other hand, may panic and react incorrectly in an emergency scenario, which may increase the risk of a severe accident
Safety courses can help increase a rider’s comfort level on the road and offer the rider better solutions for navigating potentially dangerous scenarios. Those safety courses can also help a rider gauge his overall capability and give him a better idea of how he can perform on the road.
4. Riders must learn to protect themselves and stay aware of everything happening around them on the road.
Riders must recognize that a motorcycle’s small size and lighter weight increase the danger out on the road. As a result, riders must pay attention to everything that happens around them at all times. They need plans to get out of potentially dangerous scenarios. They need to practice evasive maneuvers and learn to react quickly.
5. Riders must learn to carefully gauge weather conditions.
Sometimes, bad weather crops up unexpectedly. A seemingly mild day suddenly transforms with an unexpected shower. Roads ice earlier than anticipated. Night falls before the rider can get home. However, riders must learn to gauge weather conditions and determine whether they can ride safely.
A rider who does not feel comfortable riding in bad weather may find it beneficial to avoid getting out on the road at all if the forecast includes any chance of that bad weather. A rider who struggles to ride safely at night may benefit from planning to get home well before it gets dark outside. Learning how to plan for bad weather can help riders stay safer.
6. Riders must follow the same laws as drivers out on the road.
The same laws that apply to the drivers of passenger vehicles also apply to the drivers of motorcycles. Motorcyclists must adhere to the speed limit, take up only a single lane of traffic, and follow all traffic signals, including adhering to red lights and stop signs. Motorcyclists should not attempt lane split (driving between two lanes of traffic, often in a traffic jam) or try to drive on the sidewalk, even if they want to avoid a potential traffic snarl or feel that they have adequate room.
Motorcycles who ignore the rules of the road put themselves and others on the road with them in danger by behaving in unpredictable ways that other drivers cannot respond to reliably. Following the rules of the road, on the other hand, can help keep motorcyclists safe.
When an Accident Occurs, You Need A Lawyer’s Help
If you do have an accident as a motorcyclist, you may need a lawyer’s help to determine how much compensation you deserve and who bears liability for the accident. Contact an attorney as soon as possible for a better evaluation of your rights or to receive support as you manage a personal injury claim after your motorcycle accident.