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How to save a motorcyclist’s life

May 13, 2019

A man and woman riding a motorcycle in a rural area


Now that the snow has melted and the sun is (mostly) out, driving is much more pleasant. The nicer weather conditions also bring out motorcyclists, and May is Motorcycle Awareness Month, so it may be time for a memory refresh about how to share the road safely with those on two wheels.

Do you check your blind spot when you change lanes or merge with traffic? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that nearly 40 percent of the average vehicle is made up of blind spots. So given that motorcycles are already harder to see in traffic because of their smaller size, it’s worth checking twice.

Be sure to drive at safe speeds and give motorcyclists plenty of following room. They can stop quickly, so allowing a three-second following distance gives you time to react. Remember, too, that they may need to change their speed or lane position to avoid hazards such as potholes, gravel, slippery surfaces, or grooved pavement. Motorcyclists sometimes use engine braking to slow, so you may not see brake lights.

Similarly, many motorcycle turning signals are non-canceling. If you find yourself at an intersection with a motorcycle that has a blinking turn signal, be sure it’s turning before you proceed through. The rider may just have forgotten to turn it off. Failure to yield right of way is the most-cited contributing factor in multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes.

When you’re changing lanes or merging with traffic, always use your turn signal so that motorcyclists can anticipate your movement. And whether you’re in traffic with motorcyclists or not, always drive sober and put down the distractions. Put your phone away or use a hands-free device; set your stereo and GPS before you leave; secure drinks and save the messy foods for your destination.

Motorcyclists themselves should always ride sober and distraction-free as well. You can help other drivers see you by wearing highly visible, reflective gear – but don’t ever assume they do. Ride as if other drivers don’t know you’re there. And every time you get on your bike, wear a DOT-approved helmet, use turn signals at every lane change – or turn and hand signals, if possible – and ride at safe speeds.

A great way to celebrate the spring weather as a motorcyclist is to take a rider training course. Training is available for all riders, from beginners to experts, and it can help you dust off your riding skills and polish your crash-avoidance techniques.

Whether the vehicle you drive has two wheels, four wheels or more, caution and watchfulness will go a long way towards keeping others – and yourself – safe on the roads this spring.