Please Don’t Kill Us — Tips To Help Car And Truck Drivers Avoid Destroying Motorcycles And Their Riders

It happened again yesterday.  Another dead biker because someone (this time a bus driver for Pete’s sake) apparently didn’t see the motorcyclist, pulled through a stop sign into the bike’s path, and caused a deadly accident.  And this week, I accepted representation of another motorcyclist who was hit by a vehicle that failed to yield from a stop sign, knocking him to the ground and sending him to the hospital with significant injuries.

I ride my motorcycle all over this city at all times of the day.  I don’t speed, I don’t ride like an idiot, and I slow down at every intersection to allow me more reaction time when a vehicle inevitably comes out in front of me.  I and the other riders I encounter on the road would like to get where we’re going without taking a detour to the emergency room or the morgue.  People in cars and trucks can help us realize that goal by following a few safety tips:

1.  Because of motorcycles’ small size, they can be easily missed in a car’s blind spots (door/roof pillars) or blocked by things outside a car (foliage, parked vehicles, fences, etc.)  When you think about it, observing and accounting for motorcycles is no different than watching our for pedestrians and bicycles.  All are hard to see and all usually come out on the wrong end of a collision with a vehicle.

2.  Here’s why so many people think bikers barrel around at 100 mph, even though no one I know does that ever.  Motorcycles’ small profiles creates an optical illusion that  makes them look farther away than they are.  When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.  A good clue is when a motorcycle is traveling towards you with other motor vehicles.  If you wouldn’t pull out in front of the Ford Expedition bearing down on you, you should probably wait for the motorcycle next to it to pass too.  This optical illusion causes people to misjudge motorcycle speeds they think the bike’s father away, and thus covered the assumed distance in a short time period, thus indicating high speed.

3.  Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.  Personally, I don’t do this all the time because I want the traffic behind me to see my brake light come on.

4.  Motorcycles have difficulty with some types of road conditions that would not bother a car or truck that has at least four wheels.  Gravel, rocks scattered on the surface from an adjacent gravel road, driveway, or the gravel bed on the roadside, repaving that has stripped a road down to its subsurface, thick mud or dirt that has pooled in an intersection because of rain runoff, and wet surfaces are examples of road conditions that pose a challenge for a biker trying to stay balanced and upright on two wheels that may not be appreciated by four-wheelers.  So be careful following a motorcycle in such conditions and don’t tailgate because the rider may be traveling slower than you wish.  Or the bike may suddenly slow down because a dump truck scattered gravel all over a blacktop road and the biker has about three seconds warning before coming onto the gravel.  Surfaces that make it hard to balance a bike can also make it hard to stop one, so be aware that a motorcycle may not be able to stop as fast as a motor vehicle.

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