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As gas prices increase more people realize motorcycles and scooters are an economical way to travel whether it is to and from work, running errands, or traveling long distance, but motorcycles are not always the safest form of transportation. There are some very simple steps that can be taken to make the daily commute safer while sharing the road with motorcycles.
In 2010, there were 123,432 motorcycles registered in the State of Alabama which means according to the law of averages every time a motorist leaves home they are very likely to encounter at least one motorcycle. In 2008, there were 2,106 accidents on Alabama highways involving motorcycles with 100 motorcycle fatalities and 1,495 motorcycle injuries.
In 2010, there were 3,615 motorcycle fatalities in the U.S. According to a study published in 1981, three-fourths of motorcycle accidents occur because of a collision with another vehicle, most often a passenger automobile. Of those, two-thirds of the time the accident occurred when the driver of the vehicle violated the motorcycle right-of-way.
Those motorists claimed they did not see the motorcycle or did not see the motorcycle in time to avoid the collision.
Intersections are the scene of most of those accidents with the other vehicle violating the motorcycle right-of-way. In almost half of multiple vehicle accidents, the motorcycle was obstructed by glare or not easily seen behind another vehicle. Always pay extra attention when weather makes it hard to see clearly.
Don’t assume that a rider will be able to avoid colliding with your vehicle. The 1981 study stated a rider has a mere 2 seconds to complete all collision avoidance actions before colliding with a vehicle that has entered his path.
Those are very sobering statistics. Riders are people, though, and not cold impersonal statistics. We’re just like anyone else. We’re someone’s child, someone’s spouse or significant-other, someone’s parent, and often, given the current higher percentage of older riders, someone’s grandparent.
Always take notice of other vehicles on the road. Don’t live the rest of your life knowing that through your carelessness you took someone’s life or caused a life altering injury. “I didn’t see you”, is unacceptable.
Tips for motorists:
- Look for motorcycles and expect to see them. Our brain doesn’t always register what our eyes see unless it is prepared for that encounter – remember motorcycles are on the roads and look twice before pulling onto the roadway, making a turn, or changing lanes.
- Realize that motorcycles can easily be hidden in your automobile’s blind spots without the rider realizing it. Always carefully check your mirrors and blind spots before lane changes or turns.
- Motorcycles are smaller and may not be traveling at the rate of speed you think – don’t risk an accident. Wait for the motorcycle to pass before proceeding.
- Any time you see two or more motorcycles on the road, realize they are more than likely traveling together and wedging your SUV between them won’t get you to your destination any faster.
- Realize that motorcyclists may down-shift or let off the throttle to slow down without having to brake when they see a hazard ahead or approach a turn, and doing so does not activate their brake-light. Don’t tail-gate. Allow a safe distance between the rider and yourself.
- If a motorcyclist’s turn signal is on, especially if on for an extended period of time, remember that once turned on, the turn signal on a motorcycle stays on until it is manually turned off. Many new riders are used to a car’s turn signal going off automatically after making a turn and forget to turn the signal off on their bike. Don’t pull out unless you’re sure the bike is actually turning.
- Be aware that motorcycles don’t stop any quicker than an automobile and on wet pavement lose much of their maneuverability. Don’t add to the problem by following too closely or turning without allowing enough space between you and an on-coming motorcycle. The classic left turn across the lane of an on-coming motorcycle has taken many lives.
- Always remember that learning to ride a motorcycle is not an easy task and any motorcycle you meet may be operated by a new rider who is struggling to remember all the steps in the operation of the motorcycle while observing the same traffic rules you are. Be courteous. Arrive safely, and allow riders you encounter to do the same.
- Remember riders must be constantly on the look-out for any objects in the roadway which may pose no threat to an automobile but which can be a huge risk for the smaller motorcycle. Look ahead. If you see debris in the roadway, a dog approaching the roadway – anything that may pose a risk for the rider – drop back and allow the rider space to stop or safely navigate around the hazard.
- Operating a motor vehicle safely requires your full concentration. Don’t tune your radio, dial your cell phone, eat your lunch or text your BFF while your vehicle is in motion. Lives, possibly your own, depend on your devoting your total attention to driving your automobile and being completely aware of your surroundings.
- Always use your turn signals and turn only from the designated lane. Are you sometimes in a hurry and willing to take a chance on making that left turn and let the oncoming car or rider fend for themselves? If you cause an accident, by the time the police have finished questioning you at the crash site you’re going to be VERY late. Don’t chance it.
- A rider may legally ride anywhere in the lane – to the right or left of the lane or in the middle of the lane. A rider moving over to the outside edge of the lane is not an invitation to share the lane.
- If you must drink, stay home, stay at a friend’s, call a taxi, or ask for a ride. Whether driving an automobile or riding a motorcycle, don’t drink and drive.
- Realize that a rider is a living breathing person. Imagine a face on the rider and a motorcycle morphs from being a “thing” into being a person. Maybe you’ll be less willing to take a chance and more willing to share the road with a person than a machine.
- When you are entering the freeway, “tag you’re it”, is not something a rider wants to hear. Regulate the speed of your vehicle so that you can safely enter the freeway without pushing a rider out of the lane. He may have nowhere to go to avoid you.
- If nothing else gets your attention, remember – causing an accident is expensive. Even if your insurance pays for the damage, they may cancel your policy afterward leaving you to look for high risk, much more expensive coverage.