Safely Sharing the Road with Motorcycles

With temperatures steadily climbing and spring winds dying down, conditions are favorable for motorcycle travel. That’s probably why May is Motorcycle Safety Month, an excellent time to brush up on how you—car driver and motorcycle rider alike—can make roads safer for motorcycle travel.

Considerations for the 4-Wheel Vehicle Driver

The biggest factor to improved safety for motorcycle is visibility—car and truck drivers need to see motorcycles on the roadways. Although this sounds obvious, motorcycles are often overlooked because of their smaller profile. Drivers are trained to see and look for vehicles of comparable or larger size, but smaller vehicles are more likely to get lost in blind spots, particularly when drivers assume that the absence of another car means that they are in the clear to proceed, turn, maneuver, etc.

Seeing motorcycles is the first step in recognizing that motorcycles are vehicle equals. Even though they may be smaller, they have the same rights (and responsibilities) on the road as any other vehicle. That means that car and truck drivers must allow motorcycles their full lane space.

In those lanes, motorcycles move and function differently, so car and truck drivers must also:

Use their turn signals. Let everyone with whom you’re sharing the road know where you intend to go. Proper alerts to direction changes let other drivers adjust safely.

Not rely on motorcycle’s turn signals. Motorcycle turn signals do not always turn off automatically after the turn is completed. Do not assume that if you see a signal that the motorcyclist is turning. The rider may have forgotten, so you must look for other clues that indicate a change in the motorcycle’s direction.

Allow more following distance. Motorcycles brake faster, so to give your heavier vehicle the room it needs to safely stop without colliding with the motorcycle in front, allow three to four seconds of following distance.

Car and truck drivers must also realize that road conditions that may not pose any hazard to them may require special attention and/or maneuvering for a motorcyclist. Drivers must always be vigilant to watch for sudden movements.

Considerations for the Cyclist

You may have the full rights of any other vehicle on the road, but the fact is a two-wheeled, uncovered vehicle and its rider—you—are more vulnerable than any other vehicle on the road. To make road sharing safer, you must act like a “regular” vehicle, which means:

·         Taking up your full lane space—no lane sharing with another motorcycle and no “betweening” (that’s a phrase we just coined for driving between lanes of traffic)

·         Using your turn signals…and remembering to turn them off when not in use

You can also be proactive about your own safety by avoiding large vehicles’ “No Zones” (i.e. blind spots) and always wearing a helmet and other protective gear.

It is every driver’s responsibility to make roadways safe for all vehicles and their drivers/riders/passengers. And with the weather right for motorcycle travel, now is the time to start developing habits of safe road sharing with two-wheeled vehicles.