As we march on to summer motorcyclists all over the country will be hitting the open roads to enjoy a bit of two-wheel therapy. Riders of all ages and backgrounds are polishing their chrome and fixing that pesky petcock valve in anticipation of another great season, complete with mosquitoes in their teeth and memories in their scrapbooks. While there are very few things like the freedom of the open road, there also very few things that require such great caution and care to enjoy.
Each year there are around 90,000 motorcycle accidents in the United States. While motorcycles make up a small percentage of the nearly-300 million registered motor vehicles in the country, their involvement in fatal accidents per 100,000 drivers often greatly exceeds that of their four-wheeled counterparts. Although single-vehicle accidents are common in negligent riders, more than half of motor vehicle accidents involving motorcycles are caused by negligent automobile drivers.
So, with all of that said, how can we help lower these numbers? Well, that depends on whether you are in the saddle or behind the wheel.
Tips for Drivers
If you find yourself sharing the road with a motorcyclist here are things to think about:
- Distance – are you too close? Both motorists and motorcyclists often have the false perception that because motorcyclists are more maneuverable, they can afford the same space as an automobile. This error costs lives; leave room.
- Visibility – can you see each other? Cars have blind spots, and motorcyclists are sometimes difficult to see. Most people are looking for cars and trucks, and do not notice motorcycles due to their size. Always take extra care checking blind spots when merging, changing lanes, or turning.
- Right of Way – was it your turn? The most common accident involving motorcycles caused by negligent automobile drivers is failure to yield; specifically, failure to yield to right of way at left turns. Drivers are used to looking for cars, and motorcycles are an afterthought. In many instances drivers will see the motorcyclist, misjudge their speed, and pull out. The solution is simple: if you do not know, do not go.
Tips for Motorcyclists
Motorcyclists hold a great responsibility to the care and safety of their fellow motorists as well as themselves. Here are things to be mindful of when you are on your bike:
- Physics – the laws of gross tonnage are not in your favor and speed does not make you invincible. That lane ends and that semi weighs 80,000 pounds no matter how fast you are going.
- Anticipate – pay attention to your surroundings. Brake lights, turn signals, changing weather conditions, and a slew of other signs can save your life, but you must notice them to respond accordingly.
- Be Realistic – your riding habits should match your ability, and always be safe habits. The human body was not made to collide with objects at any speed, so be honest with yourself about your ability on two wheels. It may save your life.
In short, we all know the risks involved with driving. Motorcyclists are often at greater risk on the road simply due to the properties of the vehicle itself. Do not make yourself a statistic this summer. Ride safely and look out for your fellow motorist.