When the weather warms up, motorcycles come out of garages all over the northern half of the country, and riders hit the road.
For riders, that first ride of the season is often a memorable one, opening a new summer season of riding adventure. But danger lurks within every other vehicle on the road: More than half of all motorcycle crashes involve a collision with another vehicle, and the driver of that other vehicle is most often at fault.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation urges all drivers to give riders some space and to not be "that guy” who hits a motorcyclist. Killing or injuring a motorcycle rider is something you'd have to live with for the rest of your life, and nobody needs that guilt.
Here, from the foundation, are some hints that you, the driver of a car, should know about motorcyclists:
1. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and because of that, some drivers don't “recognize” a motorcycle. Motorcycles are simply not on their personal radar screens, and they are ignored, usually unintentionally and sometimes with tragic consequences.
2. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spots (like the door and roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (like bushes, fences or bridges). Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles, whether you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections.
3. Also due to its small size, a motorcycle may seem to be farther away than it actually is, and it may be difficult to judge its speed. If you see a motorcycle when you are checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into or out of a driveway, predict it's closer than it looks.
4. Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance -- say, three or four seconds between your vehicle and the motorcycle. At intersections, predict that a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning in the form of brake light activation.
5. Motorcyclists often adjust their position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a legitimate purpose -- not to be reckless or show off or allow you to share the lane with them.
6. Turn signals on a motorcycle are usually not self-canceling; thus, some riders (especially beginners) may forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Don’t ignore the turn signal, but be aware that it might not be activated to indicate an imminent turn.
7. Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle’s better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don’t expect a motorcyclist to be able to dodge out of the way of your vehicle. Give them space to maneuver.
8. Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping more difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle than behind a car or truck, because a motorcycle can’t always stop “on a dime” -- or even a quarter.
9. When a motorcycle is in motion, see more than the motorcycle. Also see the person under the helmet, who could be your friend, neighbor or relative. If a driver crashes into a motorcyclist, bicyclist or pedestrian and causes serious injury, the result is a tragedy not only for the injured person but for the driver of the vehicle that injured him as well.