May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, designed to encourage all drivers and motorcyclists to “share the road” with each other.
In 2015, according to NHTSA, 4,976 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes, an increase of 8 percent from the year before. Motorcyclists were killed 29 times more often than people in passenger cars, based on the total number of miles driven.
Safe riding practices and cooperation from auto drivers will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways, but it’s especially important for motorists to understand the safety challenges faced by motorcyclists such as size and visibility, and motorcycle riding practices like downshifting and weaving to know how to anticipate and respond to them. By raising motorists’ awareness, both drivers and riders will be safer sharing the road.
Tips for Motorists
- Motorists are at fault in over half of multi-vehicle motorcycle-involved collisions.
- Don’t drive distracted. NHTSA-funded research shows that drivers are distracted more than 50 percent of the time. You should never drive, bike, or walk while distracted.
- Check your side-view mirror. It may seem inconsequential, but not using your vehicle’s rearview and side-view mirrors contributes to collisions, especially when it comes to with smaller vehicles like motorcycles. With roughly 40 percent of a vehicle’s outer perimeter zones hidden by blind spots, if the side-view mirror isn’t adjusted right, or you’re not using it, it can have dire consequences for motorcyclists.
- Slow down around intersections. If you are turning at an intersection, and your view of oncoming traffic is partially obstructed, wait until you can see around the obstruction, sufficiently scan for all roadway users (pedestrians and motorcyclists included), and proceed with caution.
- Change lanes carefully. Make sure you merge safely into oncoming traffic when you approach congested roadways. Being diligent in modifying your speed to match that of the cars in traffic can be a lifesaver, particularly for motorcyclists.
- Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Though it may seem as if there is enough room in a single lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, looks can be deceiving. Share the road, but not the lane: a motorcyclist needs room to maneuver safely.
- Because motorcycles are smaller than most vehicles, they can be difficult to see. Their size can also cause other drivers to misjudge their speed and distance.
- Size also counts against motorcycles when it comes to blind spots. Motorcyclists can be easily hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Always look for motorcycles by checking your mirrors and blind spots before switching to another lane of traffic.
- Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate your movement and find a safe lane position.
- Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle—it may not be self-canceling and the motorcyclist may have forgotten to turn it off. Wait to be sure the rider is going to turn before you proceed.
- Allow more follow distance – three or four seconds – when following a motorcycle; this gives the motorcycle rider more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Motorcycle riders may suddenly need to change speed or adjust lane position to avoid hazards such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
Sharing the roads means safety for all.