What motorcyclists need to know to stay safe.
By George Tranos
|“Car hits motorcycle, driver says she never saw the bike.” Does this sound familiar? It seems every spring brings an influx of motorcycle riders back out onto the street and this is the unfortunate reality that sometimes results. Why does this happen and what can you do about it to stay safe?
Motorcycles are a very small part of the traffic mix even during peak riding season. Most riders put their bikes away for the colder weather over the winter. Many ordinary car drivers are surprised when motorcycles appear anew in the springtime. Since they are not used to being around motorcycles, they suffer ‘inattentional blindness’, a condition that is cause by the inability to notice a fully visible but unexpected object because attention was focused on another task. This is similar to but different from distracted driving. Both can cause lack of focus, lead to delayed reaction times and be factors in crash causation.
Because of their narrow width, a motorcycle approaching from dead ahead may quickly be upon an unwary driver. Larger vehicles such as trucks and buses are easily noticed even when traveling at relatively slow speeds because of their bigger cross section. But motorcycles don’t stand out in traffic and their speed is harder to gauge as result. This creates the “came out of nowhere” comment that is typically associated with the most common motorcycle crash – a car turning left into the path of a motorcyclist going straight at an intersection.
Motorcycle awareness programs are one component to the solution of this problem. Car drivers should watch out for motorcycles. Riders too must take heed. Education is key to helping riders see potential hazards before they result in a crash. Awareness of the dangers of intersections and having a mental strategy to search aggressively for factors that can accumulate to cause a crash can help motorcyclists prepare for evasive action.
A rider should hone their riding skills and continually practice quick stops and swerving in order to be prepared for a situation that might occur. The motorcyclist has to become as proficient as possible so that evasive maneuvers are second nature and they can focus their mental energies on scanning ahead. All drivers and riders should practice defensive driving techniques to look far ahead, get the big picture of everything around you and leave yourself an escape route. It is up to each of us individually to keep ourselves safe!
Accidents happen but crashes can be avoided! Many factors accumulate and interact and can result in a crash. Sometimes removing just one factor can avoid the crash. As riders, we should do a pre-ride check to make sure our motorcycle is in top condition, wear the appropriate protective gear and make sure we are physically and mentally ready to ride. When riding we need to always be aware of the risk of riding and take action to reduce risk. We need to watch out for the other drivers before they hit us! While risk can never be entirely eliminated, motorcyclists should do all they can to keep themselves safe and enjoy the ride!