What All Drivers Can Do to Improve Motorcycle Safety

by Terry Bryant

Once again, the National Safety Council is telling us that May is National Motorcycle Safety Month.  Its primary goal is to encourage driver awareness that they share the road with motorcyclists and they should drive with their safety in mind. Bikers need all the help they can get: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the latest vehicle mile travel data show that motorcyclists are about 27 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 6 times as likely to be injured.  Motorcycle advocacy groups claim an even higher injury percentage.

The NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for 2016 disclosed that there were 5,286 motorcyclist accident fatalities: 4,603 riders of traditional “street bikes” and 319 of their passengers. The remainder was primarily due to off-road (BMX and ATV) fatalities and moped “almost” motorcycle street accidents.

In 2016, 463 motorcyclists were killed on Texas roads and highways, while 33 of their passengers lost their lives; and 1,861 motorcycle riders and 147 passengers suffered traumatic injuries, while thousands more suffered less serious injuries in motorcycle accidents.

Things About Motorcyclists (and Their Bikes) That Most Vehicle Drivers Should Know

Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spot or by objects or backgrounds (e.g. bushes, fences, bridges, other vehicles). Take an extra moment to consciously look for motorcycles, especially when changing lanes or turning at intersections – especially left turns. Motorcycles may also look farther away than they actually are, particularly in outside rearview mirrors. When they approach from the rear, it can be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed.

Over half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most of the time, the motorist – not the biker – is at fault. There are almost ten times the number of “traditional” vehicles on the road than bikes. And that can cause some drivers to not habitually “account” for a motorcycle. It’s a subconscious, not overt, behavior, but it can be modified.

Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to make it easier for them to be seen and to minimize the danger threats of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that when motorcyclists adjust lane position, they do so for a purpose — they’re not showing off.

Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle’s better advantages, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don’t allow yourself to be lulled into believing all motorcyclists are adept at dodging obstacles to avoid danger. It takes time for bikers to learn those finer points of bike riding safety.

Stopping distances for motorcycles and cars are about the same – on dry pavement. Wet roads make emergency stopping difficult because they compromise a biker’s balance. Vehicle drivers should also allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because you to can’t always stop as well in inclement weather.

Experienced bikers often slow down by downshifting or merely “rolling off the throttle.” This means their brake light is not illuminated. Allow more following distance between yourself and a motorcycle. At intersections, anticipate that a motorcyclist may slow down without warning.

Turn signals on a motorcycle usually don’t automatically stop, and some riders – often beginners – will forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle’s signal is genuine.

If you or a family member were riding a motorcycle which was hit by a negligent driver, Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law will evaluate your case free of charge. Contact us any time by phone, text, or web form.