According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 5,000 people were killed in motorcycle accidents in 2015. An additional 88,000 were injured in the same year. Furthermore, it is estimated that motorcycle accidents account for 4% of all people injured and 14% of all people killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. With such a high injury and fatality rate, it is important to understand how to stay safe and prevent a serious motorcycle accident.
There are several steps both drivers and motorcyclists can do to increase their safety and avoid a devastating crash:
Tips for Motorcycle Riders
Motorcyclists have a responsibility to drive in a safe and legal manner. Because they have no added protection from seatbelts and airbags like passenger cars have, they are at high risk for an injury. Thus, it is important for them to practice safe driving habits to help avoid an accident.
As a motorcyclist, you should:
- Avoid driving in blind spots. Because of their small size, motorcycles are not easily visible to cars. Thus, hovering in a vehicle’s blind spot is extremely risky. In order to increase your visibility to other drivers, you should always stay ahead or behind drivers, and to avoid driving in blind spots as much as possible.
- Keep your distance from other cars. It is also important to maintain a safe distance from other cars. If you share a lane or ride too close to a vehicle, you increase your chances of an accident. Instead, you should be aware of the cars around you and leave substantial buffer room between your motorcycle and other drivers
- Watch the wheels. A trick that can help you avoid an accident is to watch the wheels of the car in front of you. If they start to turn to the right or to the left, it can give you a clue as to the direction the driver is heading, even if the driver fails to signal. This can let you make quick adjustments to stay out of the way.
- Adjust to hazardous road conditions. Potholes and cracks in the asphalt can cause your motorcycle to crash. Furthermore, rain and snow can make the roads slippery, which increases your risk of skidding or sliding out. If you are driving through a construction zone or on a poorly maintained road, scan for hazards and drive around any obstacles. Furthermore, if it is raining or windy, slow down and use your headlights to increase your visibility.
- Beware of intersections. One of the most common types of motorcycle accidents occurs when a driver turns left into a motorcycle at an intersection. If there is no left turn signal, it is dangerous to proceed through the intersection if cars are coming. Furthermore, drivers have a harder time spotting motorcycles because of their smaller size. You should use bright clothing in order to be seen more easily, and you should also watch for turning vehicles in an intersection and stay alert in case a dangerous situation arises.
- Take the turns slow. Lowside crashes can result from going too fast around a corner. It is always important to slow down before a turn and to accelerate through a turn to keep the motorcycle balanced. If you fail to slow down properly, you risk sliding out, which can put you and other drivers at risk.
Tips for Drivers
Drivers of passenger vehicles also have a responsibility to drive safely on U.S. roadways. Since motorcycles are smaller and less visible, drivers should pay attention to any motorcycles around them and exercise caution. There are several steps drivers can take to help prevent a motorcycle accident.
As a driver, you should:
- Be cautious when changing lanes or turning. As a rule, you should always use your turn signals when changing lanes or turning. This can help let other drivers and motorcyclists know where you are going. You should also check your mirrors and blind spots before turning to see if there are motorcycles around your vehicle. By exercising caution, you can increase your safety and help avoid an accident.
- Maintain a safe distance from motorcycles. If you are driving around motorcycles, it is important to stay a safe distance away. If they are directly in front of you, keep extra buffer room just in case they have to stop suddenly. This can help prevent you from rear-ending a motorcycle. It is also a good idea to make eye contact with motorcyclists who are passing you to let them know you see them.
- Pay attention to the road. Motorcycles are often easy to miss. They may seem to weave in and out in traffic and dart between lanes. That is why it is important for you to pay attention to the road. By checking your mirrors regularly and keeping your eyes on traffic, you can spot a motorcycle rider and make the necessary adjustments to avoid a collision. Furthermore, if the sun is in your eyes or the glare of headlights is too bright at night, it is a good idea to get protective eyewear and tinted sunglasses to help you see better.
Drunk, distracted, and drowsy driving puts both drivers and motorcyclists at risk. Thus, it is important to avoid drinking and driving, and to avoid distractions that take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel (or handlebars), or your mind off of driving. Whether you are a driver of a passenger vehicle or a motorcycle rider, you should obey traffic laws and practice defensive driving habits to help prevent a crash.