Sharing the Road – Cars and Motorcycles
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 5000 motorcyclists were killed in 2018. Whilst some of these would be single vehicle accidents, many of them would have involved cars. Drivers not only have the responsibility to share the road but to also take proactive measures to reduce the number of collisions and increase the safety of motorcyclists we encounter whilst driving.
More Motorcyclist than Ever Before
Increasing fuel prices and other factors have caused the number of motorcyclists on the road has increased due to people trading in their cars for fuel-efficient motorcycles. This has drastically increased the number of inexperienced motorcyclists on the road, resulting in more accidents with cars. Worst of all, many collisions are often at the fault of the car driver, as many do not anticipate the prospect of a motorbike moving past them at high speed or being in close proximity to their vehicle in their blind spot.
Tips for sharing the road with motorcyclists
Field of Vision
The number one reason for accidents is drivers not checking blind spots. Motorcycles are much smaller than cars so can be far more difficult to spot whilst changing lanes or taking turns. Furthermore, the shape and colour of bikes can often blend into the background of the view you’re accustomed to seeing in your mirrors. Therefore, take your time before changing lanes and use a few seconds of your time to check all of your car’s blind spots before proceeding.
Night driving can be especially treacherous for motorcycles, therefore you can help them stay safe by increasing your distance and ensuring your full beams are switched off at least 500 ft from any vehicle.
Following on from this, be extra cautious when overtaking motorcycles. It’s best to give them the same amount of room as you could a large vehicle. This is because they’re far more susceptible to potholes or inconsistencies in the road, therefore may swerve side to side unexpectedly. In addition to this, motorcyclists are also far more exposed to the elements than drivers. So they are likely to swerve due to high winds or rainy conditions. Extra care should be taken during these conditions. While attempting to pass a slower motorcyclist, only on roads which allow this, you should signal your intentions early. This is because, going past a rider who is unaware of your intentions, especially at increased speeds could cause them to become unstable and lose control of their vehicle. You should always leave several car lengths distance before returning back to your lane.
Motorcycles are also fully entitled to their own lane of traffic, regardless of how small they are. You should never consider sharing a lane with them, as it would result in you being in close proximity regardless of how much space there seems to be. Sharing a single lane with a motorcycle is bound to cause collisions and issues.
It’s always best to keep in mind that motorcyclists will often react far quicker than any other vehicle. If you’re following one, maintain an adequate distance in case they suddenly break to turn quickly. If you’re aware a motorcyclist is following you, always signal your intentions to turn a lot earlier than usual.
The most common hotspot for collisions between cars and motorcycles are at junctions, particularly blind junctions. Therefore, these should be taken extra care at. Always follow the protocol to come to a complete stop, view and obey all signs and traffic signals, look both ways for approaching traffic, and proceed slowly.
Remember to watch out for turning motorcycles. This is because self-cancelling signals became the standard for motorcycles far later than for cars. Therefore, there are many on the road currently without this feature. If you notice a motorcyclist is driving with an activated turning signal for a large period of time, increasing your following distance so it’s easier to react if they suddenly turn.
An interesting technique which could save the life of both motorcyclists and regular cyclists is opening your car door with your far hand instead of your closest. By utilising this, your body will automatically swivel as you reach across the door, forcing the position of your head and shoulders to change so that you’re looking out into the road behind you. In this one fluid motion, you could also glance at the rearview mirror to easily check for any oncoming vehicles. Preventing any collisions that could have occurred as a result of opening the door.
In conclusion, it’s important to remember a motorcycle offers the rider little to no protection from collisions. Whereas cars offer an abundance of safety measure to increase the drivers chance of survival, such as crumple zones and airbags. Consequently, it’s your duty as a driver to ensure the safety of these riders. Many drivers fail their driving test due to not paying attention to vulnerable road users.