August 5, 2016

Sharing the road with motorcycles

The concept of sharing the road with motorcycles has become pretty popular as of late: you can find bumper stickers, commercials, shirts, etc. all sporting this logo. And it’s for good reason – if you consider how common car accidents are in the Tampa Bay area, remember how much more likely a motorcyclist is to be killed if they are involved in an accident, and you’ll understand the movement.

So, if a driver makes an honest attempt to share the road with motorcycles, what does that look like? How can one drive safely to accommodate motorcyclists?

Be predictable 

Nobody can prevent an accident with an unpredictable driver, especially motorcycles. Those sharing the road with you remain aware of your presence, speed, and what you plan to do, just as you do. As motorcyclists don’t have thousands of pounds of armor protecting them from harm, their best defense is to be ultra-aware of their surroundings. Therefore, always make your intentions clear: use your turning signal, slow to a stop instead of stopping abruptly, refrain from swerving in your lane, etc.

If there’s a motorcycle next to, in front of, or behind you, you may automatically try to create more room for them to prevent a collision. However, not only are motorcyclists aware of their surroundings and more able to adjust their position if a car needs to adjust theirs, but there may be another motorcyclist on the other side of you, who has chosen their place in the road based on your location. Therefore, don’t make any abrupt decisions. Maintain your position on the road and your fellow drivers and motorcyclists will follow suit.

Remember: they’re smaller

Many accidents occur because of the size of a motorcycle. Drivers are accustomed to keeping an eye out for others of their size and frequently forget their smaller counterparts. This means double-checking side mirrors, blind spots, and making sure to look both ways a couple times before crossing the street. You never know if there’s a motorcycle next to you that you just didn’t see at first glance.

Motorcycles being smaller also means that they’re capable of much more abrupt movements than cars. Therefore, if you’re following a motorcycle on the road, give them some space. A motorcycle is entitled to the entire lane, so don’t pressure them into sharing it with you. If you tailgate a motorcycle, it may stop abruptly to avoid debris in the road or another vehicle, and you won’t be able to stop nearly as quickly. Always allow motorcycles the space they need to shift their inertia. 

Weather changes everything

While rainy, wet roads mean a driver needs to prevent hydroplaning by slowing down, keep in mind that a motorcycle is much more vulnerable to inclement weather. For example, because a motorcycle is significantly less sturdy than a car, a wet, muddy road is more difficult for a motorcycle’s tires to grab onto. 

Another example is wind: while a significant gust of wind can be felt on a car, it can actually push a motorcycle across a lane, potentially into oncoming traffic. If it’s enough to make you feel insecure in your well-protected car, just imagine how a motorcyclist feels; they don’t have any barrier between them and the outside elements.

Be patient

While it can be stressful to be stuck behind a slower driver or waiting for a driver in another lane to make room for you to switch into their lane, motorcycles are incredibly vulnerable to any bad choices you make as an impatient driver. While you may think you have the upper hand as a larger vehicle, consider the consequences of accidentally killing a motorcyclist. Respect their space as a vehicle on the road, and do not attempt to pressure a motorcyclist to move for you. Sharing the road with motorcycles is as simple as a turn signal or brake lights!

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