Tips to Help Motorists Become More Motorcycle Aware

MirrorPoster_300dpiWhile many will argue that every month people should be aware of motorcycles on the road, May has been officially designated as Motorcycle Awareness Month. Of course as motorcycle and scooter riders, we want motorists and others on the road to take notice of us and share the road, however sometimes as people often do, they get caught up in their own world. So take it upon yourself to help spread the word. Have a casual talk with your friends and family that don’t ride and answer their questions. Explain the dangers we riders experience every time we ride, teach them what to look for and how to react. Explain that a motorcycle takes up less space than a vehicle and therefore is often harder to see, so remind them to look twice before changing lanes, check their blind spots, and most importantly pay extreme attention when entering an intersection.

A big portion of motorcycle accidents occur due to a car or truck turning left in an intersection as a motorcycle is coming from the opposite direction. Typically these accidents occur because the driver didn’t see the motorcycle rider or if they did see the rider it was too late. There are many reasons for this, obstruction from other vehicles or the surroundings, inappropriately judging the speed of the oncoming motorcycle, spotting an opening in oncoming traffic and assuming it’s safe to turn, or simply not deliberately looking for smaller vehicles like motorcycles or scooters. Recommend to your driving friends to pay extra attention at intersections and to scan the area beyond the oncoming car or truck immediately in front of them.

321-0112Really the best thing you can do aside from talking with your non-riding friends and family is to take them for a ride on your motorcycle. Don’t show off or try to intentionally scare them. Simply take them for a ride and make sure it’s a mix of surface streets and busy highway riding. Ideally it would be great if you had a dual motorcycle helmet communication system so that as you guys are riding you can point out where cautions are or common mistakes that drivers make that can potentially cause harm to a motorcycle rider. Letting them get firsthand experience of what it’s like to be a small, exposed object traveling at speeds up to 70mph amongst a sea of giants can be a real eye opener and help them better assess their driving habits.

035-130-141Motorcycle Awareness is a two way street, or highway if you prefer, that doesn’t only fall on the shoulders of motorists. As motorcyclists we need to be proactive in helping others spot us on the road. You can accomplish this by wearing bright colored gear. Sure black leather looks cool but it just helps you blend in more easily with the surroundings–especially when riding at night or low light conditions. You don’t have go all Cal-Trans and become a day-glow super hero, but a simple neon vest, some fluorescent coloring on your motorcycle jacket, or some crazy bright graphics on your motorcycle can help. Actually, did you know that a case study filed on BMJ (British Medical Journal) found that by simply wearing a white helmet resulted in a 24% lower risk of an accident as opposed to a black helmet? Of course night time riding definitely calls for some type of reflective striping or piping on your riding gear.

A modulating motorcycle headlight can be extremely useful as well and is legal in all states as long as the system meets Federal Motor Vehicle Standards (see here: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?node=se49.6.571_1108). And while it might not be ideal for sport bike riders, cruiser riders could benefit from some additional lighting on their bike such as spot lights, passing lamps, or driving lights.

We’ve seen plenty of videos on social media or maybe even in person of motorcyclists riding recklessly or stunting on public streets or highways. Sure these riders might be bringing awareness to motorcycles but it’s absolutely not what the majority of us want to be associated with. Be respectful and courteous to others on the road. That doesn’t mean you can’t ride defensively or offensively (however you might classify your riding style), it just means don’t ride unnecessarily close to other vehicles, don’t intentionally swipe at mirrors, pound on windows, or just ride like a jerk in general. Remember you can split lanes in California, just make sure you do it safely. If you do decide to split lanes it’s often safer and best practice if you don’t travel faster than 10 mph over the flow of traffic or at speeds above 30mph.

Other general riding tips include: Always assume the car next to you or ahead of you doesn’t see you, so stay out of its blind spots. Watch the driver’s head, it will often be the first indicator of what they are going to do next. And always be scanning and planning your out route if someone does something unexpected or an accident suddenly occurs.

Everyone has equal rights to the road, no one vehicle, driver or rider “owns” more of the road than another. However, that doesn’t mean that riders can’t easily get overlooked. So let’s all help do our part this month to help spread the word and encourage others to be more aware of motorcycles.