May was Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, but we think it’s just as important to be safe in June, July, and August, when warmer weather means more riding opportunities. In the past, we’ve offered info on motorcycle safety and provided safety tips for our freewheeling friends. We even have an entire section on our website dedicated to answering your questions about motorcycle insurance.
But here’s a new one: What can you, as a car driver, do to help avoid accidents with motorcycles? Here are 5 basic tips for sharing the road:
1. Look 3 ways before changing lanes
Though you probably have a sense of where cars are around you, you still can’t see vehicles in your blind spot. To avoid accidents, always look 3 ways — rear view, side view, and quick head check — before changing lanes or turning.
2. Use your signals — always
Most motorcyclists are cautious, responsible riders. They have to be. With very little between them and the road, accidents can be fatal. As a result, bikers tend to drive defensively. They watch you and try to anticipate what you might do next. Since motorcyclists have to adjust their riding behavior based on what you do, always signal your intentions.
3. Move over
Lane sharing (or lane splitting) is something motorcyclists often need to do. Some bikes can overheat at slow speeds, so in heavy traffic motorcyclists will sometimes split lanes. Don’t get mad. And don’t try to block them. If you see a bike approaching in the rearview mirror and you’re able to do so safely, move over slightly so the bike can pass.
4. Don’t tailgate and be careful when passing
Never tailgate motorcyclists. They can slow down by downshifting, so you can’t expect to always see a brake light. Additionally, always leave plenty of room around a bike on all sides. If a motorcyclist is surrounded on 3 sides by other vehicles, don’t become the 4th.
If you need to pass, signal first, then plan your move. Long before you approach the bike, move over to the next lane and stay in that lane until long after you’ve passed. Be sure to avoid having the biker in your blind spot.
5. Don’t make it personal
Sometimes bikers will rev the engine. More often than not, they do this to alert you to their presence, not to show off. Same goes for passing. Some motorcyclists may speed up to pass you, not to show off, but to get out of your way. And remember that minor road conditions can pose major hazards to motorcyclists, which is why they may suddenly change speed or adjust lane position.
Now that the milder weather has arrived, expect to see more motorcycles on the road. Think of the person beneath the helmet as your friend and give them the courtesy they deserve.