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Sharing the Road With Motorcycles

driver safety, driving, motorcycle safety, teen driver, travel

Last weekend, Nicholas and I went for our Saturday drive. We had gone to Wal-Mart to grab a few cleaning supplies for the car and were just wrapping up vacuuming out the car at the car wash. It wasn't the first time we saw motorcyclists on the road during our teenage driving sessions, but it was likely the very first time my son and I have seen the results of a motorcycle accident close-up, in person.

We heard sirens and saw ambulances and police officers flee to the scene. We could see that they had stopped right down the street, but our view was obstructed. Since it was right around the time that Travis would normally be headed home from work, my first instinct was to call him and make sure he was okay. Unfortunately, he works in a -20 degree freezer so his phone is never with him.

After we were done vacuuming out the car, we cross through the 3 parking lots between where we were and the incident. We really couldn't see what was going on. When we got to the third parking lot, we saw the wreckage and the motorcycle rider on a stretcher being loaded into the ambulance.

I felt bad taking pictures, but I wanted to take at least one. I had my DSLR with me, but just took one with my phone's camera instead so I could capture and share what it looks like when a motorcycle is involved in an accident. Regardless of fault, it's a scary sight.

It's a scary thought that an experience so freeing can be so dangerous. My experiences as a passenger on a motorcycle have been nothing but amazing. With those experiences, I'm more aware of motorcyclists as a car driver as it relates to sharing the road with motorcyclists.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month for car drivers and May is Motorcycle Awareness Month. With that and the fact that we saw a devastating motorcycle accident, I wanted to share some tips for car drivers sharing the road with motorcyclists. This is especially important to me, not only because I have family and friends who ride motorcycles, but also because I'm teaching my teenage son how to drive right now.

Motorcycle Safety Tips for Car Drivers

  • Don't Drive Distracted: Distractions can include children, cell phones, music, eating and drinking while driving, GPS Navigation.
  • Use Your Turn Signals: It's not that hard. Not only is it a courtesy, but it's also a safety measure, especially when it comes to blind spots that even your own eye can't detect. If you know there is a motorcycle driving nearby, signal much sooner than you normally would.
  • Check Your Blind Spots: Take a little extra time to check and recheck your blind spots when merging or changing lanes. Motorcycles are more difficult to spot than most vehicles due to their small size.
  • Keep Your Distance
    •  If you're behind a motorcyclists, stay a bit further back than you normally would. Motorcyclists often slow down by downshifting or rolling off the throttle, which does not activate the brake light. If you have a manual transmission, you might be familiar with the concept.
    • If you're next to a motorcyclist, you might want to slow down a bit. Not all motorcyclists make the best judgement and can weave in and out of lanes when it would not normally be okay for a car to do so.
    • If you're passing a motorcycle, slow down a bit. Your increased speed can create a gust of wind that can cause instability for the motorcycle. Before reentering the lane, be sure you've gained 2-3 car lengths.
  • Are they really turning? - My Dad taught me a wonderful lesson when I was learning to drive as a teenager. He warned me that just because someone has their turn signal on, doesn't mean they're turning. They may have turned it on a bit too early, they might have left in on by accident or as with many older motorcycles that are still on the road, the turn signal is not self-canceling, meaning that after the turn is completed, the motorcycle rider must manually turn off their turn signal. This not only goes for motorcycles, but all vehicles. Make sure the driver is really turning.
  • Use Extra Caution at IntersectionsFar too often, I see drivers approach an intersection when turning without making a complete stop. Granted, there are some right lanes that say "KEEP MOVING", but you should really slow down as much as possible because vehicles coming from the other direction may not obey the traffic laws. Just take a second look before you shimmy through that intersection.
  • Do a Double Take Before You Merge or Turn Left: Accidents where a motorcycle hits a left-turning car often result in severe, if not fatal injuries. It's not a matter of fault. It's a matter of lives.
Motorcyclists are very vulnerable. They have no shell to protect them. Motorcyclists are cautioned to ride appropriately to share the road with other motorists. The same goes for us "other motorists". Take caution of motorcycles and share the road safely to prevent accidents involving motorcyclists.

Take a moment to watch this video to hear the voices of motorcyclists. This is one of the most powerful messages I've seen about motorcycle safety as it relates to car drivers.

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