Moms of the world, you were right: motorcycles are dangerous. Recent stats from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that the number of deaths on motorcycles per mile of driving is 27 times higher than the fatality rate for people in cars. The reasons aren’t surprising. Motorcycles are smaller than cars and therefore easier for drivers to overlook. When a motorcyclist crashes, the lack of protection from a vehicle frame means they are much more likely to get injured or killed. Combine a susceptibility to crashes with a vulnerability to their effects, and you’ve got a risky situation. Motorcyclists should do their part to stay safe by getting proper training, wearing protective gear, and following the rules of the road. Still, there are some things drivers can do to keep motorcyclists safe out there. Find out how you can help (and avoid the scary financial and emotional consequences of causing a crash).
Give Them Space
Motorcycles get to take up a whole lane. They don’t need to keep to the right like a bicyclist. Even if a lane looks wide enough to accommodate your car and the motorcycle, don’t try it. Likewise, motorcyclists should only travel within lanes, not between lanes for the purpose of passing cars. This is called lane splitting, and it’s illegal in most states. Just give motorcycles the same courtesy you give to other cars: give them room, stay out of each other’s blind spots, and maintain a safe following distance (at least four seconds’ worth of distance between you). Motorcycles can stop much faster than vehicles, so tailgating can turn into rearending in a split second.
Look Twice for Motorcycles
Most drivers who crash into bikes do so because they failed to see them. Motorcycles are smaller than automobiles, obviously, but we also fall into the habit of looking specifically for other cars. Break that habit and remember to look for motorcycles in your blind spots each time you make a turn or lane change. This is extra important at night. Since motorcycle don’t put out as much light as a vehicle with two large headlights and taillights, they are harder to see.
Offer motorcycles the right of way when appropriate, and don’t cut them off. This is good advice in general, but it’s important to use with motorcycles since their speed is harder for us to accurately estimate. Play it safe. Also, keep in mind that motorcyclists have to make more frequent adjustments to their surroundings (potholes, loose gravel, puddles, etc.) than drivers. That could mean slowing down or changing lanes frequently. Try to be patient.