The warmer weather seems to bring out something in the human spirit that craves the freedom of the open road. And, consequently, increased traffic is inevitable, especially in the popular tourist and vacation spots in every state. Sharing the road safely with motorcycles, the ultimate symbol of carefree, easy transportation, can become a problem, especially for professional chauffeurs who often transport passengers in larger, multi-passenger vehicles.
A preliminary report released on May 22nd by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that motorcycle fatalities in the United States did not significantly change from 2010 to 2011, totaling 4,500 each year. All 50 states and the District of Columbia provided the data for the report. With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) projecting that overall motor vehicle fatalities declined 1.7% in 2011, reaching their lowest level since 1949, the death rate for motorcyclists is one of the few areas of highway safety in which progress is not being made. NHTSA also reports that when motorcycles crash with other vehicles, it is often because the larger vehicle has violated the cyclist’s right of way.
So what can you do?
The following guidelines can help make sure that each trip is a safe one for you and motorcyclists with whom you share the road.
- Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Respect a motorcycle as
you would any other vehicle, with the same rights and privileges.
- Keep a greater following distance. Motorcyclists often slow
by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the
brake light. Also, because motorcycles can usually stop in shorter distances,
leave additional space ahead for that extra cushion of safety.
- Be alert for motorcycles that may appear suddenly. Sometimes riders may
take advantage of the cycle’s size and maneuverability to cut between other
vehicles. When turning right, watch for motorcycles that may be traveling in
the space between your vehicle and the curb or other lane of traffic.
- Check mirrors and blind spots before turning, changing lanes,
backing up or parking. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a limousine’s blind spots or masked by objects or backgrounds (bushes,
fences, bridges, etc.). And don’t be fooled by a motorcycle’s single headlight
and single tail light which sometimes blend into the lights of other vehicles
- Communicate clearly. Signal your intentions before changing lanes,
turning or merging with traffic. This allows the motorcyclist to anticipate
traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
- Exercise care at intersections. Collisions between
motorcycles and other vehicles, including limousines, are most likely to occur
at intersections. A motorcycle’s small profile makes it difficult to judge its
distance and speed. A second look can make all the difference in avoiding a
- Don’t be fooled by a motorcycle’s flashing turn signal. Motorcycle signals may not be self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. So don’t
assume a turn is imminent.
The GHSA report has come out just before Memorial Day Weekend, when at least five large motorcycle rallies are planned across the country, including “Rolling Thunder” in Washington, D.C., where approximately 100,000 riders are expected to congregate.
So be alert, and extend courtesy to the two-wheelers with whom you share the road.