Motorcyclists continue to be overrepresented in fatal traffic collisions — with 5,014 motorcyclist deaths in 2019 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, per vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclists are about 29 times more likely than people in cars to lose their lives in a traffic crash.
Spring is in the air, which means more motorcyclists will soon hit the nation’s highways and byways. Now is a good time for fleet operators to remind drivers how to safely share the road with motorcyclists.
It’s important for drivers to understand the safety challenges faced by motorcyclists such as size and visibility, and motorcycle riding practices like downshifting and weaving to know how to anticipate and respond to them. By raising professional drivers’ awareness, both your drivers and motorcycle riders will be safer sharing the road.
Experts including the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and Driving-Tests offer the following advice to automotive and truck drivers.
Check Your Blind Spots
Because of its narrow profile, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Take extra time to look for motorcycles, especially when changing lanes or turning at an intersection.
Be Cautious When Passing
A speedy pass by a bigger vehicle could actually blow a motorcyclist over. Make sure to signal your intention to pass and always make sure you are several car lengths ahead of the motorcycle before returning to your lane.
Keep a Healthy Following Distance
Motorcycles react more quickly than cars. Maintain an adequate following distance behind motorcycles. Rear-ending a motorcycle can be fatal to the rider, particularly if you drive a large, heavy vehicle.
Don't Expect Visual Warnings
Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle — not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance of about 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, it’s wise to assume a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.
Understand Turn Signals May Be Inaccurate
Typically, turn signals on a motorcycle are not self-canceling, so riders sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. If you notice that a motorcycle is driving with an activated turn signal for an abnormal distance, increase your following distance so that you have time to react whenever the rider does decide to turn.
Take a Second Look at Left Turns
Before you cross a lane or lanes of traffic to turn left, take a second look for approaching motorcycles. Vehicle accidents involving the collision of a left-turning car and an approaching motorcycle can be very severe, often because the motorcycle T-bones the car while it is midway through the left turn.
Beware of Bad Weather
Rain and winter weather can make it almost impossible for motorcyclists to continue to travel. Windy conditions can make it difficult for motorcyclists to control their vehicle on the road. Also remember that weather conditions often reduce your own visibility and may cause motorcycles to be more difficult to see.
Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off.
Remind your drivers that motorcyclists are vulnerable road users. Like bicyclists, they are completely exposed and that means in the event of a collision they will likely experience more serious or deadly injuries than drivers of an automobile or truck. Simply put, fleet drivers have a responsibility to be extra vigilant about safety when it comes to sharing the road with motorcyclists.