Motorcyclists and vehicle drivers need to look out for each other on the road

Crawford Frazer
If a motorcycle and a vehicle collide, it's obvious that a car or truck will provide more protection against injury than a motorcycle helmet. For motorcycles and other vehicles to peacefully coexist on the roads, drivers in vehicles should follow some basic safety practices.
Motorcycle accidents and fatalities

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported 7.7 million motorcycles on the road. And, according to the Insurance Information Institute, the road can be a dangerous place for them.

  • Motorcycle riders were 39 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled in 2008.
  • Motorcyclists were also eight times more likely to be injured.
  • In 2009, 106,000 motorcycles were involved in crashes.
  • Although motorcycle deaths declined in 2009, they had risen for the previous 11 years.

The most common place motorcycle accidents occur, according to Allstate, is intersections. On average, three motorcyclists are killed at intersections every day in the United States. Allstate advises drivers to exercise extra caution at each and every intersection. Because motorcycles are small, they may appear farther away than they actually are, so drivers should keep that in mind when yielding to them.
How to safely share the road with motorcyclists

How else can you help reduce these crash and death numbers? First, remember that motorcycles have the same rights as any other vehicle on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shares some additional tips:

  • Don't try to share a lane with motorcycles. Give them a full lane's width.
  • Always use a signal before changing lanes or merging. This will give a motorcyclist the chance to anticipate your moves and adjust his or her position in the lane if necessary.
  • Because motorcycles are more difficult to see than cars, use extra precautions, like checking your mirrors and blind spots at intersections and before entering or leaving a traffic lane.
  • Motorcycle turn signals are not self-cancelling, so wait for the bike to turn before trying to pass a motorcycle that appears to be about to turn.
  • Watch for potholes, gravel, wet roads, grooved pavement and railroad crossings. These types of conditions are big obstacles for motorcycles and may cause a motorcyclist to slow down or change position within a lane.
  • Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle than you would for a car -- about three or four seconds. If the road is dry, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars can; if you don't leave enough space, you may rear-end the motorcycle.

Safety for motorcyclists

Of course, motorcyclists also must exercise caution. These tips are courtesy of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation:

  • Don't ride on pavement lines, in between lanes or in restricted (high-occupancy) lanes.
  • Obey all speed limits.
  • Always use turn signals.
  • Don't ride more than two abreast in a lane.
  • As with other vehicles, ride in the right lane; use the left lane only for passing.
  • Don't weave in and out of traffic.
  • Stay aware of road construction signs, work crews and signs requiring you to reduce speed.

Although not required in all states, wearing a helmet reduces the risk for serious head injuries.

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