Driving Safely Around Motorcycles

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, so we’re highlighting important topics relating to motorcycle laws and motorcycle safety.

According to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), motorcycles represent nearly 20% of serious injuries in collisions, even though they only comprise 3% of road users. Each year, hundreds of Washington motorcyclists die or are seriously injured in collisions. Read the WTSC statistics on motorcycle safety for more details.

Motorcycles are smaller and harder to see than trucks or cars. They often weave among other vehicles on the highway, and can stop and start faster than other vehicles can due to their light weight. And, common accidents like rear-ending often cause far more serious injury to motorcyclists than they would to truck or car drivers. All of this means that motorcycle riders are at higher risk of sustaining a serious injury in a traffic collision.

It is every driver’s responsibility do their part in keeping motorcycle riders safe. Keep these 5 essential tips in mind when sharing the road.

  1. Drive sober, awake, and alert.

Driving around motorcycles requires attentiveness and quick reaction time. Take care not to be distracted by your cell phone, and make sure you’re well rested before driving.

Based on data from the WTSC, over half of the motorcycle accidents in WA involve impairment by drugs and/or alcohol. Never get on a motorcycle or behind the wheel of a car or truck if you’re drunk, high, or taking a prescription that warns you not to operate heavy machinery.

  1. Be aware of your surroundings.

The quicker you notice a motorcycle rider, the better you can protect them and yourself from a collision. Make sure your mirrors are well adjusted, and always check your blind spots by turning your head. Motorcycles are much smaller than other vehicles on the road, so take extra care looking for them.

Don’t drive with headphones, and think about turning down the bass. Many drivers are first alerted to the presence of a motorcycle by their distinctive sound. Keep your eyes AND ears on high alert.

  1. Give motorcycles extra following distance, especially during inclement weather.

Since motorcycles are small and light, they can stop much more quickly than other vehicles can, and a rear end accident is often far more serious for a biker than for a car or truck. Give a motorcyclist extra room when following so that you can react in time if the rider comes to a sudden stop. This is especially true when you’re driving on a slippery road and stopping might be harder. Check out our post on driving in snow and ice to learn more about knowing your limits and staying safe in the wintertime!

  1. Take extra caution at intersections.

Motorcycles are harder to see than cars from a distance. This is a contributing factor in many accidents where a driver makes a left turn in front of a motorcycle, causing the rider to T-bone the car. Spend a little extra time and look twice at intersections to check for motorcycles, especially before left-hand turns.

  1. Use your indicators.

Motorcycles sometimes weave between cars, and their path might be a little unpredictable. Since it’s sometimes hard to anticipate where a motorcyclist is going, make sure they know when you’re about to turn or switch lanes. Start signaling early so the motorcyclist has time to react, and always check your blind spots!