Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to Not Kill Me

And other useful tips for driving near motorcycles

Memphis, TN

In light of yesterday's horrible, horrible driving I had to deal with, here's a post on how to drive when there's a motorcycle around.  A few helpful hints.

Leave more room than you would for a car
Regardless of where you are in relation to it, but especially if you're behind them.  On dry pavement, a motorcycle can usually stop faster than a car - depending on the car, the bike, and how they're each loaded down, of course.  But the bike is light and has good brakes, so if the tires have a large contact area with the ground - like a crotch rocket or cruiser with fat tires - it can stop pretty quickly.  (On wet pavement, ABS wins out pretty handily, but some bikes to have ABS too.)

If you follow to close to a car and they stop, it's usually a fender bender.  Maybe if you're really not paying attention, you might smash up the back of their car.  If you do it to a motorcycle, there's a significant chance they'll be seriously injured, even at low speeds.  If you hitting them causes the bike to go down, they either end up between your car and the bike, or in front of a tumbling, sliding, 500 lb bike.  Both bad scenarios.

Turn off your brights
This applies equally for cars and bikes, but I'm listing it because it's a serious pet peeve of mine - mainly because a deer ran out in front of me last year and I hit it and went down.  When you're out on a dark road on a motorcycle, especially a wooded one, animals can very easily take the bike down.  Even animals that are not as big as a deer, like a raccoon or a fox or a dog are big enough to cause the bike to go down if hit, so it's extremely important that a biker can keep his eye on everything in front of him.  Brights make that impossible.

Don't turn right into the right lane while I'm going by in the left lane
I know that sometimes you've been waiting a while to turn right.  Maybe this is the only gap you've seen in a while.  But the problem with someone turning like that, is that I can't know if they're turning into the right lane while I go by, or just didn't see me and they're going to swerve into the left lane right in front of me.  I've had both happen, and every time you pull that maneuver, I have to be prepared for you to cut me off.

It's also bad because you've just eliminated one of my escape routes.  When I'm riding, I'm constantly looking for where I'm going to go if someone cuts me off, turns in front of me, or brakes really suddenly.  When you take up the right lane like that - going much slower than traffic, since you just pulled out - that eliminates that option completely.  If someone slams on their brakes in the left lane now, I have to have a different place to go, which might be difficult depending on the road and traffic.

Don't start rolling to pull out/turn left before I'm past you
Just sit there for those two seconds until I'm completely past you.  Again, like above - maybe you saw me, maybe you didn't.  I can't know.  So when you start rolling, I have to act as if you didn't see me, so that I can avoid accidents like the one that would have happened yesterday.  The half a second you lose by not pulling forward that six inches is not going to matter at all.

Don't aim your car towards where you're turning when in the left turn lane
People turning left in front of motorcycles is the largest cause of motorcycle accidents, so I'm always scared in general.  But I hate when people have already turned their wheels toward me as I go by.  Maybe they're sitting in the intersection with them turned, maybe I'm the last in a group of cars and they're getting ready to turn.  Either way, it's a problem.

The main problem is what happens if you get rear-ended while your wheels are turned.  Instead of sliding forward, you slide into my lane.  And if I don't have time to react, or my escape routes are cut off by other traffic, we end up in a head-on collision and I go flying off the bike, maybe even through your windshield.

On top of that, it's the same problem as before - I don't know if you've seen me.  If your wheels are straight, I know that you can't end up in front of me until they turn, so I can feel a little safer about it.  If they're turned, or especially if you start turning them, I have to be ready for you to pull out in front of me.

Don't start changing lanes without a turn signal that's been on for at least a few seconds
I hate people who cut over without a turn signal or with a late one, especially on the freeway.  If you turn your turn signal on, I'll make room for you - I want my space, and if I have to back way off and let someone in to get it, I'll do that.  Give me warning, I'll make space, and then you can move over.  Don't just swerve into my lane and leave me with less stopping distance than I'm comfortable with.

Don't drive next to me
I talked above about escape routes - I'm always looking for one.  If something comes up in the road, I want to be able to swerve, and I can't when there's someone next to me.  Don't drive right next to me, especially don't drive just behind me in the lane next to me, and don't take forever to pass me.  Speed up past where your cruise control is set if you have to, just don't sit there.  If you're next to me for more than a few seconds, you've been there too long.

This is just a start, but doing these things will help me feel a little more comfortable, and help you not kill me.  It will never be completely safe on a motorcycle (or in a car for that matter), but at least we can work towards it being safer.

1 comment:

  1. Much of this is true when in a car as well. You're more vulnerable without all that metal around you on the bike, however.