Perhaps the most commonly discussed motorcycle accident scenario is the one in which a motorcycle goes straight through an intersection on a green light and a car or truck coming from the opposite direction turns left in front of – or into – the motorcycle, usually because the car or truck driver didn’t look closely enough to see the narrow profile of the motorcycle. Since the motorcycle is usually travelling above 40 km/h in this scenario, and even if it isn’t, these collisions usually result in quite severe injury to the rider or riders of the bike, and quite extensive damage to the bike itself. This is an accident that is costly to the insurance company (and therefore to the other policyholders). Unfortunately, it is not a scenario that the motorcycle rider can avoid in most instances; catching the eye of the car driver is difficult at best, making oneself bigger is pretty close to impossible, and the lion’s share of the noise generated by the bike doesn’t precede the bike into the intersection in enough time to register with the incredibly well-insulated car driver. However, what the motorcycle rider must do to make this situation much safer and the possibility of an accident much less likely is to slow down. By slowing down, the rider makes him/herself much more likely to be seen by the car driver and much more in control if evasive manouevres are necessary. Bright and reflective clothing for the motorcycle rider is extremely important in this (and other) situations, and riding with the lights on at all times is critically important as well.
Motorcyclists cannot swerve or turn quickly at relatively high speeds to avoid trouble, which is a problem when deer or dogs enter the road ahead. In many cases, the deer leaps out so quickly that riders (or car drivers) have no time to respond. When dogs chase motorcycles, the result can be disastrous if the dog is aggressive and is poorly trained by an irresponsible owner. The best thing in the dog scenario is to continue in a straight line and keep the bike upright. Again, strict penalties and enforcement of those penalties against dog owners who fail to grasp this issue may help. Motorcycle run-ins with dogs are at least as frequent as those with deer, and the consequences in terms of damage and injury are severe.
One important aspect of avoiding collisions with cars is ensuring that you, the motorcycle rider, are as visible as possible. Bright clothing with reflective elements is a very good idea, and it is absolutely imperative that you always ride with your lights on.
Miscalculation of speed through curves can – and does – result in motorcyclists of varying levels of expertise going down, with or without the existence of sand and gravel on the road. Judging curves is critical; staying in one’s own lane is equally important, obviously. Training and experience help to lessen these incidents, but it is also important to have a healthy dose of humility and respect for the unknown because the more room that’s left for error the greater the chance that fate will take over. Too many seasoned riders have misjudged in this scenario and paid the price.
Slow down when it starts to rain. Go slowly through leaves on the road in autumn; those leaves behave like ice. Assume that car drivers on 400 series highways don’t see you, and move quickly from being directly beside them. Always look for exits from all situations before they occur; look for potential situations developing and prepare to act. Cars backing out of driveways take down a lot of riders.
You, the motorcycle rider, are not a victim, nor is there any car driver conspiracy against you. You have privileges identical to those of the car driver, but you don’t have two tons of steel enveloping you. You have to be extremely proactive in avoiding and preventing dangerous situations. Read anything and everything you can find about motorcycle safety, starting with your local Motorcycle Rider Training Course provider. Take a rider training course suitable to your level of experience if you haven’t done so in a long time. Talk about safety with your riding buddies and with non-riders in your circle of influence; don’t ride with irresponsible riders. Report riders who pull wheelies at lights and such nonsense; they are affecting not only your insurance rates but the perceptions of the non-riding public, and earning their respect goes a long way toward making our shared roads safer.
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