Sharing the Road with Motorcycles

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By Northland Insurance
2 mins • article

Per vehicle mile traveled, a motorcyclist is 27 times more likely than a passenger car occupant to die in a traffic crash. In 2014, 4,586 motorcyclists were killed and an estimated 92,000 were injured according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures. While the number of motorcyclists killed decreased slightly compared to 2013, the number injured increased 5 percent.1

To increase awareness of this trend, May is designated “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month” by federal, state and local highway safety agencies, law enforcement and motorcycle organizations. During this and every month, motorists are encouraged to pay special attention to motorcyclists.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers these reminders for sharing the road with motorcycles2:

  • Motorcycles are vehicles with the same rights and privileges as any vehicle on the roadway. Allow motorcyclists a full lane width. Never try to share the lane.
  • Approximately one-half of all motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Nearly 40 percent of these crashes occur at intersections when vehicles turn left in front of the motorcyclist.
  • Motorcycles may be difficult to see. Motorcycles have a much smaller profile than vehicles, which can make it difficult to judge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
  • Motorcyclists can easily be hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Always check mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
  • Don’t be fooled by a motorcycle’s flashing turn signals. Motorcycle signals usually are not self-cancelling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcyclist is going to turn before you proceed.
  • Remember that road conditions that may be a minor annoyance to you can pose a major hazard to motorcyclists. Motorcyclists may change speed or adjust their position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings and grooved pavement.
  • Keep a greater following distance behind motorcycles to allow enough time for the motorcyclist to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

1 Motorcycles, Traffic Safety Facts, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, June 2016.
2 Share the Road with Motorcycles, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS809 713, February 2007.

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