Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and scooter drivers are especially vulnerable when sharing the road with passenger vehicles, as two-wheeled vehicles are harder to see because of their smaller size. Even drivers who carefully watch the road could be surprised by the sudden presence of a much smaller vehicle.
For motorcyclists, the risk of injury and death is higher than for those driving or riding in a car. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only 2% of the fatalities resulting from a motorcycle crash with a passenger vehicle were occupants of the passenger vehicle involved. About 8% were passengers on motorcycles, and 90% were motorcycle operators.
One of the biggest threats to a motorcyclist on the road is other drivers. Of fatal motorcycle accidents, 56% involve another vehicle, and of those accidents, 85% involved passenger vehicles.
Here are three important ways that vehicle drivers can help make the roadways safer for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and scooter drivers.
1. Pay Attention When the Weather Is Nice
Most motorcycle accidents happen between May and October when weather conditions are ideal for riding. Bright sunlight may momentarily blind drivers, which could cause accidents.
Drivers should be aware of seasonal driving conditions and watch for motorcycles on the first nice days after winter and throughout the summer and fall months.
Road hazards are common in the spring in areas with harsh winter weather. "Hitting a pothole on a bike can send a motorcyclist flying and do damage to the bike. Drivers can help alert motorcyclists to potholes by swerving around them," said Alex Demsky, Category Director at MOTORCYCLEiD.
"If driving with anything attached to the outside of your car or an object larger than your trunk or truck bed, make sure it is securely fastened, as anything that falls off can end up severely hurting a motorcyclist. Take care to exercise caution when driving in view obstructing situations to avoid getting distracted and causing an accident."
2. Give Motorcycles, Scooters, and Bikes Extra Room
It's difficult for drivers to judge the speed of a motorcycle due to its compact size. For this reason, it's crucial to give them extra room to maneuver. When scanning the road ahead, make it a habit to enlist the help of passengers. They may spot a bike or motorcycle from the back seat or passenger side that a driver can't see.
Justin Lovely is President of the National Academy of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers and a motorcycle injury attorney in South Carolina. He says, "Young drivers also need to understand that driving behind a motorcycle is different; tailgating a motorcycle can result in serious wrecks. The air drafts coming off of a vehicle and a motorcycle are different, and each has a different braking power. A young driver needs to be aware of this and give the rider extra room with absolutely no tailgating."
Some road hazards that aren't a problem for cars could be dangerous for motorcycles. They may need to maneuver around gravel, puddles, uneven road surfaces, or small road debris. This sudden need to swerve could present additional dangers if cars in surrounding lanes are unaware of the motorcycle's presence.
3. Watch for Bikes and Motorcycles at Intersections
Traveling the same roads day in and day out means drivers can get lazy and stop paying close attention to their surroundings. It's essential to pay special attention at intersections when a flurry of activity may make it harder to notice two-wheeled vehicles.
Being hyper-aware at intersections is crucial when driving in urban areas. Over 90% of fatal motorcycle crashes involving passenger vehicles occur in a town or city.
Intersections may have standing water, loose asphalt, potholes, or debris that poses unique risks for drivers on two wheels. They need extra room to swerve around the road hazard, and cars following too closely could cause an accident.
An experienced motorcyclist may ride on one side or the other of a lane so they can remain visible in the car's mirrors. Even so, a driver must consistently check their blind spots and use turn signals before changing lanes or turning.
Teens may have particular challenges with distractions while driving. Loud music, friends in the car, and alerts from a cell phone could create a situation where it's challenging to stay engaged with the task at hand — paying attention while driving is a skill that comes with practice. While teens may take the blame for hot issues like distracted driving, the truth is that adults are just as capable of being unable to turn away from their cell phones or stay alert when driving the same route day in and day out.
4. Consider Enrolling in a Defensive Driving Course
Defensive driving courses can sharpen skills, help you become more aware of your surroundings while driving, and may even earn you a discount on car insurance. While a defensive driving course could lessen the blow of a ticket to your insurance premium in some states, it could also reduce fines and keep points off your driving record.
Even if you follow all the driving laws and stay alert when behind the wheel, you could still be involved in an accident and potentially hurt a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or scooter driver. Defensive driving classes teach drivers to anticipate problems and react before an accident becomes imminent.