When you’re the fastest thing on the road you don’t need to look behind you very often. It’s the stuff up ahead you have to watch out for––including motorcycles––a lot of which are just as fast and maneuverable as very fast cars.
Most fatal motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle, usually a car, and the car driver is most often at fault. The classic “I didn’t see him” scenario has a car turning left in front of an oncoming bike, with the bike rider getting the worst of it.
Here are some tips to avoid pasting your two-wheeled motorhead brethren all over your grille.
All motorcycles are required by law to run with their headlights on all the time. But motorcycles are smaller than cars, and even those with two headlights place the beams close together, so they’re easily hidden in blind spots created by a car’s roof and door pillars, or in areas the rear-view mirrors don’t cover. When you turn or change lanes, don’t just check your mirrors, do a head check, too, looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re not about to punt a bike into the weeds.
That headlight-placement issue can make motorcycles appear farther away than they really are. You might think you’re seeing a car coming, and judge its distance from you by how far apart the headlights look, but it could be a motorcycle that’s a lot closer to you––and going a lot faster––than you thought.
Give bikes a lot of room when you’re following them in traffic. Some motorcyclists use engine braking to slow down, so you won’t see a brake light right away. Keep an eye out up the road and look for places a motorcycle might slow down or stop, like intersections or stop signs.
A modern motorcycle with an experienced rider at the controls can stop in amazingly short distances on a clean, dry road. But water, dirt, debris, leaves, and other factors make braking more difficult for bikes, especially those ridden by novices or weekend warriors whose skills aren’t up to par.
Some motorcycles have self-canceling turn signals, but most do not. If you see a bike with its turn signal blinking, don’t automatically assume the rider is going to turn or change lanes. If you’re in doubt, give the biker a break and back off.
Finally, remember that under that helmet with the dark faceshield is another motorhead, just like you, who gets the same kick out of high-performance vehicles no matter how many wheels they have. That motorhead might even be me.