Imagine you are riding a motorcycle on Interstate 26. The sun is beating down on your back, the wind is rushing past, and you are enjoying the mountain views as you ride towards North Carolina. Suddenly the car in the lane next to you moves into your lane, cutting you off and causing you to hit your brakes and veer off onto the shoulder to avoid a collision. Thankfully, you were able to avoid a crash by remaining vigilant and reacting quickly. Had you not, you likely would have suffered not just property damage but also bodily injury since you were on a motorcycle. Unfortunately, many motorcycle versus automobile collisions do not end as well. So what can motorcyclists as well as automobile drivers both do to increase everyone’s safety on the road?
Motorcycle safety and awareness differs from that of cars for several reasons. Motorcyclists are vastly more exposed to dangers on the road and not just from other vehicles. Road debris, such as loose gravel and oil slicks, and weather conditions also pose hazards. Proper protective gear and watchful eyes can help mitigate these conditions, but accidents do still happen. For this reason, Tennessee requires the use of a Department of Transportation approved helmet for drivers and passengers of motorcycles. You can even go a step above by wearing a SNELL-approved helmet, which has undergone more rigorous testing than a helmet with the D.O.T.’s stamp of approval. Even if you are “just going for a quick spin” on your bike, don’t chance injury by ignoring this law. Our firm has sadly seen the tragic end-result of this type of situation, and we stress the importance of safety first. A simple rear-end collision between two automobiles that only results in property damage could mean severe injuries if the collision occurs between a car and a motorcyclist.
In addition to wearing a proper helmet, motorcyclists should always have an escape plan while riding. If a vehicle unexpectedly changes lanes or stops suddenly, what path will you take to avoid an accident? Is the shoulder of the road available? Can you stop suddenly without causing the vehicle behind you to crash into you? Is there an open lane to move into safely? Motorcyclists should constantly be considering these factors so they can best protect themselves should dangerous situations arise. Other safety tips for motorcyclists are to wear reflective gear at night, regularly check tire pressure and tread, and always make yourself visible to other motorists.
So, what extra precautions can automobile drivers take when on the road? The saying, “Look twice, save a life” is a great starting point. Motorcycles are much smaller than cars and can easily be missed, especially if you are in a hurry or the sun is in your eyes. Take the extra few seconds to double check your surroundings and ensure you are clear to proceed. Always use turn signals when making a turn or changing lanes so any nearby motorcyclists can anticipate the movement and adjust accordingly. Likewise, leave plenty of room between you and a bike. If either of you have to stop quickly or swerve to avoid something, this will protect both of you but especially the exposed motorcyclist.
With all of the risks of being on a motorcycle, why do so many people choose to ride? For some, it is a great distraction from the stresses of everyday life. For others, it is the feeling of freedom they get from being out on the open road with just themselves, their bikes, and nature. No matter how many motorcycle enthusiasts you talk to, though, you’ll get one prevailing consensus: they simply love it! May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, but be sure to practice the safety tips above every day when on the road. Have fun, be safe, and ride on!