Today I started writing an article titled ‘braking late’ for our ‘Tips for Crashing Less’ series and was informed that a good friend of mine was in a motorcycle crash last night. He managed to evade death, but likely may not walk for months and long-term health issues may be a factor. This event has lead me to change this weeks article to hopefully effect some change in how drivers and riders coexist on our roadways.
Tips for Drivers & riders
Don’t be dumb
Point blank, do not drink and drive OR ride. It’s just dumb so don’t do it.
Unless you’re outside a stadium with beers and brats, don’t tailgate. This is especially important for drivers behind bikers. A car-on-car fender-bender leaves a few people frustrated with insurance companies. A car on bike fender bender can leave someone dead.
Stop driving & riding reckless
If you want to go fast and feel the adrenaline, great, go to the track! There are safe alternatives to driving like a madman on the same roads that your sister, wife, mom or other loved ones also traverse each day. Your actions effect others, even indirectly in the event of your demise.
Tips for Drivers
Look Twice, Save a Life
You’ve probably read this on a bumper sticker somewhere and may not understand the real importance of the notion.
When you are pulling out, let’s say for instance, making a left turn you likely are going to first look left, and then right, and then pull out. By looking left a second time before pulling out you might see what the sun was blocking or, a rider may have pulled out just a block away, made a right, heading your direction and due to how fast motorcycles accelerate (naturally) the rider may already be too close to stop in the event you pull out in front of him. There are countless variations of how these accidents often happen, where simply looking twice could have prevented the collision. At the end of the day just be more alert and double check before changing lanes, pulling out and even reversing in parking lots.
Check your blind spot
Said to be one of the most common reasons for auto accidents in general, failure to properly check your blind spots is also a huge contributor to motorcycle vs. car related collisions. Motorcycles are much smaller than other vehicles and can be hidden on the outskirts of your mirrors and even hard to see in when checking the blind spots. Take extra caution by leaving plenty of room between yours and the car in front of you so you have the seconds needed to properly, thoroughly check your bind spots before changing lanes.
Perception is everything
Do you know what depth perception is? We have two eyes that allow to us to have depth perception and when we can see a car, with two headlights, we can actually perceive with decent accuracy just how fast that car is going. Comparatively, we cannot so easily perceive how fast a motorcycle is going so when driving, especially at night, keep this in mind and give motorcycles extra time to pass by, or take extra time to assess their speed. Sure, they might be speeding, but that’s someones son, daughter, brother, sister, father or even mother and sure, maybe they deserve a strong ticket but they do not deserver to lose their life because you’re in a hurry.
Reaction time matters
Some experienced motorcyclists may able to stop faster than heavier cars and trucks on the road however, as motorcycles have less rubber on the road and can’t use the full extent of their front brake in the event of an emergency stop, a biker likely won’t be able to come to a stop in the same distance a car can. If a rider needs to stop quick to avoid a collision and you are following close, there’s a good chance you wont be able to stop in time. Leave PLENTY of room between your vehicle and the motorcyclist in front of you.
If you notice a motorcyclist behind you, don’t slam your brakes on unless absolutlely neccisary.
Turn signal sooner
If you notice a rider behind you, be sure to initiate your turn signal sooner than normal. Whether you are turning or changing lanes, the signal indication is both a courtesy and a safety measure.
Be extra alert for turning motorcycles
If you are behind a rider who has a turn signal on, give him extra room and be aware that motorcycles can’t turn as quick as you can. Cars have much more rubber on the road allowing them to navigate a turn much quicker than bikes. Motorcyclists have to turn much slower while being extra careful of loose gravel and other bad road conditions which cars wont be nearly as ill-effected by.
On the same topic of turning motorcycles, a less experienced rider might move far to the side of the road prior their right turn, giving you the notion it may be okay to pass them prior their turn. DO NOT PASS them until they have fully completed their turn. For one, the blinker you see might just be on from a previous turn and secondly, they may need to make a wide turn causing them to move back into the middle of the lane just before their turn. Experienced riders wont make this mistake and will travers the center or left of the lane prior a right turn but be aware, not all riders are experts.
Lessons from an experienced rider
If you’re in a car and are going around a corner and there’s some gravel on the inside of the turn, or a puddle, no big deal. You’re not going to get hurt. But if you’re going around a turn on a bike, and there is a puddle, suddenly your life is at stake if you don’t take the proper actions.
There are several ways to help reduce the risk here for both car drivers and motorcycle riders.
For riders, they should use caution when going around blind corners or unfamiliar corners. Never fully hit the inner apex of a turn unless you’re ultra familiar with that road and its conditions.
For car drivers, give motorcyclists space around turns and bends and never tailgate. For one, this might incentives a rider to take a turn at a higher speed.
One of the things always on the mind of a rider is that car drivers DONT SEE THEM. So if a car is riding their ass around a turn or barreling down on them, they might feel the need to take evasive action by going faster through the turn. That could lead to a wreck, and to add insult to injury, if the car is riding their ass, they can get run over.”
-Tom Kitt, Motorcycle Enthusiast, Rider & Seasoned Small Plane Pilot
Equipment fails, be alert.
Bulbs go out, computers fail and tires blow. These are inevitable occurrences that happen every hour of every day on our American roadways and there ARE measures we can take to minimize the severity of the outcome from these failures.
For one, when driving at night, double check before you pull out. If a motorcyclists head light goes out and the roads are well lit, they may not realize the light is out.
Next, tires blow. If you are behind a rider and notice their tire blow out, they are going to need as much clear road as possible to get themselves to safety. Don’t try to pass but do immediately brake and give them room to wrangle their bike to a safe place.
Brakes fail. When you drive ahead full steam as the light turns green without looking both ways you’re never going to see the bike coming. Sidenote; big rigs have brake failures too… Always look both ways.
Watch your brights!
If you find the need to turn your brights on, be sure to turn them off as soon as possible. Bright lights are enough to temporarily blind another driver or motorcyclist. If a rider can’t see, they can easily go off the road or worse, into head on traffic. Be smart people, don’t user your brights when you don’t need to and when you do, turn them off as soon as possible and never leave them on when you can see the headlights of approaching vehicles.
In-Person Driving Course
According a 2019 study we spend 18 days of the year driving. Thats 24 hours a day for those 18 days. In ten years, we spend over half a year behind the wheel of a car, on average. Why not spend half a day at a professional drivers school with a professional driver showing you how to best negotiate traffic, avoid accidents and get from a to b both safer, and possibly quicker? Be sure to take the course in-person and really learn how to be a better driver. It could save a life, even your own.
Tips for Riders/motorcyclists
Practice makes… safer!
Especially if you are new to riding, you should spend a significant amount of time practicing in a parking lot making left and right turns and doing figure eights. The more you understand and become one with your bike the less likely you will be to lay it down.
Here’s a great video that has some excellent safety tips and also admits that is possible to ride safe, yet fast.
This is a hard one to write as we know how powerful the experience of riding can be but in Florida, the state that leads the nation for motorcycle deaths per year, it is becoming too dangerous on our over congested, often confused tourist and elderly population to ride.
Please consider simply riding less. If you’re thinking of buying a motorcycle, possibly consider instead taking the training course, acquiring a license and then renting a bike for a day on the weekend when traffic isn’t so bad.
The more time you spend riding, the greater your chances of wrecking.
If you’ve been riding for a long time, you may have become slightly complacent to the dangers and may take more chances, or care a bit less about riding safely. The easiest solution; spend an hour watching motorcycle crash videos. Then watch aftermath videos to see how the loss of a loved one can effect the friends and family of those lost. Here’s a good example:
Bottom line, remember the importance of driving safely and the potential outcome of how your life being lost can effect those whom you care most about.
Take a Motorcycle Safety Course
These courses can help new riders better understand how motorcycle perform differently than cars along with many important safety issues riders need to know to stay safe on the road.
If you’re in Pinellas County, here are a few locations to take a good safety course:
Barneys of St. Petersburg:
Motorcycle Education of Clearwater
Bert’s Barracuda of Tampa Bay
Many of these locations offer more in-depth, professional level courses. Take them! Sure, they might cost a bit more but what could more important than your life? Spend a few less dollars eating out this month and spend the extra money to learn how to be the best rider to you can be.
Wear a hemet. Seriously
Some states, including Florida, allow riders to ride without a helmet given a minimum insurance of 10k for medical. Buy why risk it?
According to saferoads.org, in states that have strict helmet laws, fatalities were ten times less likely as those with weak helmet laws. Hence, nine out ten times, a helmet is going to save your life.
Double check your bike
Each day you should check your brakes, brake lights, head and tail lights along with making sure no fluids are coming out from under the bike. This may seem a bit ‘overboard’ but this simple task that may take no more then a minute to perform can be the difference in preventing a horrible outcome.
Don’t Drink and Ride
Yes, we’ve already mentioned this but we cannot stress the importance of it enough. A totally sober rider has enough dangerous conditions to contend with. There is no need to add an X factor to the mix. Keep one thing mind when you’re thinking of drinking and riding; your family loves you and you will be leaving them all with your loss to deal with. Be selfless, call an uber, or a tow truck but NEVER drink and ride.
Tips from some pinellas locals
“Bikers should always assume that all other vehicles are trying to hit them”
“When I rode myself, you had to have your eyes all over, constantly looking out for vehicles all around you. Dont assume they can hear your bike, dont assume they see you and your safe. If you see a car driving recklessly back off. Your life depends on it. And always, always wear the proper gear.
And make sure your bike is safe to ride. It sucks going 60 and you get a flat.”
“Don’t get one (*motorcycle). I have more friends that have died or been seriously injured on motorcycles than any other cause.”
“Don’t ride like an IDIOT!!!!!!!! I have been riding a lot of years, sometimes like a FOOL, but now that I don’t ride any longer, I am grateful I never laid it down.. Don’t ride between lanes, always expect someone to pull out in front of you and most importantly, Just because your speedometer can read 150-200 mph doesn’t mean you should ring the crap out of it all the time….”
In summation, be a much more cognizant and courteous driver. If you’re ripping around on two wheels, be safe about it. You never know who’s not paying attention so assume no-one is.
Special thanks to Tom K. for all the great insights.
Shout out to the guy who inspired me to compose this article, Dalton, get well soon my dude.
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