Getting Into High Gear

Tips To Remember For A Safe Motorcycle Season

by Thomas Walters // July - August - September

Drivers are conditioned to look for other large vehicles on the road, especially when changing lanes and making turns. But with so many motorcycles on the road, especially during the warmer summer months, drivers must pay extra attention to be aware of riders on two- and three-wheeled vehicles. Motorcycles are obviously smaller, faster, and offer the rider much less protection than a car, truck, or van.

There are some common rules both riders and drivers can use to help improve the safety of our roads. So this summer, drive safely and keep an eye out for other drivers on the road, and always keep these common rules in mind.

For the motorist, here are some quick tips for safely interacting with motorcycles:
– Look left, right – and left again – for motorcyclists when pulling into an intersection or onto the road.
– Assume a motorcycle is closer than it looks.
– Take an extra moment to check your blind spot.
– Be cautious when going through intersections.
– Assume a motorcyclist may slow down without a visual warning; bikers often use the lower gears to initially slow before applying the brakes (and therefore, activating their brake lights).
– Make sure a rider’s turn signal has not been turned on, or left on, accidentally.
– Don’t assume motorcyclists are speeding.
– Don’t expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way or come to a controlled stop as quickly as an automobile.
– Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can’t always stop “on a dime.”
– Avoid all forms of distracted or careless driving.
– Always use your signals so the rider knows your intentions.
– Road hazards that may cause little or no issue for a car, truck, or van can be disastrous for a motorcycle. Tossed trash can hit or harm a motorcycle rider or create a dangerous condition on the road – so keep it in the car (plus, you shouldn’t litter).

Of course, motorcyclists have to be just as vigilant – and respectful. When a motorcyclist is out on the road, here are some things for riders to remember:
– Use your signals and flash your brake lights when slowing down. Drivers can’t always detect when you are “gearing down” and may be closing too quickly to safely stop by the time you would otherwise apply your brakes.
– Know your bike’s limits and stay within them. If you’re a new or inexperienced rider, consider taking a training course.
– While it may be tempting to speed, always stick to the posted speed limits.
– Don’t tailgate other vehicles, while riding or when stopped.
– When buying a helmet, pick one that has the Department of Transportation (DOT) label, which shows that it meets federal safety standards.
– Be respectful of other drivers. Don’t weave through traffic or drive on the shoulder of the road.
– Be visible when you ride. Avoid blind spots, wear bright colors and protective clothing, and always use your headlights.
– Brake smart. Use both brakes at the same time, slow and steady.
– Know and obey the helmet laws in the state(s) in which you are riding (laws vary from state to state). Be safe and be smart.

While many motorcyclists can and do ride year-round in mild North Carolina weather, the long days and warm nights of summer increases the number of riders, and often the risks, for those on two wheels. Vigilance and respect on the part of both drivers and riders can help ensure everyone stays safe. Remember, when a motorcycle is in motion, don’t think of it as a motorcycle – think of it as a person.

Thomas Walters

One important action that motorcyclists should take? Another look at their insurance coverage to make sure they’re informed on the extent of their protection.