All kinds of motorcyclists have heard the call of this beautiful spring weather, and we’re seeing even more folks hitting the road on two wheels. The dynamic between motorcycles and automobiles on the road can often feel like a competition. Automobile drivers neglect to watch for bikers, while bikers’ enhanced agility makes them even harder to spot when they weave around cars and between lanes to beat congested traffic. It’s a dog-eat-dog world when motorcycles and cars compete for mobility, but Motorcycle Safety Awareness month works to eradicate this dangerous mentality each May.
Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month doesn’t just single out automobile operators. It’s about increasing mutual respect on the road. People in cars and on motorcycles alike should all take a minute this month to get educated (or get a refresher) on what’s expected from both parties to create a safe driving environment.
Let’s be thorough and start with the golden rule for everyone on the road, regardless of what kind of vehicle you’re operating: You should never operate your vehicle when your ability to think and react quickly is impaired by distraction, fatigue or intoxication. This is especially crucial for motorcyclists, who must cope with the physics of balance while navigating potential obstacles such as potholes, slick spots and debris. What might be a mild annoyance to car drivers can take a motorcyclist down hard.
In a nutshell, car drivers demonstrate respect for motorcyclists by taking the extra time to monitor their surroundings, and by giving motorbikes their space. Don’t let a motorcycle’s smaller size deceive you: Motorcyclists need the full width of the lane to maneuver their bikes safely. Use your turn signals to help motorcyclists respond to traffic flow, and take the extra second to check your blind spots. You’ve probably heard the “Look twice, save a life” motto, but the Florida Driver Handbook actually recommends you look at least three times when changing lanes or navigating intersections. Once you spot a motorbike in the vicinity, take extra care in judging its speed, since the smaller size of a motorcycle can interfere with accurate depth perception. Finally, when passing and following, give a motorbike plenty of room. The Florida Driver Handbook recommends a four-second buffer when following, and more in inclement weather.
Motorcyclists respect the needs of car drivers in kind by taking every measure possible to enhance their visibility on the road. Black leather and dark jeans are the classic biker “look,” but the statewide “Ride Proud, Dress Loud” campaign now encourages bikers to make a bolder splash with eye-catching clothing in bright colors. Keep your headlight burning, even on daytime rides, and don’t hang out in blind spots. Since it’s more difficult for people in automobiles to judge speed and predict maneuvers of your smaller vehicle, use your turn signals generously and don’t shy away from the horn if you sense a driver isn’t aware of you. Finally, be conscientious of the time of day in which you’re riding. When the sunlight changes during dawn or dusk, people’s eyes (including yours) need extra time to adjust.
Motorcycle safety month comes with a heavy dose of cautions and responsibility reminders that might seem tedious to hardcore bikers. However, this month is also a celebration of a liberated, high-energy lifestyle and the thrill of the open road. At Wittmer | Linehan, we recognize that one key to maximizing enjoyment of your motorbike is knowing how to handle the high levels of risk that come with all the fun. At the bottom line, motorcycling is risky, no matter how experienced and careful you are in sharing the road. Should an accident strike, the Wittmer | Linehan law offices are here to help in your recovery.