A lot of drivers are a little nervous about being near a motorcyclist and their concern is well-grounded. Motorcycles are harder to see and the margin for error is almost nil.
If you bump a car, it’s a mild fender-bender and an exchange of insurance information. If you bump a motorcyclist, you send them flying, cause serious injuries—including death—and face extensive civil litigation. With nearly 5,000 motorcycle deaths annually, it’s important to follow good safety practices.
When driving behind a motorcycle, you must follow these 6 tips.
1. Give extra space.
The standard space to give a car that’s in front of you is about 2 seconds of drive time. Double that for motorcycles and make it 4 seconds. It’s easy enough to figure out—wait until they pass a landmark, see how long it takes you to pass that same landmark and then adjust accordingly.
2. Double-check those blind spots.
Making sure you check your blind spots is important enough in freeway driving. When you know a motorcycle is in the vicinity, give a second and even a third look. The motorcycle is smaller and therefore it’s more likely to “hide” in a spot where your mirrors can’t see.
3. Factor in the weather.
It’s already understood that when the roads are slick, you should be especially careful in trailing other cars. If it’s a motorcycle you’re trailing, even more caution is required. Motorcycles are more likely to slip on a wet surface. You’ll need extra time to adjust to that circumstance.
4. Be careful when passing.
You know how much wind your car generates when driving simply by opening the window and sticking your hand out. When you speed up to pass, that wind pressure increases. Unlike a car, the motorcycle is more vulnerable to being pushed by that burst of wind. If you can, avoid passing when the motorcycle is nearby. If it’s necessary, try and execute the pass in a more open area—such as a lonely country road when you and the cyclist are all that’s on the road and you can slow down a bit to reduce the wind factor.
5. Respect their lanes.
A motorcyclist is entitled to full use of their lane, the same as if they were a driver. So if you’re on a 3-lane highway and trying to pass at a time of busy traffic, don’t try and “steal” half a lane from the motorcycle. You will likely be held at fault in the event of an accident.
6. Be careful when turning left.
Nearly half of all motorcycle accident deaths come about when a car made a left-hand turn while the oncoming motorcycle went straight. Take extra care when you’re making that left turn to make sure you and the cyclist are on the same page.