Home > Ask Gary, Uncategorized > How can I avoid an accident when I’m in my vehicle and a motorcyclist is swerving in and out of lanes on the highway?

How can I avoid an accident when I’m in my vehicle and a motorcyclist is swerving in and out of lanes on the highway?

That is a difficult question, assuming you are in the right and motorcyclist is driving erratically since you can only control your driving and not the motorcycling. My first inclination is to suggest you call the police to prevent a potential accident.

motorcycle on roadMay is Motorcycle Awareness Month and the theme is to “Share the Road” with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. Motorcyclists are reminded to make themselves visible to other motorists and to ride safely, obeying the rules of the road as they apply to all vehicles. Swerving in and out of lanes is not acceptable in any vehicle.

My best advice to motorcyclists is to drive safely, obeying the rules of the road and to wear a helmet—required in Massachusetts and most states, but New Hampshire law does not require a helmet. However, all the research supports use of helmets protects the brain and saves lives. Helmets do not interfere with hearing or vision. In 2014, 41% of fatally injured motorcycle riders and 53% of fatally injured motorcycle passengers were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. Also, keep children off the back of a motorcycle, even with a helmet on.

In 2014, 4,586 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes, a decrease of 2.3% from 2013 (4,692), but still 14% of the total highway fatalities. Injured motorcyclists also decreased from 93,000 in 2013 to 88,000 in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).Share theRoad logo

Safe riding practices and cooperation from all drivers will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways. It’s especially important for motorists to understand the safety challenges faced by motorcyclists such as size and visibility, and motorcycle riding practices like downshifting and weaving to know how to anticipate and respond to them. By raising motorists’ awareness, both drivers and riders will be safer sharing the road. Like any driver, motorcyclists run the gamut from safe drivers to “daredevils.”

Most of the NHTSA tips overlap with other common-sense advice, don’t drive while drinking or distracted, whether you’re in a car on a motorcycle. They also provide these important tips:

• The improper use of a vehicle’s rear-view and side-view mirrors contributes to collisions, particularly with smaller vehicles like motorcycles.  With roughly 40% of a vehicle’s outer perimeter zones hidden by blind spots, improper adjustment or lack of use of one’s side-view mirrors can have dire consequences for motorcyclists.

• If you are turning at an intersection, and your view of oncoming traffic is partially obstructed, wait until you can see around the obstruction, sufficiently scan for all roadway users (pedestrians and motorcyclists included), and proceed with caution. Slow your decision-making process down at intersections.

• One’s reaction time and ability to assess and respond to a potential collision, such as a lane change, is significantly hindered if there are large differences in speed among vehicles in traffic.  When approaching a congested roadway, being diligent in modifying your speed to match that of the cars in traffic can be a lifesaver, particularly for motorcyclists.

• Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Though it may seem as if there is enough room in a single lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, looks can be deceiving. Share the road, but not the lane: a motorcyclist needs room to maneuver safely.

• Size also counts against motorcycles when it comes to blind spots. Motorcyclists can be easily hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot. Always look for motorcycles by checking your mirrors and blind spots before switching to another lane of traffic.

• Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate your movement and find a safe lane position.

• Allow more distance when following a motorcycle – three or four seconds;  this gives the motorcycle rider more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Motorcycle riders may suddenly need to change speed or adjust lane position to avoid hazards such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.

TIPS FOR MOTORCYCLISTS150-200-motorcycle-share
• Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and use reflective tape and gear to be more visible. NHTSA estimates helmets saved the lives of 1,630 motorcyclists in 2014.

• Never ride while impaired or distracted—it is not worth the risk of killing or injuring yourself or someone else. Plus, a DUI costs $10,000 on average, and can lead to jail time, loss of your driver’s license, and higher insurance rates.

• Don’t drink and ride. The percentage of motorcycle riders who were intoxicated in fatal crashes (27%) was greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers of passenger cars (23%) and light trucks (21%) in fatal crashes in 2014.

Whether you’re in a large vehicle or riding a motorcycle, follow the rules of the road and “share the road” with others.  Drive safely.

Ask Gary Jaffarian

Categories: Ask Gary, Uncategorized
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