How Not To Die: A Basic Guide To Sharing the Road with Cars


Categories: Gear, How To, Skills, Safety, Expert Advice

How Not To Die: A Basic Guide To Sharing the Road with Cars

RideApart takes an elementary look at one of the biggest threats to motorcyclists and examines what we can do to prevent becoming another fatality statistic

Editor's note: This story makes a lot of statements and states a lot of crash statistics. If you'd like to read more or see the sources on these, please check out the "sources" links at the bottom of the story.

More than 40 percent of motorcycle collisions involving cars are the result of said cars making a left-hand turn into the oncoming path of a motorcycle. In nearly 80 percent of car-motorcycle collisions, the bike is hit from the front. Being aware of what situations on the road are the most dangerous is invaluable. With more than half of all motorcycle fatalities stemming from collisions with cars, it’s pretty clear that cagers are a very real hazard out on the road. So what can we do as riders to bolster of chances of staying safe?

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The term “SMIDSY” (short for “sorry mate, I didn’t see you”), is well known for good reason. A huge number of car-motorcycle collisions occur when the driver simply fails to see a motorcycle. A study from a while back examined this unfortunate phenomenon and determined SMIDSY incidents occur because drivers are reportedly looking for the absence of other cars, and not the presence of motorcycles when checking mirrors, changing lanes etc.

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Though the solution may sound obvious, it’s nonetheless worth stating; always ride defensively. I don’t just mean frequently check your mirrors or ride at a safe speed. When you ride, you should assume every single car on the road doesn’t see you, and every car on the road is about to turn into/in front of you or your lane. Whenever I see an oncoming car waiting to make a left turn, I always anticipate said car pulling in front of me and I act accordingly. Assume every car (or 18 wheeler) is going to run a red-light or stop sign. The vast majority of the time it won’t be necessary, but it only takes a singe accident to change your life forever.

Don't think it can't happen to you, a hard truth my friend learned after a car turned left in front of him
Don't think it can't happen to you, a hard truth my friend learned after a car turned left in front of him

While that’s the meat and potatoes of it, there are dozens of other supplementary techniques that can be utilized to decrease the likelihood of a crash. Study driver behavior; look for indications that a car is about to turn such as blinking signals or pointing its wheels. Be aware of car’s blindspots and stay out of them. Be aware of your placement in relation to other cars on the road. Are you potentially riding in a hazardous formation? For example: if you’re exiting the freeway and are riding parallel to a car on your left, you’re asking for trouble. Often cars will jerk the wheel to exit the freeway at the last second, and if you’re riding alongside that car it’s game over man.

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Lastly, wear quality protective gear and make sure you can be seen. I personally think my black riding suit, gloves, boots, helmet (and bike) look pretty cool, however wearing this at night is an obvious recipe for disaster. Drivers are less likely to hit you if they can see you. (I know, crazy right?). Whether or not we’re legally at fault, we’re still the ones who bare the physical consequences from a crash. Take the extra time and ride defensively.

Can you think of other tips for new riders to avoid collisions? Let us know in the comments below.


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