To Be Safe on the Road, You Need to Be Visible
We know we don’t have to tell you how exhilarating it can be to ride… we also shouldn’t have to tell you how dangerous it has the potential to be. Studies have shown that this danger is largely due to other vehicles on the road. We want to make sure that anyone new or returning to riding know how to be best prepared to be as visible as possible to other vehicles on the road.
While it is true that most accidents involving motorcycles are actually of no fault of the cyclist, this doesn’t mean that we can rest on our laurels… or on our foot-pegs.
The fact of the matter is, we aren’t the easiest things to see on the road. No matter how big and bad-ass a bike is, it’s only going to appear so large in a car driver’s line of sight. If a motorcycle is going fast enough, a driver might not even notice it until it’s literally too late.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help boost your visibility while on the road and make sure you’re easily noticed.
Sure, this one’s a little obvious, but that doesn’t mean that it’s done very often. After all - black is a traditional biker color, right?
Unfortunately, it is, which can be problematic. Black is very dark, which makes it difficult to notice - especially for a driver. It is much safer to suit up in bright, noticeable colors. That way, drivers can see you coming more easily.
The same can be said about your choice of bike. Yeah, black bikes are really cool to look at… when they’re stopped. Otherwise, they can be really hard to see. Once again, being noticed is better than being cool, and a brightly-colored paint job will more easily catch the attention of others on the road.
While you’re at it, you should do other things to make yourself as noticeable as possible.
Take your lights, for instance. While it may seem taboo, you should consider keeping your high beams on all the time. Doing so will make you that much more visible, and even if they annoy your other drivers, they’ll at least know where you are. Adding reflective tape and auxiliary lights have a similar effect. In fact, if you use lights to make a “face” on the front of your bike, oncoming drivers can estimate your speed 20 percent and distance from them 10 percent more accurately. You could also use a headlight modulator to become more noticeable - just make sure it meets Federal requirements.
Finally, make sure you are communicating with the drivers around you. Use your signals (and hand signals, if it is safe to do so), and don’t hesitate to tap your brakes to let a driver know they’re getting too close for comfort.
Ride in the Right Spot
Naturally, where on the road you ride will make you more noticeable to other drivers. Blind spots are especially dangerous for a motorcyclist, so they should (obviously) be avoided. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is the old “if you can see them, they can see you” trick.
You also need to keep side streets in mind. If someone turning onto your route doesn’t notice you, things can turn nasty real quick. Another handy trick is to hug the right side of the dotted line. This position makes it easier for the other drivers, like the ones on the side streets, to see you coming.
I hope I don’t have to remind you to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles on the road - and please, for goodness sakes, do not share a lane with another driver. Not only will this intimidate the other driver, it is far too much of a practical risk.
If You Aren’t Seen, Be Heard
Your bike has a horn for a reason. Drivers may not notice you or misjudge your relative positions and start to do something risky. A quick honk of the horn is an effective way to let them know that they are getting too close. While your horn may not be enough to drown out their radio and the other distractions in their car, a quick honk can’t hurt to try.
While we’re on the subject, actually…
Have a Plan B
While you’re on the road, you should always be fully aware of what is going on around you. This kind of situational awareness is crucial to safely make decisions based on the actions of other drivers. Regardless, you should always have a plan in the back of your mind to avoid taking damage in a possible accident. Besides, the other drivers may not notice you, despite everything you do to make yourself visible. In such cases, you may need to be ready to take sudden evasive actions.
Riding a motorcycle is wonderfully fulfilling, but it is also a very risky endeavor. Your first priority should always be to get home safe… hopefully, these tips will help you to do so.