See Motorcyclists in Your Drive for Safety

Motorcycle rider wearing helmet, giving thumbs up

In the northern climates, motorcycles stored for months during the winter, once again start to appear in the spring. These "steel horses" create risks for their drivers, and those who make a living by sharing the road with motorcycles.

Although motorcycle drivers enjoy that feeling of freedom and exhilaration while riding, they face numerous safety hazards on the road, and it is statistically much riskier than operating a passenger vehicle. While motorcyclists have the same rights and privileges as any driver, they are obviously in greater danger as they don’t have the protection of seatbelts and an enclosed space that a passenger vehicle provides. 

While motorcycle operators are sometimes characterized as risky drivers, they are not always at fault in an accident. Other drivers need to look out for motorcycles, with the motto “Look Twice, Save a Life”. A great practice for all drivers. Checking twice for an oncoming headlight, double-checking blind spots, and generally being aware of all surroundings can help avoid accidents and keep motorcycle riders safe.

A few facts:

  • In 2020, per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists were 28 times more likely than drivers of passenger vehicles to be injured or killed in an accident, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • In 2020, there were 5,458 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes, a 9% increase from 2019 and the highest number of motorcycle fatalities ever recorded.
  • Approximately half of all motorcycle accidents involve another motor vehicle. Nearly 40 percent were caused by the other vehicle turning left in front of the motorcycle (NHTSA).

In many cases, people ride motorcycles as part of their job, making these “rules of the road” important for workplace safety as well as recreational riding. Now let’s look at a few tips for motorcycle and passenger vehicle drivers alike.

Vehicle Safety Tips

  • Expect motorcycles on the road. Again, in the north come spring, vehicle operators tend to forget there are motorcycles on the road.
  • Avoid distracted driving. It’s the law and can certainly save a motorcyclist’s life.
  • Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Motorcyclists are faced with hazards that may not affect a passenger vehicle such as potholes, wet road surfaces, railroad crossings, and gravel, requiring sudden changes in lane position or speed to avoid such hazards. Share the road, but not the lane: Motorcycle drivers need room to maneuver safely.
  • Allow greater follow distance behind motorcycles, which can stop much faster than passenger vehicles.

Motorcycle driver safety tips 

  • Always complete a pre-ride inspection: Inspect tires, tire pressure, head lamp, taillight, brakes, brake light, blinkers, and fluid levels prior to each ride. Remember, being seen by other vehicle drivers is important.
  • Stay observant and visible. Consider high-visibility clothing.
  • Pay attention to everything on and around the road as you ride.
  • Choose the right helmet and assure it is DOT-compliant.
  • Do not ride while impaired or distracted.
  • Obey posted speed limits. In 2020, 34% of motorcycle driver fatalities were the result of speeding.
  • Wear gloves, boots, long pants, and leather riding gear that can help protect you from road rash in the event of a minor accident.
  • Ride defensively. Remember: Most passenger vehicle operators involved in motorcycle crashes say they didn’t see the motorcycle.
  • Don’t ever assume a passenger vehicle driver has seen you. Drive defensively and avoid sudden lane changes or turns.

For all drivers, sharing the road, improving observation skills, and using proper equipment will go a long way on the road to safe summer travel.

Related MEMIC blogs: 

MEMIC policy holders have access to safe driving policies in the safety director, and driver training videos on the video lending library.