Motorcycle safety tips for drivers and bikers
John O’Rourke has been a trooper with the Nevada Highway Patrol since 1995 and a motorcycle officer for three years. He also has years of riding experience both on and off-road. He offers a number of tips for both bikers and drivers saying he’d much rather see motorcyclists enjoy riding than end up writing their accident report.
Tips for bikers
— Always assume the cars around you don’t know you’re there. Most of the time, he said, you’ll be right: “Drivers look in their rearview or side mirror and miss you completely. They don’t look over their shoulder for cycles or for small cars.”
— Watch where you’re riding in the lane. On freeways and divided roads, ride in the left half of your lane. It gives you more time to react if a car comes into your lane from the right. Going up a hill or around a curve on a two-lane road, move to the right in case the car coming toward you is partially in your lane. And when leaning into a left-hand curve, if you’re too close to the centerline, remember your head is in the other guy’s lane.
— Don’t ride side-by-side in one lane if you can avoid it, unless both riders are very experienced.
— When you must slow down quickly, be aware of how close behind you is the car. Bikes stop faster than cars, and a big SUV could run right over you before it can slow down. Cars often follow bikes too closely without realizing it.
— Always be aware of the condition of the road. Water, ice, sand, rocks or oil spilled from other vehicles can cause a motorcycle to fall. Especially dangerous is a light coating of sand you can barely see. Oil and debris sometimes collect in the middle of the lane. Don’t ride there.
— Look down the road while riding to see obstacles and problems ahead of time. “Half the rear-enders we have are people who drive off the bumper in front of them.”
— Be especially careful at uncontrolled intersections or when signal lights are changing as you approach. Right or wrong legally, the biker will lose in the crash.
Put all those tips together, O’Rourke said, and the lesson is simply, drive more cautiously than you think is necessary and drive defensively at all times.
Tips for drivers
O’Rourke said especially with the motorcycle rally, Street Vibrations, coming up, drivers need to become much more aware of bikes sharing the streets and highways with them.
— Watch for bikers “splitting lanes” – riding up the line between lanes of cars to get through heavy traffic. It’s illegal in Nevada but common in California where many riders attending the Street Vibrations are from and they may think you expect it when you don’t.
— Don’t rely on mirrors alone before changing lanes or turning. Look over your shoulder to make sure there isn’t a bike in your blind spot.
— Don’t follow bikes closely. They can stop much quicker than cars and, if you’re close behind, you might run into the cyclist before you can slow down.
— Watch for bikers who push their luck when lights turn yellow or even red. It may make you a bit mad, but you really don’t want to kill one of them.
— Remember when turning left, the oncoming bike may be traveling faster than you think. It’s harder to judge than an approaching car.