By Art Liggio, President and CEO, Driving Dynamics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) motorcyclist deaths are 28 times more frequent than fatalities in other vehicles. And, motorcycle crashes involving another vehicle continue to account for almost half of all motorcyclist fatalities in the United States.
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. In honor of raising awareness, we must start by recognizing that there are many misconceptions and dangerous driving occurrences that can lead to unfortunate consequences for motorcyclists and car or truck motorists.
Here are a few of the common dangerous driving occurrences that result in motorcycle crashes, along with some tips that you and your fleet can leverage to safely share the road with our two and three-wheeler friends:
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Whether drivers are in a parking lot, on a rural street or cruising down a busy highway, they must always be aware of their surroundings and fellow drivers, which is a bit easier when the counterpart is a truck or standard sized vehicle. However, motorcycles present a challenge for drivers because of their smaller size, which hinders their visibility by other motorists.
The problem is that humans are programmed to see only what they expect to see, which is a standard to large size vehicle. As a result, drivers fail to spot a motorcycle fast enough due to its small stature and its speed. For example, intersections are the most dangerous situations for motorcyclists when car or truck drivers are making a left-hand turn. Based on the data from the NHTSA’s crash rates report, this type of collision accounts for more than 30 percent of all accidents involving a motorcycle. It occurs because of how our brains process information, making it difficult for a driver’s eyes to perceive the motorcyclist’s proximity at the intersection and properly react even if its directly in his/her field of vision.
To avoid missing these crucial and potential life-changing details, drivers should:
• Look farther ahead
• Look left, right and left again at intersections
• Wait for the motorcyclist to pass
• Regularly scan mirrors so they have more time to see and identify who and what is around them
These actions help our brains process new information about what’s in our field of vision and react. Not to mention, whether it’s motorcycle season or not, the scanning method should be used every time you’re behind the wheel as it’s a crucial driving safety technique.
Don’t let the small size of a motorcycle manipulate the brain to assume a smaller safety zone is acceptable good driving behavior while navigating behind these vehicles. Although motorcycles are smaller in size and take up less space in the lane, it doesn’t mean drivers should leave less space in between themselves. If car or truck drivers are too close to a motorcyclist braking, maneuvering from a pothole or shifting gears, it doesn’t allow the larger vehicle enough time to process the action, in case they too need to maneuver or brake.
Treat motorcycles the same as four-wheel vehicles when it comes to the safety zone. The importance of building space and increasing available reaction time between a car or truck and a motorcycle can be the difference between life and death. A safety zone of at least two seconds is always recommended—and in this case, it might need to be even a little larger due to their maneuvering, gear shifting and braking habits, and the fact that they are extremely vulnerable.
To gauge an adequate amount of space while driving on the highway, choose a stationary object on the side of the road. As the vehicle in front of you passes that object, count: “one one-thousand, two one-thousand.” If you pass that selected object before finishing saying “two one-thousand” the safety zone created is too small.
When drivers are making a turn at a light, changing lanes, or pulling off the road, unfortunately, a lot of times they fail to signal their intentions. According to a study by the University of Southern California, a leading contributor of motorcycle crashes is the failure of drivers to provide timely turn signal notifications. A high percentage of those crashes occur when other drivers provide less than two seconds notice of a directional change.
Drivers should provide other drivers and motorcyclists with enough time to react to directional changes, so they can adjust their safety zone and coordinate their own maneuvers appropriately. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in most states, drivers must activate turn signals at least 100 feet before making a turn to allow an appropriate “warning.”
The safety of motorcyclists is everyone’s obligation and we all must take proactive measures to maintain the safety of everyone with which we share the road. By educating your fleets on these common dangers and our “road sharing” techniques, we’ll be able to create safer drivers and ensure everyone gets from point A to point B safely, whether they’re on two wheels or four.
Safety & Risk is presented by Driving Dynamics provider of driver safety training and risk management services. Continually building and delivering programs based on sound research, proven learning methodologies and expert instruction, we are dedicated to improving drivers’ abilities to stay safe by leveraging risk management tools, principle-based learning and applied techniques. The One Second Advantage™ safety training principle developed by Driving Dynamics is rooted in research that shows 90 percent of all traffic crashes can be avoided when the driver has just one more second to react and knows what to do with that additional second. Driving Dynamics encourages all drivers to Steer Toward Safety™
National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2018, February). Motorcycles: 2016 data (Updated, Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 812 492). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.