More than 400,000 motorcycles are registered in Texas, and large gatherings like the Republic of Texas Rally draw thousands of motorcyclists to Austin every year. Most drivers are accustomed to sharing the road with motorcyclists, but accident statistics suggest there is room for improvement.
In 2016, crashes in Texas killed 493 motorcyclists; about half of those crashes involved another vehicle, and many of those crashes occurred because a motorist did not see the motorcycle or misjudged its distance. With May being Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, now is a good time to brush-up on what you can do to avoid a collision with a motorcycle.
Check Your ‘Blind Spots’
Because of their relatively small size, motorcycles may be difficult to see when they enter a vehicle’s blind spot – that area of road that neither the side mirrors nor interior rearview mirror reflect. Even if you drive a vehicle equipped with a blind-spot detection system, always glance over your shoulder to ensure the road is clear before changing lanes. Use your turn signal, so approaching vehicles know you’re changing lanes.
Give Them Space
Motorcyclists may need to decrease speed or swerve to avoid objects or irregularities in the road, so when following a motorcycle, maintain a safe distance. To determine safe distance, begin counting when the motorcyclist passes a stationary object. At least three seconds should elapse before your vehicle passes the same object.
Motorcycle turn signals may not be self-canceling, so if you’re entering a motorcycle’s path at a perpendicular angle, and the motorcycle’s turn signal is flashing, do not assume the rider is turning. Wait until you observe a decrease in speed that would indicate a turn before pulling into the path of the motorcycle – better yet, wait until the motorcycle has either stopped completely or passed by you.
Be Aware of Misperception
A perception expert at Texas Tech University has found that people perceive smaller objects to be farther away than larger objects, even when that’s not necessarily the case. When drivers are turning into or across the path of a motorcycle, they may believe they have plenty of time to do so, not realizing that the motorcycle is closer – and moving faster – than they thought. When in doubt about whether you can safely cross a motorcycle’s path, wait for the rider to pass.
You may have heard the statistic that when drivers check a text message while driving, they look away from the road an average of 4.6 seconds – enough time to travel the length of a football field. That’s true, at a speed of 55 mph. Even traveling at 20 mph, a driver may cover 100 feet of roadway in the time it takes to check a text. Motorcycles are already difficult to see in some situations and looking away from the road just increases the risk of colliding with one.
When driving, avoid distractions like eating, chatting with passengers, or using your phone. Expect that you will see motorcycles, and actively look for them. Drivers who understand how to share the road are more likely to avoid serious or deadly collisions with motorcycles.
The Austin, TX-based Evans Law Firm has represented many motorcyclists who’ve been injured in crashes with careless motorists. As personal injury attorneys with years of experience, we help the people of Texas put their lives back on track. Contact our office if you need help with your motorcycle accident case.