How to Sharpen your Motorcycle Awareness

Have you ever...

been about to make a maneuver in your car only to catch sight at the last minute of a motorcycle in your danger zone area?

It happens all the time and, sadly, that realization sometimes comes too late to prevent an accident.

There are almost 700,000 motorcycles on Canada's highways and thousands of them regularly ply the scenic and urban routes of PEI.

But unless you're one of the motorcyclists yourself, it's easy to overlook their presence -- and their vulnerability. Not surprising then that two thirds of auto/motorcycle collisions are usually the fault of the car driver.

So, although it's important for motorcyclists to be tuned in to the dangers around cars, the major responsibility for improving safety relationships between these two types of vehicles lies with car drivers.

However, these days, being motorcycle aware is more challenging than ever because there's more traffic on our roads, motorcycles can be difficult visual objects, and there are many more potential distractions inside the car, including mobile devices and noisy kids!

But by following a few simple rules, you can greatly reduce the risk of being involved in a collision with a bike, and hopefully help to cut the number of accidents on our roads.

For example:

  • You should keep the possible presence of a motorcyclist in your vicinity uppermost in your mind. Knowing they're not always easy to spot will make you more vigilant.
  • A good guiding principle is to treat a motorcycle like you would a car -- allow it the full space of the lane it's traveling in.
  • Be aware of the blind spots in your rear view mirrors and adjust your own seating position to try to check these hidden areas when you're about to change lanes, overtake or turn.
  • Always but always use your turn signal. Indicate your intention to turn or switch lanes well in advance -- and remember to switch it off once you've made the move. 
    (By the way, turn signals on motorcycles don’t self-cancel so don’t count on a flashing light as being a true indicator of what the rider is about to do)
  • Minimize distractions inside your car. Silence cell phones and noisy children -- and never drive wearing headphones.
  • When you're driving near to a motorcycle, give them a wide berth. Don't go too close when overtaking, and avoid tailgating. Motorcycles can stop fast but they're more prone to spin out of control if the halt is too sudden. If you’re following too close behind, you could be in trouble.

  • Be aware that, because they're relatively small, motorcycles can sometimes look further away than they really are.
  • Know that motorcyclists sometimes don't use their brakes to slow down. They may shift down their gears instead, so you won’t necessarily know when they're slowing.
  • Watch out if you're about to overtake a larger vehicle. It may seem that there's nothing in front of it but the size of the vehicle may obscure a motorcycle.
  • Be extra careful on pitted and pot-holed roads. A motorcyclist in front of you may have to suddenly take evasive action.
  • As with all motoring activity, you should be courteous to riders. Avoid trying to intimidate them, even if you don’t agree with the way they're riding or their own road sense.

One interesting approach is to adopt the "SEE" process advocated by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation:

S is for "search", meaning that you should actively scan and identify factors that could create increased risk for you and nearby motorcyclists.

E is for "evaluate" meaning that you should consider the implications of potential problems arising from all the factors that you have spotted around you.

E is for "execute", meaning that you should consciously take action to prevent or avoid any hazards that you have identified.

And if you're an older driver, consider taking a mature driver program, during which motorcycle awareness skills can be developed.

According to research, drivers are better able to spot motorcyclists by mentally training themselves to do so. You could be one of them -- and perhaps save a life.

Motorcycle safety and awareness is important to both motorcyclists and drivers.  Peake & McInnis LTD provides motorcycle insurance for all of PEI.  Serving Islanders for over 100 years. 

We also offer information on Safer Motorcycle Riding Means More Fun.

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