Two realities of motorcycling are that it is risky and accidents do happen. Nobody wants to be involved in one, but every once in a while, we are. Each accident is a unique episode with factors specific to that situation. However, there are a few recognizable types of accidents that can happen. Here is a look at five common motorcycle accidents and what you can do to avoid them.
Motorist Turning Left Across Roadway
Overview: First up is a collision so common that it affects all motorists – not just motorcyclists. This occurs when someone is turning left across a two-way street to go one direction while someone else is traveling in the opposite direction. The best case scenario is side collision (or T-bone) where either the front or rear quarter panels of turning vehicle are hit. The worst case scenario is a side collision where the middle – the passenger cabin – of the turning vehicle is hit. In the latter case, there is a higher chance of total vehicle loss and severe injury…or worse. The likelihood of both increases dramatically if you are riding a motorcycle.
Solution: If you are in the roadway, then adhere to the speed limit and pay attention. Use the SIPDE approach: scan (your entire environment for potential hazards), identify (any specific potential hazards), predict (how that hazard will behave, how it may cause you to behave, and the outcome of each scenario), determine (a suitable course of action), and execute (your determined course of action). If you are the one turning left, then be patient and pay absolute attention. Make sure you have a decent line of sight in both directions and that you have enough room to complete your turn safely. Not only is this type of collision quite common, but it is also one of the worst. Avoid it completely.
Someone Rear-Ends You
Overview: This is one of the simplest types of collisions, but it can be very frightening and devastating. While it might happen if you are moving slower than the motorist behind you, it is most likely to occur if you are at a standstill and the following motorist fails to register your presence. Outcomes can range from zero injuries (if you are very lucky) to death, so you want to do everything in your power to avoid it.
Solution: The first thing to do is to make sure you are as visible as possible. This includes wearing a bright jacket and helmet. Go fluorescent and/or use a hi-viz vest if you want to go for maximum conspicuity. It may be tough to find a spot on the direct rear of the bike where you can use reflective tape, but if you can squeeze it in somewhere (your fender, or an odd sliver of space on the bodywork), then do so. The second thing to do is to stay aware of what’s happening behind you. Check your mirrors with increased frequency. That way, if you see anything amiss, you can react. Plus, give your brake lever at least a couple of quick double-taps to flash the brake light.
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This is another visibility trick that is likely to get an approaching motorist’s attention if it is not completely there. Thirdly, leave yourself an escape route. This means placing yourself on either side of the lane, rather than the very middle. If nothing else works and you sense an imminent collision, then you’ll have the space to move. A weird, but safe road position is preferable to becoming the next casualty.
A Motorist Changes Lanes Into You
Overview: In this case, a motorist just plain misses the fact that you are there. You may already be in position with a vehicle directly beside you, or you may be moving to pass a vehicle and it changes lanes into the space you are planning to occupy, essentially cutting you off. This is especially dangerous because all the involved parties are in motion and you risk being thrown a certain distance and perhaps even into the path of another vehicle.
Solution: If you are passing and want to avoid this sort of collision, then avoid blind spots first. This is tricky because they are unique to each vehicle. Varying your lane position can help. Also, try to see the motorist in one of their vehicle’s mirrors. This is a skill that depends on your ability to scan quickly and thoroughly, so practice this. Direct eye contact is a plus, but not always possible. You may also wish to flash your high-beams to signal your passing intent if it is safe to do so. Beyond that, notice the behaviour of the vehicle and try to predict its movement. You may also opt to hang back and let the motorist change lanes first. In the case of a motorist moving to occupy a space you are already occupying, leave a buffer and have an escape route in mind. Be absolutely ready to use that escape route. If the motorist is already initiating a lane change, then don’t be shy with your horn. In both scenarios, maximum visibility is also helpful.
Loss Of Traction
Overview: This is a little bit of a broad topic because traction loss can happen for a variety of reasons. In terms of environment, you may encounter gravel, oil, a painted line, a wet road surface, or some combination thereof. In terms of rider input, you may have used too much front brake, too much rear brake, too much lean angle, too much speed, or (once again) some combination thereof. In some instances, your rear tire might lose traction, step out of line to a large degree, then suddenly regain traction and throw you off – a classic high-side. You can’t control the environment, but you can pay great attention to it and you can certainly exercise full control of your motorcycle.
Solution: The first thing to do is to maintain a reasonable pace. That alone may not entirely eliminate a loss of traction, depending on conditions, but it will give you time to once again use the SIPDE approach and therefore minimize the risk. The second thing to do is to keep all your control inputs smooth. This is a good technique to refine regardless of conditions because motorcycles are generally so responsive. This goes hand-in-hand with reducing your tendency to panic. That can only come with doing a lot of riding and even practicing your braking inputs, in particular. Oh yes…once again, pay attention to your environment!
You Were Riding Too Fast
Overview: This is pretty self-explanatory. Excessive speed can breed all sorts of problems, like the aforementioned loss of traction. It limits your ability to turn safely and, rather crucially, it increases your braking distance. If you can’t avoid a situation because you were going too fast, you have only yourself to blame.
Solution: Adhere to the speed limit. It’s that simple. Sure, we all like to push it every once in a while, but if you must, then don’t be completely stupid and ignorant about it. Better yet, register for a track day. That way, you can spend a weekend riding as fast as you want without almost all the risks regular road riding carries. As a bonus, you will learn valuable things about the limits of your tires, your motorcycle’s limits and (most importantly) your own limits. It is a great opportunity to practice smooth control inputs as well and you will likely emerge a better road rider in some ways.
Even with these in mind, remember that all sorts of accidents can happen at any time. It is your job to be aware of the dangers and to ride in the safest way possible. Sometimes things happen, but if you can have a say in reducing the likelihood of things happening, then take that opportunity every time.