It looks like we are going to enjoy an early spring here in New Hampshire. If you have been on the road in the last few weeks chances are you have seen motorcycles out and about. Possibly you have been riding one yourself. Both riders and drivers of automobiles (“cagers” in motorcycle-speak) need to be cognizant of the extra risks that motorcycles present.
Dress for the Crash: If you ride, it really is a matter of when, rather than “if” you are going to have some kind accident. A lot of accidents are low speed and result in bumps and bruises, but even in those circumstances, proper safety equipment can pay for itself. Wear a full-face helmet. Wear riding leathers. Wear riding boots and gloves. Wear bright colors that make you more visible to other traffic. Safety gear may not present the “bad ass” image cultivated in some corners of the motorcycle culture, but your family will thank you for wearing it if you are involved in an accident.
Watch Out for Road Debris and Damage: Hitting a pothole or piece of debris in the road would, at worst, mean a repair bill for the driver of a car today. For a motorcycle rider, hitting the same hole or debris could mean a trip to the hospital or worse. Be extra cognizant of such dangers when on a bike. If you are in a car with motorcycle traffic around you, you should also be extra careful with road debris and hazards. Steering around problems you might not otherwise both helps to alert following riders and makes it less likely your car will fling a piece of debris into the rider’s path – or face!
Turning Left – Watch Out for the Guy on the Bike: “Cagers” are habitually on the lookout for other cagers, and often forget they share the road with motorcyclists. If you are on a bike, and don’t want to get hurt, be aware that you may have to do the thinking for the other guy as well as for yourself. So, be on the look-out for unexpected left turning vehicles. Use caution when approaching an intersection, keep your head on a swivel, and be prepared to take evasive action if necessary. Auto drivers should use extra caution to look out for motorcycles in the warm months too – an extra second to be sure a rider isn’t approaching or in a blind spot will not delay you that much, and could save a life.
Blind Corners: Use good judgment when approaching blind corners. Start toward the outside edge of the corner (without crowding the center line on right hand bends) and use the widest possible radius. Try to use a “late apex” or “clipping point” on the inside edge of the corner (again – don’t crowd the center line). Doing so will allow you to see as much of the corner as possible before committing to a line, and may allow you to see oncoming traffic sooner as well. If you find yourself going faster than you think is reasonable for the turn, it is important to not panic. Rather, brake gently and lean the bike over. Many riders do not really have a full appreciation for what modern motorcycles can do in a turn. The bike may make it if you keep your head and stay smooth with your control inputs.
Get Some Training: The last point segues into another good pointer – go get some advanced rider training, so you DO have a better appreciation for what your machine can do and how to safely exploit its full capabilities in an emergency situation. The same applies to car drivers.
Watch Your Blind Spot Cager! Motorcyclists have to be extra vigilant when passing cars because they can so easily go undetected in a driver’s blind spot. Keep an eye out for telltale signs of a blind lane change: You might be lucky enough to see a turn signal, but also watch the driver’s hands as you approach, and the direction in which he or she is looking with their head. Look for their eyes in the rearview and side mirror – making eye contact means they are more likely to have seen you. These more subtle clues can warn you to an unanticipated or poorly planned lane change by Mr. or Mrs. Minivan.
Rear-Enders: Between being harder to see and being able to stop quickly at low speeds, motorcycles are prime targets for rear end collisions. If possible, use other cars that have already stopped as cover. Also, keep your bike in gear and be ready to move, while watching your rearview mirrors closely.
Riding In Groups: It is not as “cool” and does not cultivate the biker gang image, but if the group you ride uses a staggered formation, rather than side-by-side, you are much safer. Every rider has more room to move, correct mistakes, and more options in the event oncoming or passing traffic makes a misstep.
Don’t Drive or Ride Under The Influence: This should go without saying – if you are intoxicated by alcohol or drugs your ability to perceive and react to situations you encounter on the road goes down sharply. In addition, you judgment is negatively impacted and may lead to you taking foolish chances. Government statistics show that the rate of fatal crashes involving an intoxicated motorcycle rider is higher than that of a fatal crash involving automobile drivers operating under the influence.
Max Out Your Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Far too often we see motorcyclists involved in crashes who only have a $25-50,000 underinsured motorist policy. Accidents on motorcycles tend to lead to very serious injuries – broken bones, surgeries, etc. A lot of auto policies only cover up to $100,000. In a serious accident, that means you only have $100,000 in coverage due to New Hampshire’s underinsured motorist insurance laws. Get as much underinsurance coverage as you can afford so you don’t have to rely entirely on the defendant (who may have no assets and no meaningful coverage) to get a good personal injury settlement that covers your medical expenses and pain and suffering.
Even if you do all these things, you can still be involved in an accident with serious consequences. When that happens you will need an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands in the in’s and out’s of motorcycle riding and motor cycle accidents. DL&G has several attorneys who are well-versed in this area, and they can help you if you are ever unfortunate enough to be in a motorcycle accident. Call us at 1-800-240-1988.