Story by Doug Westly
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published the March 2014 edition of the MSTA Florida Chapter newsletter, The Florida Gator Tale. The story has been edited to match the MSTA website’s style.
We’ve all seen it and talked about it. So why does it still happen? Why do we continue to lose so many riders (and sometimes friends) to left-turning vehicles that violates motorcyclist’s right-of-way?
According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, more motorcycle-involved multi-car accidents occur at intersections than anywhere else on public roads. There are lots of factors involved in left-turn car/motorcycle crashes. The most obvious one is the inability of the driver to visually recognize the approaching motorcycle in the oncoming lane.
Whether it is a distracted driver, someone trying to squeeze through a perceived “hole” in the traffic or something else, the result is usually bad news for the motorcyclist. How do we cope with this all-too common traffic menace? Here are a few ideas from various sources, riders and just plain old experience.
First off, we just have to make the assumption that NOBODY sees us on the road. Just because you’re wearing hi-vis everything, from underwear to a one-piece, day-glow orange, LED-lit billboard suit, do not expect that to protect you. SOME drivers may see it. Ride like you’re invisible.
Treat every intersection with caution. That doesn’t just mean the ones with lights, stop signs and so on. Remember, every driveway emptying onto your road is an intersection. Every side street off your path of travel is an opportunity for a driver to turn in front of you.
Pay attention to vehicles as they approach or are facing you in the oncoming lanes. If they are stopped or are slowing, expect them to turn — and not see you in the process. Can we catch clues about their intentions? Watch the driver. See where they are looking. Oh, and just because you make eye contact with them, don’t assume they actually see you. Catching a theme here?
Another effective tactic — particularly at controlled intersections where vehicles are waiting to turn — is to watch the front tires. If they start to turn or roll, you can guarantee the driver intends to go.
How about announcing your presence? Modulating headlight systems seem to work well and are legal in all 50 states — provided they are activated only during daylight hours. On the other hand, flashing your high beams can be a two-edged sword. The other driver may think you’re indicating for them to proceed with their turn. Be careful about signals!
Finally, a last thought — SLOW DOWN for those intersections and situations where an unwanted physics lesson with another vehicle is a real possibility. Remember to SCAN AHEAD for traffic and possible danger.
Don’t forget the MSF mantra: SEARCH-EVALUATE-EXECUTE (SEE). It really does work!