Many motorists have trouble seeing motorcycles, especially in traffic and at intersections. The smaller size of a motorcycle makes it difficult for other drivers to judge their speed and distance. To stay safe and avoid accidents, motorcyclists need to make their presence known on the road.
Follow the Rules of the Road
One of the main ways that motorcyclists can be more visible and avoid injury is to simply follow the rules of the road. Although road privileges may be the same for both motorcycles and automobiles, cyclists need to realize that their vehicles are smaller and afford them less protection, putting them in a major disadvantage in the event of an accident. For this reason, they need to be even more vigilant about practicing safe driving techniques.
According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, since 1979, most motorcycles sold in the U.S. have been equipped with automatic-on headlamps. This feature automatically switches the headlights on when the ignition is turned on. Many states require that a motorcycle’s headlights be on at all times; however, Colorado requires headlights and taillights only after sunset.
Riders should use turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if they think no one will see it. Flashing the brake light two or three times before slowing down or stopping can also cause the driver of an automobile to take notice. Some motorcyclists use a combination of both hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves, but unlike in many other states, turn signals are not mandatory in Colorado.
Don’t Hide in Traffic
Riders need to make themselves as conspicuous as possible, and need to be careful not to ever hide in traffic by riding in other vehicles’ blind spots. Blind spots are created by the A-pillars and C-pillars of cars, and affect the front three-quarter and rear three-quarter angle views from the driver seat. Although it’s not illegal to drive in someone else’s blind spot, it definitely creates an unsafe situation, especially for the motorcyclist.
It is recommended that riders maintain a large space cushion when following another vehicle and use their entire lane — right, left, and center — to see and be seen. A motorcyclist should increase their following distance during adverse weather conditions and whenever water, sand, loose gravel, oil, wet leaves, or potholes are present on the roadway.
Lane splitting is illegal in Colorado, meaning no person may operate a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic. Riding in the center of a lane generally makes a motorcycle the most visible to other vehicles. Although riding two abreast in a single lane is allowed in Colorado, for maximum visibility, motorcyclists should ride offset, not directly beside each other.
Wear Appropriate Clothing and Gear
Brightly colored protective gear and helmets help riders be more visible. Colors like red, yellow, orange, and white help a rider be noticed. Many riders also use reflective tape and stickers on their helmet and clothing, and reflectors on the motorcycle itself, especially when riding at night.
Make the Road Safer for All
There is a definite correlation between how conspicuous a motorcycle is on the road and the chance that it will be involved in a crash. All drivers, especially motorcyclists, need to be alert and aware of all others they are sharing the road with, and do everything they can to make other vehicles be aware of them at all times.
Image by Doo Ho Kim.