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Defensive Driving Skills Are Even More Necessary On A Motorcycle

Posted By on 25-04-2021
Defensive Driving Skills Are Even More Necessary On A Motorcycle

Defensive driving is certainly one of the best tools you can use to avoid accidents and keep you and your loved ones safe on the road. That skill is all the more important when you are riding on a motorcycle and we want to share some excellent strategies that should help a rider learn to better read and react to constantly changing road and traffic conditions.

Motorcycling is not, of itself,  inherently dangerous. It is, however, extremely unforgiving of inattention, ignorance, incompetence or stupidity.

Defensive driving is certainly one of the best tools you can use to avoid accidents and keep you and your loved ones safe on the road, and that skill is extremely important when you are  all the more vulnerable on a motorcycle.

What exactly is defensive driving? In a nutshell, it’s “driving to prevent accidents despite the action or inaction of other drivers”. Even if you’re involved in a “not at fault accident” and could be “dead right” about being in a lane or making a turn, you might end up dead and that’s what we want to avoid! What we’re saying is, it doesn’t matter wh is in the right or wrong, someone can still be hurt or killed the best way to prevent the worst from happening is to just avoid an accidents.

Six Defensive Driving Skills That Will Help Keep You Safer On Your Motorcycle

  • Plan your trip and know your route. Know where you’re going and where you’ll be turning. Know what lanes to be in and when you should be in them. Planning ahead will allow you to be prepared, set yourself up, and not be looking around for the exit or making drastic maneuvers, such as sudden lane changes.
  • Slow and steady will win the race. Speeding around, zipping in and out of traffic, and other such manouvering may feel thrilling, but just the ability of a motorcycle to accelerate quickly can be enough to fool the average driver. Not only that, but speeding also compounds any negative situation and increses the potential for an accident.
  • Maintain a proper following distance. Riding at least 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you can give you some extra distance just in case something unforseen occurs. Add more distance when the weather is bad, or in places such as off and on ramps, and also when riding at higher speeds on the highway. Chances are that if you are far enough back behind the vehicle you are following you are more likely to be seen by the driver in front as well as other drivers on the road.
  • Keep your head on a swivel and eyes moving constantly. Be aware of the traffic all around you and watch for possible problems  so that you are prepared to escape from a dangerous situation.
  • MELT. This stands for Minimum Eye Lead Time, which is the practice of looking ahead for potential issues. Looking ahead 12 – 15 second lead time in urban areas and 20-30 seconds on the highway will allow you to spot potential hazards, as opposed to only paying attention to your immediate surroundings.
  • Learn The High Incident Situations. There are several common situations that we’ve listed below and which result in far too many motorcycle accidents. As mentioned, it doesn’t matter who has the right of way or who is at fault, a defensive driver/rider will take the necessary precautions and be prepared for evasive manouvers when in these scenarios.

Whether you are driving a car, riding your motorcycle, or even riding a bicycle, there are many scenarios that occur on a regular basis which can result in an accident. Knowing about these situations means you’ll be better able to recognise them and be extra alert, as well as know what you should do to avoid a worst case scenario.

LEFT TURN ACCIDENTS

Most people will think that we’re talking about the rider (or driver) making a left turn across opposing lanes of traffic but that’s only partly true. Yes, it’s definitely a dangerous manouver but what we are actually referring to is a vehicle making a left turn across the lane in which you, the motorcyclist is riding. Part of the problem with being on a bike is not being seen.  A driver who is performing that left turn in front of advancing traffic often tries to beat the line of cars approaching and wants to act fast so they often give a quick look and go, not realizing there’s a bike approaching.

When you see this scenario unfolding, slow down, double check what other vehicles are around you and where your escape route will potentially be, and be ready to brake and/or swerve to avoid a t-bone collision.

BLIND SPOTS

It’s amazing just how many people, be they in a car or on a motorcycle, pay no attention to other driver’s or motorcyclists’s blind spots. That’s the area in and around a vehicle where an object cannot be seen by the operator of that vehicle. And, the bigger the vehicle, like a semi, the more the blind spots increase.

One advantage of being on a motorcycle is that you can shoulder check easily, so be on the look out for vehicles that may have snuck into your blind spot before you change lanes. Another good tactic is to ensure you stay out of other vehciles blind spots yourself. Sometimes traffic dictates where you are situated on the road but rather than crowd in close, stay back and keep yourself in that area that allows you to see and be seen. If you are approaching a vehicle that is moving slower than the speed limit, be extra cautious as you ride through the blind spot. Often, switching your lane orientation can help, perhaps riding in the far right or far left of your own lane to give yourself a bit more reaction time should the vehicle in question decide to change lanes. Also, use the other drivers or motorcyclists mirrors as your guide. If you can’t see them in the mirrior, then they can’t see you either.

DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

It’s unfortunate that distracted driving has surpassed driving under the influence as the leading cause of traffic fatalities. Of course, this behaviour is far less likely to occur when on a motorcycle, making driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents. You might also toss in riding while tired in this category as, essentially, your mind is not alert and your reactions will be altered.

It’s pretty simple….do not ride (or drive) while under the influence of any substance, be it alcohol, marijuana or prescription drug. And be all the more conscientious when attending motorcycle events, as the social setting is often a temptation to indulge. In consideration of the fatigue scenario, know when to stop and rest, even if it means an unplanned night in a hotel or at a friend’s place. The latter also applies to a situation where you’ve had a drink or consumed drugs. 

EXPERIENCE

While this is not really a “situation” per se, it is a condition that applies to motorcyclists and deserves a mention. Most people will automatically assume that when we say “experience” we mean lack of it, and while it’s true that new riders often lack the skills necessary for safe riding it isn’t the only aspect to consider. Most certainly, complacency can be just as deadly as lack of knowledge! The rider who thinks they know it all because they’ve been “riding for years” can be just a susceptible to an accident and you only need to listen to the news to realize that it’s not just young riders getting injured or killed. It’s a recognized situation in the trucking industry for example, which is why they highly recommend Professional Driver Improvement Courses.

If you are inexpreienced, take your time and build your way up as you learn the skills. Don’t succumb to peer pressure by knowing and staying within your limits. If you’re a long time rider, recognize the fact that you may have developed some bad habits or a bad attitude and make an effort to correct your behaviour. Even experienced riders should take refresher motorcycle training courses and brush up on their skills.

SPEEDING

Everyone has heard or used the term “speed kills” and the fact is that it’s true. Read and react times are lessened, braking distances, even as good as they are on a motorcycle, are lengthened, and you’re generally at a disadvantage on too many fronts. Add in the fact that motorcycles are virtually invisible to the average driver and you’ve just compounded the issues by moving way faster than recognized or anticipated.

It’s not difficult to figure out, is it? Respect the law and obey the speed limit. And adjust your speed according to weather and road conditons, including traffic. 

MOTORCYCLE DEFECTS

This is a broad category but is fairly simple. Things like bad tires or brakes are going to result in a deadly when you suddenly need them to perform!

The answer to the issue is also simple…make sure your motorcycle is properly maintained by someone who knows what they’re doing. yes, it may cost a few dollars but it’s better than costing you your life!

ROAD CONDITIONS

This can mean many things, especially when you live in a northern country that has extreme climate.  Weather is a huge factor, be it rain to make roads slick or thunderstorms and a downpour that reduces visibility. In a province like Alberta, you can get snow and ice at a moments notice, even in Spring, Summer and Fall and especially when riding in mountainous areas. And the cold weather in the Winter months can mean Spring brings frost heaves, potholes and road gravel that was spread on the road to maintain traction on snow and ice. We also have our fair share of unpaved roads here, meaning rural areas with farm equipment, wildlife and other such “road hazards”. Of course, with the warmer weather and the ability to ride comes the fact that it’s road construction season and there are added hazards, such as workers and slow moving equipment, barricades and other signs, pus the potential for rocks and gravel on the road, or road grinding grooves and oil spraying that will create tricky riding situations.

First and foremost, the start of riding season in Spring means you need to be more aware and more cautious when on pavement. Slow down and keep an eye out for the abovementioned hazards. Before heading out on a ride, even a short one, be sure to check the weather forecast. Be physically and mentally prepared for what ever Mother Nature may throw at you and also accept the fact that you may need to not go or may need to stop during the ride to wait it out. Obey the signage and speed limits in construction zones and be extra cautious for the results of the construction in the area you may be passing through.

There are many defensive driving skills and potential accident scenarios that one can learn which will greatly reduce the chance of having an accident. And remember, even when using all the skills and knowledge mentioned, accidents may still occur and following the rule of ATGATT ( ALL The Gear All The Time) will give you some protection that may save your life or reduce your injuries.

Check out these other posts that relate to motorcyclists…

10 Tips For Storing Your Motorcycle In The Winter
What Affects Your Motorcycle Insurance Premium And Why!
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