According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 4,668 motorcyclists died and 88,000 were injured in motorcycle crashes in 2013. If you recently got your motorcycle license or have had one for some time, it's important that you develop a sense of situational awarenesness so you can avoid getting into an accident.
Of course, you'll want to watch other vehicles for turning signals and brake lights, but here are a few other things to look for when you are enjoying the open road on a motorcycle.
Watch for drivers looking in rear and side view mirrors
When you are following vehicles, take notice of when drivers look in their rear and side view mirrors. Even if they don't use their turning signals to alert drivers behind them, they will likely look in their mirrors before making lane changes. By being aware of when the drivers in front of you are looking in their mirrors, you will be better able to predict when they are preparing to change lanes.
You also want to do this before and while you pass someone on a highway. Keep a watchful eye on their head movement in your peripheral vision. At the same time, be aware of what is on the other side of you and behind you, just in case you need to take evasive action if the driver suddenly tries to change lanes into the lane you are in.
Look at the tires of vehicles in intersections
When approaching an intersection or a parking lot exit, take a quick look at the tires to get an idea of which direction they will head in when they pull out. If their tires are straight, they are likely planning on going straight, and you can safely assume they'll continue to wait at the intersection if it's a red light.
However, if their tires are turned to the right, regardless of whether there's a sign prohibiting right-hand turns or not, it's safe to assume that they could pull out in front of you. If you don't see the driver look at you, it's a good idea to flash your headlight to make him or her aware that you are in the roadway.
Pay attention to vehicles when there are gaps in traffic
Gaps in traffic are the times when drivers will be more likely to pull out of parking lots, driveways, and intersections. In areas where traffic is heavy, local drivers may speed up to the corner and turn into the roadway without stopping to look as they rush to beat the next onslaught of traffic. This is particularly true in heavily commercialized areas with a string of red lights, such as a shopping district in a busy city.
On long stretches of roadway, such as in rural settings, take advantage of your obstruction-free visual field and look ahead in the distance for lanes, driveways, parking lot exits and other areas where a car may suddenly appear. Since it's more difficult for them to notice you on the roadway than it would be if you were a car, truck, or van, it's a good idea to flash your headlight to make him or her aware that you are there.
Watch for vehicles behind you when preparing to stop
Since it can be difficult for some drivers to identify your speed and their distance to you, depending on their depth of perception and common sense, it's important to keep a watchful eye on the vehicles behind you when you need to come to a stop. Slow down sooner than later when approaching red lights and stop signs. If the vehicle behind you doesn't seem to be slowing down, tap your brake lights so they notice you.
Being aware of your surroundings when driving a motorcycle is something that can help you stay safe and accident-free. However, if you are involved in a motorcycle accident, be prepared for insurance adjusters and attorneys to ask you about your driving habits, which includes your situational awareness. For more information, contact a business such as Scherline And Associates.