Motorcycle accidents are common, and often deadly for riders. In 2017, 501 motorcyclists in Texas died in traffic accidents. A major contributing factor to fatal motorcycle collisions is lack of visibility. Drivers often fail to see smaller, sleeker motorcycles, resulting in preventable collisions. While it is a driver’s job to pay attention to the road, motorcyclists can decrease their risks of accidents by increasing their visibility.
Turn on your headlights at all times, even in daylight. Texas law states that all riders on motorcycles manufactured after 1975 must keep their headlights on during operation. This law helps protect motorcyclists from visibility-related collisions. With your headlamp on, you increase the odds of a motor vehicle driver seeing you during the day, in bad weather, and at night. Also, ensure your headlights, taillights, and brake lights are in proper working order when riding before sunrise or after sunset. Avoid riding in poor weather as much as possible, as this can significantly reduce drivers’ visibility – even if you are using a headlight.
Wearing all black or other dark colors on a motorcycle can contribute to the inability of a motorist to see you coming – especially if you own a dark-colored motorcycle as well. Instead, wear bright colors such as yellow or neon while riding to optimize your visibility. You can purchase a neon vest to wear while you ride if you do not wish to change your clothing. Many reflective neon motorcycle vests can also protect your skin and body in case of an accident. Consider purchasing a brightly colored motorcycle for extra visibility.
Sometimes visibility is not about the lights or colors you wear, but rather your position on the road. Drivers may merge on top of motorcyclists or cause sideswipe accidents if they do not see a motorcycle in the lane. As a motorcyclist, you can diminish your odds of getting into this type of accident by staying in the best lane position for visibility. This position will depend upon the vehicles around you.
Try to stay out of common blind spots to the left and right of other vehicles – especially the large No Zones of a tractor trailer. If you need to pass another vehicle, do so as quickly as possible without speeding. Do not hover in a blind spot while passing. Do not ride on the white line between lanes (lane split), as this is against the law in Texas and drivers will not expect you to be there. Being aware of which lane makes you most visible can prevent a collision.
Whenever possible at intersections and other places your path may cross that of another driver’s, make eye contact with the motorist. If you are both stopped at a four-way intersection, for example, make eye contact with the driver to ensure he or she sees you. Then, proceed when you have the right of way. If a driver is pulling out onto the road you are on, make eye contact. If you cannot make eye contact, assume the driver does not see you, and reduce your speed in case the driver pulls out in front of you.
Visibility and predictability go together. Drivers expect motorcycles to obey roadway rules and to be where they should be according to the law. If you break the rules, you become unpredictable to other drivers – and put yourself at risk of accidents. Signal your intent to turn and brake with the proper motorcycle lights and/or hand signals. Stay predictable to other drivers to improve your visibility. Obey the speed limit, communicate your intentions, and maintain adequate space between your vehicle and others. Prepare yourself to act quickly, if necessary, to avoid a crash.