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05/11/2013

See and Be Seen

Everything’s more intense on a motorcycle. The sun is brighter and the scents more fragrant. As we soak in the full experience, it can be easy to forget that it’s ultimately the job of the rider to be visible at all times and plan for potential hazards.

Here are some situations where a rider may not be as visible to motorists and some ways to avoid precarious situations.

Blind Spots: Try not to ride in other vehicles’ blind spot. If you can’t see the driver, they likely can’t see you.  There are 3 positions in every lane for a motorcycle: the left, middle and right. Change your lane position to be more visible.

Rain/Overcast: The rain collecting on the front, sides and rear of vehicles may inhibit the driver from being able to see you. Ride with your high beams on and fog lights if you have them, and make sure they are clean. Consider wearing bright colored gear or a retro reflective vest or patches. Also consider that your vision may be affected by rain collecting on your face shield or windshield. There are many products that help bead the rain off, such as Rain-X.

Sunset: Riding just before sunset comes with a few potential hazards. If you are riding away from the sunset, oncoming vehicles are blinded by the sun and may not be able to see you. If you notice a long shadow in front of you, assume the oncoming vehicles cannot see you. If you are riding towards the sunset, you can be blinded by the sun. An enduro style helmet with a brim can help if you have one. If not, sunglasses or tilting your head down slightly can help, but try to limit your riding time in this condition.

Night Riding: Motorcycles really blend in with the environment at night and can be very difficult to see. Use tips similar to riding in the rain. Remember that the single headlight or tail light of a motorcycle is difficult to see at night, especially if it is in line with the headlight of another vehicle. Do not rely on the sound of your motorcycle to stay visible.

One of the most common motorcycle accidents is when a vehicle turns left in front of a rider, and the most common excuse is the motorist never saw the motorcyclist.  This can be avoided by having a strategy in place.

Observe: Actively search for potential conflicts, especially at intersections.

Identify: When you notice one or more potential issues…

Decide: Make a decision about your course of action in advance.

React:  Take action (slow, stop, swerve, honk, etc.)

Practice this strategy often. Motorcycle accidents happen very quickly and all of these steps take time to process and execute. And, reaction time can vary from rider to rider depending on their age, experience level, state of mind and overall condition.

Developing and practicing these basic but necessary skills can help you become a safer, more aware rider with countless miles ahead of you. Stay safe out there!

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