Spring is here, and with the flowers blooming and the weather improving, it makes sense that more and more people would want to get out into the day. And as Texas slowly reopens, the roads in our area are bound to be filled by drivers and riders hungry for life after a year in lockdown.
In other words: things might start to get a little messy. After so long sheltering-in-place and only going out for the most basic essentials, people are bound to be rusty when it comes to being around other vehicles. That’s why we’re here to bring you some safety tips and reminders for your next spring ride.
Drivers – Give Motorcycles the Right of Way
It’s been observed that when it comes to motorcycle accidents with other vehicles, almost half of collisions are caused by drivers turning left in front of bikes attempting to pass. This happens when the driver misjudges the speed of the biker or if they just don’t see the motorcyclist in the first place.
Motorcycles can travel as fast as a car, and usually even faster than that. So give them space before you turn, and take the time to scan the oncoming lanes to make sure you’re not about to swerve into someone else’s path.
And if you come across a motorcyclist in a carpool lane, allow them to take up space. Federal law allows riders in the HOV lane, even if they’re only carrying one passenger. It’s actually been proven by the U.S. Department of Transportation that it’s safer to allow two-wheeled vehicles the ability to move through stop-and-go traffic. So keep your distance, and it’s likely that they’ll keep theirs.
Riders – Remember to SEE
When you’re riding your bike, there’s a lot you have to account for. It’s not enough to avoid distractions, you have to take the initiative to make an active note of your surroundings on a moment-by-moment basis. This could sound like a lot to ask of one person, but the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has put it in simple terms with one keyword.
“SEE” stands for three steps: Search, Evaluate, and Execute. Searching, to start with, involves a thorough search for potential hazards. This is more than just what’s directly in front of you; this also applies to what’s behind you, at your sides, and twelve seconds in the distance.
Once you’ve Searched, it’s time to Evaluate. What are the potential hazards in what you were able to observe? How could you deal with these problems if you had to? Evaluation applies to what could happen, but once something actually does strike, it’s time to Execute.
Execution is taking the hazard you Searched for and avoiding it with the plan you Evaluated. It requires immediate action with no room for doubt. Riding involves a lot of quick responses to sudden problems, but SEE allows you more time to find what might happen and what you can do about it.
Drivers and Riders – Lane Splitting
If you’ve been on the road long enough, you probably have experienced or taken part in lane splitting. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the practice where a motorcyclist rides down the dashed lines that separate lanes in a road. This is done mostly to pass cars during a commute, but it’s a divisive practice amongst drivers and riders. Some cite sources saying that it can reduce injuries and aid traffic flow, while others point out that it increases the risk of getting hit by drivers changing lanes.
So who’s right?
The laws change from state to state, but lane splitting is not currently legalized in the state of Texas. Several attempts have been made in the past to change the legislation, but it’s currently considered a form of illegal passing. Even in states like California that have legalized lane-splitting, they still advise taking precautions to avoid the risk of crashing.
In cases of a crash, and in a state where the practice isn’t legal, lane-splitting can put the motorcyclist at partial fault. Because of this, and with Texas being a comparative negligence state, the cyclist may get reduced compensation from insurance.
Is it worth it? Not in the long run. Especially in a state that can’t protect you, lane splitting to shave ten or fifteen minutes off your ride won’t amount to much if the worst-case scenario happens. Drivers and riders should keep an eye out for other vehicles around them, preparing and doing their best to avoid a traffic violation and risk of collision. If you’re a motorcyclist looking to get ahead, it’s best to stick to riding in the HOV lane.
Drivers and Riders – Basic Road Guidelines
Whether you’re cruising on four wheels or in the middle of two, we all learned some about road safety when we got our licenses, but it may be time for a refresher. You know not to drive drunk, but even if you say you shouldn’t drive distracted, you may not know that you can increase your risk of a crash by almost four times just by texting.
So put your phone down until you get to where you’re going. Check your mirrors and your blind spots, and even when it’s inconvenient, make sure you’re following the speed limit. You might feel like there’s a lot to catch up on, but now more than ever you can’t forget the basics.
It might be a clumsy start acclimating to the world again after a year of lockdown. And if we go out there thinking that someone else will be looking and we don’t have to, it’ll be even rougher. Drivers and riders both want the same thing – to enjoy getting out of the house and going somewhere other than the home they’ve been stuck in for the past year. So if we work together, and if we work with consideration and intention, we have the chance to keep the roads smooth – maybe even more so than before.