Touring Tip: Five Common Sources of Motorcycle Accidents and Strategies for Avoiding Them

Aug 05, 2016 View Comments by

Touring Tip

  1. Oncoming, Left-turning Vehicle: This is probably the most common cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of an oncoming vehicle doesn’t see a motorcyclist and makes a quick left turn directly in the rider’s path.

    Avoidance Strategy: First, it’s always helpful for riders and their mounts to be as conspicuous as possible, which is aided by auxiliary lights and high visibility riding gear. Second, look for indications that the oncoming driver may not see you: no eye contact, hands turning the steering wheel, or movement of left front wheel. Third, ride at a safe speed in traffic congested areas, because higher speed equals longer stopping distances. Some riders, however, slow to a crawl when they see a left turning vehicle, but this is an invitation for that driver to turn in front of you!

  2. Animals in the Road: I’ve experienced just about everything from ground hogs to buffalo in the road. And it doesn’t necessarily take a large critter to take a two-wheeler down. I also know this, unfortunately, from personal experience.

    Avoidance Strategy: Constantly scan the road and surrounding terrain for animals, particularly when undergrowth and trees are close to the pavement. Also, those deer warning signs are usually present for a reason. Be especially alert when riding in the early morning or evening, when animals are the most active. Adjust your speed and cover clutch and brake levers in high-risk areas. And, of course, it never hurts to periodically practice emergency stops and swerves in a parking lot.

  3. Gravel on Blind Curves: Riding through gravel with the bike leaned over at speed is almost certain to result in a crash. The situation worsens if the sliding motorcycle and rider cross the yellow line into the path of an oncoming vehicle—crunch!

    Avoidance Strategy: Gravel on roadways is more likely after heavy rains, near construction sites, and at gravel driveways in rural areas. If riders assume there will be gravel around a blind curve, they are more likely to adjust their entry speed accordingly. It’s also possible to use some light braking in a curve, even with the bike leaned over, especially if the motorcycle has antilock brakes. But the best technique is to avoid the gravel, stand the bike up, and apply maximum braking. Maximizing sight lines is also an important strategy for avoiding all types of hazards on blind curves.

  4. Cars Changing Lanes: At on-ramps or while riding on crowded multi-lane urban roads, an adjacent motorist may suddenly pull directly into your path, leaving little or no time for evasive action.

    Avoidance Strategy:Rule number one is to stay out of the blind spots of other drivers. Maximize the space cushion between yourself and other vehicles. Rush hour traffic on highways presents the highest risk for other vehicles changing lanes into a rider. If riding at this time can’t be avoided, I’ve found the best strategy is staying in the far left lane so traffic on only the right side must be monitored.

  5. Excessive Speed in a Curve: A rider realizes mid-curve that the curve is tighter than expected and panics. Instead of increasing the bike’s lean angle, the rider stops looking through the curve, stiffens his or her arms, and goes straight off the roadway.

    Avoidance Strategy: Pay attention to that little voice in your head when it says, “I’m riding above my skill level.” Of course, the easiest way to avoid crashing on a curve is to do what’s taught in the basic MSF course: slow the bike before entering a curve and accelerate out of it. Even a highly skilled rider should keep some of the bike’s lean angle in reserve in case it’s needed.

Safe riding practices help motorcyclists avoid accidents and bodily injury, and they also build rider confidence and enjoyment.

 

Text and photography: Jim Parks

Tours, tankbag maps, tips, and more: subscribe to RoadRUNNER today!

Tags: , Categories: Touring & Safety Tips