Sharing the road with motorcycles

Motorcycles have the same rights and responsibilities as any other vehicles on the roadways. However, riding a motorcycle comes with a few safety challenges and, as a driver of an automobile, you should be mindful of those challenges and make sure that you are safely sharing the road with motorcyclists.

Below are a few facts that you should know about motorcycles:

  • Riding a motorcycle requires an exceptional handling ability; therefore, it's harder to maneuver a motorcycle quickly during a sudden traffic situation or a collision.
  • Riding a motorcycle on a highway or freeway can be much riskier during the bad weather or bad road conditions.
  • Motorcycles are harder to notice on the roadway.

To safely share the road with motorcyclists:

  • Check if there are motorcycles in your blind spot when changing lanes, making a turn, or entering a freeway or expressway.
  • Allow at least a four-second following distance. If the motorcyclist suddenly stops or falls off, you will need enough distance to stop your car and avoid hitting him/her.
  • Do not share the lane with a motorcyclist. A motorcyclist needs enough room to maneuver; having a shared lane can be unsafe, especially if a traffic situation arises.
  • If you happen to be in a situation where you are sharing a lane with a motorcyclist, do not try to pass him/her.  Slow down and move to a lane away from the motorcyclist.
  • During the heavy freeway traffic, motorcyclists tend to ride between two lanes to pass the congested traffic.  This practice of a motorcyclist riding between two lanes is called lane splitting.  Although lane splitting is legal in California, it can be unsafe.  Be very careful and watch out for the motorcyclists passing you between the lanes during the freeway's congested traffic.
  • When making a left turn in an intersection, watch out for a looming motorcycle and do not assume that you can turn left in front of the motorcyclist in a timely manner without having a collision with him/her. It is usually hard to gauge a motorcycle's speed; be patient and play it safe.
  • Bad weather or road conditions can create a dangerous environment for motorcycles, especially when sharing the road with other vehicles.  For example, wet or slippery surfaces, uneven surfaces (potholes, gravel, pavement seams) can make it necessary for motorcyclists to change speed or direction suddenly.  A motorcyclist can fall off when there is a powerful wind.  Thus, when there are bad weather or road conditions or when there is a heavy traffic, be aware of those risks, watch out for motorcyclists, and be courteous and extra cautious, especially when you are sharing the roads with motorcyclists.

Motorcycles also have responsibilities As a motorcyclist, sharing the roadways with other road users such as cars, pedestrians and bicyclists can be challenging.
You must obey the traffic laws and also act responsibly in order to create a safe and friendly driving environment for everyone on the road.

The California law requires that all motorcyclists (or all operators of motor-driven cycles) and their passengers must wear a helmet.

A motorcyclist with a passenger needs to be more careful when maneuvering through traffic because his/her motorcycle will be heavier and will need a longer time to accelerate or slow down.  One of the main causes of motorcycle accidents is the fact that most automobile drivers tend not to notice a motorcycle riding near them, so it is important for a motorcyclist to make sure that he/she is being noticed by other drivers.

Here are some ideas for how a motorcyclist can be more easily seen and noticed by other vehicles:

  • Wear bright colors, reflective material clothing and a helmet.
  • Do not ride in the blind spot of other vehicles.
  • Do not share the lane with an automobile.
  • Although lane splitting is legal in California, it is unsafe especially during congested traffic.  Be very careful and watch out for vehicles that keep changing lanes that can easily miss seeing you and cut in front of you.
  • Always use your turn signals when changing lanes or making turns.
  • Flash your brake lights to let other drivers know that you are slowing down or stopping.

One of the other cause of motorcycle accidents is the fact that other motorists on the road cannot judge the speed of a motorcycle; this creates a considerable traffic hazard on the intersections where there is oncoming traffic making unprotected left turns.
Watch out for these turns and be prepared to stop or maneuver out of the hazardous situation.