Motorcycle riders often have to compensate for car drivers to stay safe

Motorcyclists can lower crash risks by making themselves more visible to surrounding vehicles and being prepared with defensive techniques.

When motorcyclists get out on the roads of Illinois, they have the same rights and responsibilities as other motorists. Following traffic laws, riding sober and using appropriate safety equipment are just the beginning for most riders. In addition to being accountable for their own actions, they often have to compensate for circumstances that are out of their control.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 92,000 motorcyclists injured in crashes during 2014, and 4,586 fatalities. Motorcyclists who do not develop strong defensive techniques to counter the hazards caused by other motorists and road conditions have a significantly higher risk of a crash.

Becoming visible

National motorcycle awareness campaigns urge motorists to double check before pulling out into traffic, making turns or changing lanes. Still, many motorcycle crashes happen because a driver failed to see the rider. Motorcycles are about one-third of the size of the average passenger vehicle when viewed from the front, and judging their speed and distance can be difficult for drivers.

Safety experts at RideApart.com list several things a rider can do to improve visibility. For example, flashing brake lights at traffic signals decreases the chance of being rear-ended. Staying to the left side of the lane in view of motorists' mirrors is another tactic to improve safety. Wearing bright, contrasting colors and putting reflective tape at strategic points on the motorcycle are ways to make the rider stand out from the scenery.

Watching for subtle signals

Motorcycle operators may be able to avoid an injury accident by being alert to clues from surrounding vehicles. While it would be ideal if other drivers used their turn signals, a rider should never count on them. In their absence, motorcyclists should be aware of the following vehicle characteristics:

  • Blind spots
  • Lane position
  • Wheel direction
  • Speed

Being aware of all the nearby vehicles also helps determine the best option when a rider has to choose between two defensive actions such as braking hard or swerving. Road conditions can also affect how a motorcycle operator responds to traffic. If the road is wet or slick, sudden braking can send the motorcycle into a slide.

When motorists cause collisions, motorcycle operators have to be especially careful to avoid making a mistake that increases the damage. After any crash, taking pictures and speaking to witnesses may help hold the responsible person liable for all the harm that is caused. An experienced personal injury attorney may be able to provide representation that ensures a rider receives the maximum compensation the law allows.