Posted on 09/28/2021 at 02:26 PM by The Biker Lawyers

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10 Top Safe Riding Tips From a Veteran Biker

This article might save your life… or at least we hope it helps you become a smarter, safer rider!

No matter how long you've been riding, it never hurts to brush up on a few motorcycle safety tips. Our very own Pete Leehey, veteran biker, and personal injury lawyer is extremely passionate about biker safety. When he shared this list on social media a while back, we knew it was only a matter of time before we would need to add a bit to it and share it with our community here at TheBikerLawyers.com!

1. This is the cardinal rule: Always assume that every motorist on the road is going to do something wrong that will hurt or kill a motorcyclist.

This may sound like paranoia, and maybe it is... but it's good for you if you want to stay safe on your bike. Keep your eyes and senses peeled at all times when it comes to other motorists.

That guy driving toward the intersection? Assume he’s going to turn left in front of the approaching motorcycle.

That woman sitting at the intersection? Assume she’s going to pull out just as the motorcycle reaches the intersection.

What about that guy parked along the curb with his motor running? Assume he’s going to pull out into traffic just as the motorcycle is reaching the parked car, and so on.

Other motorists may not have malicious intent towards bikers, but most people don't mean to hurt others, it just happens.

2. Slow down when approaching intersections, even if no other motorists are visible.

Roadways approaching intersections, especially in towns or cities, often cannot be properly viewed until right on them. Assume there are vehicles approaching from both directions at intersections, and that they will blow through the traffic controls. By slowing down before the intersection, the motorcyclist is better prepared to deal with unexpected danger. You may have a green light, but people run red lights all the time. The few seconds you take to slow down could mean the difference between crashing and cruising on.

Image of a crashed motorcycle after a wreck. Decorative image from a blog by The Biker Lawyers3. DO NOT rely on the other driver’s eyes.

It may look like that other driver is staring right at the motorcyclist. Many times, drivers are looking right “through” the motorcyclist, focusing on the larger vehicles in traffic. In this situation, the motorcycle becomes “invisible” to the motorist.

We've all had that experience where we get road hypnotized and when we arrive at our destination we have no recollection of the trip or how we got there. It's like we were on autopilot. Assume all other motorists are on autopilot.

4. DO rely on the other motorist’s wheels.

Instead of looking at the eyes of a motorist stopped at an intersection, look at the wheels of the car. The wheels do not lie. If the wheels start to move, the motorcyclist should brake as though the vehicle is going to pull out in front of the motorcycle because there is a good chance it will.

At a four-way stop, it's also a good idea to beware of the classic "rolling stop". For those unfamiliar, this is where a motorist will slow at a stop sign but not come to a complete stop, instead opting to cruise on through.

5. Beware the "Lethal Left": When a motorcycle and car are approaching an intersection from opposite directions, always assume that the car is going to make a “lethal left” in front of the motorcycle.

The “lethal left” is the most common crash between auto and motorcycle. There are things bikers can do to minimize the chance of a “lethal left” happening to them. The most important preventive measure a biker can take involves attitude and vigilance. Assume that every motorist is going to do something dangerous that may cause injury or death. By adopting this attitude, a biker increases the chance of avoiding the “lethal left” and other motorist errors.

Do not assume the oncoming motorist is aware of the presence of a motorcycle in the intersection, even if it appears there is direct eye contact. Again, look at the wheels of the car for the most reliable indicator of what the motorist is going to do. Any time an oncoming auto has the opportunity to turn left, bikers must be on high alert.

Tips for avoiding the lethal left

  • In these situations always slow down, cover the brakes, and be prepared to take evasive action. The evasive action plan must take into consideration surrounding traffic conditions. Be aware of the position of other vehicles to be able to choose the safest escape route. Hard braking may not be a good choice if being tailgated at highway speed.
  • By assuming every oncoming motorist is a threat to make a “lethal left,” bikers immediately increase the likelihood of avoiding this threat.
  • Slow down. Cover the brakes. Be ready to pound the brakes if the car shows any sign of turning. Remember, look at the wheels, not the eyes.

6. Whenever possible, a motorcyclist should go through intersections with a vehicle beside the motorcycle.

Most motorcycle-automobile crashes happen in intersections. In addition to the usual precautions, there is one thing bikers can do that will lessen the chance of being injured or killed in an intersection crash:

"When approaching an intersection, try to have an automobile to the right side." - Pete Leehey, Personal Injury Attorney, The Biker Lawyers

Why? Because the vehicle to the right acts as a safety escort through the intersection. If an automobile runs a stoplight or a stop sign to the right, it will hit the car the biker is traveling beside instead of the biker. Better to have the safety escort to the right, as there is more time to react to a car running a stoplight from the left. The closer the biker is to the center of the road, the more buffer exists for traffic coming from both right and left.

When pulling away from a traffic light that has just turned green, pull away at the same speed as the car on the right does. To avoid getting t-boned in intersections, forget about accelerating hard from the stoplight. Let that car to the right be your safety escort through the intersection. That way, if somebody does run a red light or stop sign, the motorcycle is protected, at least from one direction.

7. Check tire pressure and tire condition before riding.

Improperly inflated tires can lead to tire failure. At high speeds, tire failure (or a full blowout) can be fatal.

While blowouts are rare, they do still happen. When tires fail, the most common cause is tire pressure that's too low. Checking tire conditions and pressure levels frequently will reduce the chance of a blowout. Know the tire manufacturer’s recommended pressure levels or, at the very least, where to find them on your tire. Know that if this is a new bike, the tire pressure recommended may not be the same as your old bike. 

If a tire blows out or fails while riding, it’s crucial to react quickly and decisively to avoid a crash. The first sign of a tire blowout is that the motorcycle becomes harder to steer. The steering problem is caused by rapid air loss to a tire.

Image of a motorcycle tire blowout. Decorative blog image for The Biker Lawyers6 Quick Tips for Dealing with a Motorcycle Tire Blowout

Thinking through the proper procedure before riding may be the difference between keeping the bike up and disaster. 

1.   Hold onto the handlebars with a firm grip and arms bent.

2.   Ease off the throttle, and let the bike slow down gradually.

3.   Don’t fight to correct the wobble or weave that will likely develop. 

Focus instead on maintaining control by continuing to drive the motorcycle in as straight a line as possible until it comes to a stop.

4.   Do not brake!

Braking, especially hard braking, will make it far more difficult to keep the motorcycle under control. If it’s absolutely necessary to brake, apply very light and gradual force to the brake on the good tire to ease the motorcycle to a safe stop.

Using the brake on the wheel with the bad tire can cause the tire to separate from the rim, resulting in immediate loss of control. Avoid downshifting too, as this will make the bike less stable.

5.   Remain seated until the motorcycle has come to a full stop.

Fight the urge to stand up or jump off the bike, no matter how much you may think you want to.

6. Get the bike off the road.

A tire blowout is a harrowing experience. Taking the right steps if it does happen must be instinctive. Regularly running through the proper procedure mentally is the best way to make the reaction instinctive. Remember (mental) practice makes perfect. Sorry for the list within a list, but we knew you needed to know. Now, back to the last couple tips for avoiding a wreck while riding!

Image of a driver following too closely to motorcyclists

8. If a car is following a motorcycle too closely (closer than three seconds behind), wave the car back. 

If the car won’t move back to a proper following distance don't let your temper get the better of you, pull over to the shoulder and let them by. If something happens that requires hard braking by a motorcycle with a car following too closely, chances are greatly increased that the car rear-ends the motorcycle. Remember, in a car vs. motorcycle crash, the car (almost) always wins.

9. Back Off!  Follow the Three-Second Rule.

If a car passes and then pulls back in front of the motorcycle too closely, brake gently and back off to create the three-second safety buffer. Anything closer, and the motorcyclist doesn’t get enough time to react to things that “pop out” from under the car, like dead animals, chunks of tires from blowouts, etc. Following the three-second rule gives a rider the precious few moments needed to react exactly as they need to stay safe, anything fewer risks putting the rider in danger.

10. DO NOT follow vehicles too closely.

Keep that minimum three-second safety buffer between the motorcycle and the traffic in front. Any closer, and the risk skyrockets of rear-ending the vehicle if it slows down suddenly. Those folks in the vehicle ahead may be nice people, but the motorcyclist does not want to meet them by coming through the back window.

BONUS TIP: Beware of farm machinery.

In the Midwest, we know country roads. We also know it is important to watch out for tractors, trailers, and combines, especially in the fall when Harvest Season is underway and more slow-moving equipment and machines are on the roads. 

Keep in mind that it is illegal to pass within 100 feet of any intersection. With gravel roads roughly every mile, that greatly limits your legal passing opportunities.

While it's not illegal to pass slow-moving equipment in the vicinity of a farm drive or field entry, the safer call is to wait until you've gone by the drive or entry, then make the pass. Drivers of slow-moving machinery may have a more difficult time seeing motorcyclists than automobile drivers. This sometimes results in farm equipment turning in front of a motorcycle just as the bike starts to pass.

We may feel annoyed having to wait on slow-moving equipment, but a pass at the wrong moment can be fatal. Be on the lookout for places farm machinery might turn before making the move to pass. The best practice is to slow down to the speed of the farm equipment before considering a pass. The first benefit of slowing down is that it will allow an assessment of the potential danger. Secondly, if the tractor makes an unexpected movement, it will be much easier to avoid at low speed.


Bonus Tip #2: Keep The Biker Lawyers in Mind!

As bikers, we hope you ride safe always and hope you meet us at a rally or bike night and never have to reach out under other circumstances. As the Midwest's best personal injury and wrongful death attornies, if you need us, we'll ride for you. Have questions? Get in touch, we're happy to help.

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