I write a legal blog here in Georgia, discussing some of the issues I see
as an accident and injury attorney. I have been talking about motorcycles,
and how and why we are finding that more and more of them are being injured
and killed on our highways. Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(“NHTSA”) and the Georgia Department of Transportation (“Georgia
DOT” or “GA DOT”) have documented an increase in the
number of bikers dying on our roads. While deaths in car wrecks are decreasing,
deaths from motorcycle wrecks are trending in entirely the wrong direction.
As part of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, NHTSA put out a list of tips
to help car drivers avoid hitting motorcycles, or causing them to wreck.
As a Georgia motorcycle attorney, I end up meeting with bikers or their
families when cars did not follow these basic rules.
In my last attorney blog entry, I talked about the first five tips to automobile
drivers. Today, I want to discuss the rest of NHTSA’s nine tips,
which are found in its “Share the Road with Motorcycles” Fact Sheet.
Tip 6: NHTSA points out that, since motorcycles are smaller, they are more
likely to be in a car’s blind spot. In other words, a large car
or tractor-trailer is probably not going to fit within that blind spot
– with a larger vehicle, a good part of the car is probably going
to stick out past the blind spot. Since a motorcycle is smaller than a
car or truck, however, drivers may find that it is completely covered
in the blind spot. Of course, all drivers have a duty to check the rearview
and side view mirrors when they change lanes or turn. But NHTSA reminds
drivers that, when it comes to motorcycles, it is especially important
for us to check those mirrors.
Tip 7: NHTSA warns car drivers: “don’t be fooled by a flashing
turn signal on a motorcycle.” A motorcycle may not automatically
turn off the turn signal off after the motorcycle turns, as a car would
do. Just like other drivers, bikers forget to turn off their signals.
NHTSA advises that cars “wait to be sure” that the bike rider
is going to turn.
Tip 8: NHTSA cautions that motorcyclists may change speed or position quickly.
To see why, think back to your bike riding days as a kid. Your dad drove
over that small pothole at the end of the street with nary a step on the
brake. But if you hit that same pothole while you were pedaling full speed
on your bike, you flew off over the handlebars and landed on the street
ahead of your (now wrecked) bike. Motorcycle riders have some of the same
issues. When a biker comes up on a road hazard, he has got to move out
of the way quickly. NHTSA warns drivers that motorcyclists may need to
move quickly to avoid “potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces,
pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
Tip 9: It might seem that you do not need to follow as far back from a
motorcycle as you do from a truck or car, but NHTSA warns that in fact,
you should allow more distance, not less, when you are following a motorcycle.
NHTSA suggest that you allow an additional three or four seconds –
which could be three or four car lengths – in order to give the
biker enough time to maneuver around road hazards, or to stop in an emergency.
NHTSA points out that a motorcycle can stop more quickly than a car can
when the road is dry, so need to follow further back in order to give
yourself time to stop when the motorcycle does.