When a car is rear-ended, the result is usually a fender bender accident where some information is exchanged between drivers and the incident is over. However, when the motorcyclist is rear-ended by a three or four thousand pound car, the outcome can be a crippling injury or worse. The roads are filled with distracted motorists who are mostly looking out for other cars or vehicles larger than themselves. How does the motorcyclist protect him or herself in such a dangerous environment? By using these defensive riding strategies:
- Wear bright colors and use reflective strips. Get a jacket that is fluorescent yellow-green or fluorescent orange-red. These are the two most visible colors and are often used by road crews. The fabric should also have reflective tape sewn in for visibility at night. Get a helmet with equal visibility.
- Make your brake lights brighter. Install brighter bulbs or extra brake lights. Periodically check for burned out lights and keep them clean.
- Allow plenty of distance between yourself and the car ahead. When stopped at intersections, allow ample space in front of you so that you aren’t “sandwiched” between two cars if you are rear-ended. The extra space also gives you room to quickly get out of the way of a car that is about to hit you from behind.
- Plan an escape route. When waiting at an intersection, look for possible ways to escape a distracted motorist coming up from behind. Position yourself on the right or left wheel track and look for routes that don’t require driving into oncoming traffic. Keep your bike in gear while stopped so that you can quickly accelerate.
- Check your mirrors. Make a habit of scanning your mirrors when you ride. Frequent brief checks are all that’s needed to develop a situational awareness of what is happening behind you without affecting your awareness of the traffic situation in front. If a car behind you is not braking when you are slowing down, do a bit of weaving to get the driver’s attention. Be ready to get out of its way if necessary.