Riding in city traffic isn’t nearly the same as cruising on the open road. There are dangers everywhere—cars, commercial trucks, pedestrians. It can be a stressful nightmare and, unfortunately, riding in traffic dramatically increases your risk of being involved in a motorcycle accident in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles or San Jose. But you can avoid the majority of these accidents by reading the signals all around you and learning what to do (and what not to do). Below are a few tips pro riders use every day to stay safe on the road.
It normally takes new riders years to really understand these pro tips but if you read on you’ll get benefit of the experience without having to live through a devastating motorcycle accident, which we as Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose motorcycle accident attorneys see all to often.
- Watch Drivers and the Car
Rookie riders almost always watch the cars around them—which is something you should be doing. But if you watch the drivers as well you can learn to read their body language and even predict what they may or may not do. The first rule is that drivers will almost always move their heads in the direct they intend to turn the car. If you see that head move, the car will likely follow. Secondly, if a driver looks distracted (reading text messages, stuffing a burger in their face, yelling at the kids in the back seat) they probably aren’t looking out for you. Let them pass by or cautiously pass them so you’re not in their line of fire.
- Use Your Mirrors (But Don’t Trust Them 100%)
Mirrors are great for keeping what’s behind and beside you in your field of view but motorcycle mirrors are small. That means they’re not likely giving you the complete picture. Always keep your head on a swivel because what’s lurking in your blind spot could be a killer.
- Your Brakes are Your Lifeline
The brakes are one of the most important safety features on your bike. It’s worth the time and money to upgrade or buy the best braking components you can afford. If your hand is too far away or your foot’s not on the pedal your reaction time could cost you your life regardless of how well your brakes work. Always hover over your brakes so you can slow or stop in an instant if a car cuts you off on the highway.
- Be Aware of Your Position
Speaking of highways, it’s never a good idea to ride between another motor vehicle and an exit ramp (or right turn). If you’re alongside the vehicle you might not see their turn signal (if they use it) and they might not see you. That’s a recipe for disaster that could leave you in the hospital or worse. Always be aware of where your bike is and where it will be in the next second or two to avoid crashes before they happen.
- Stay Visible
Far too many at-fault drivers tell police investigators that they never even saw the rider they struck. To avoid potentially deadly motorcycle accidents in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, make sure everyone can see you. That means upgrading or at least maintaining the lighting on your motorcycle, wearing bright (possibly reflective) clothing and (when possible) avoiding rides during dangerous periods like dawn and sundown when ambient lighting can play tricks on people’s eyes.
- Don’t Be the Meat in a Bike Sandwich
Try not to ride immediately behind the car in front of you in high traffic conditions. If the car ahead stops quickly you could end up in the trunk or sandwiched between the bumper and the hood of the car behind you. Whenever possible ride slightly to the left or right so you can quickly escape becoming a bike sandwich by simply turning the handlebars and leaning a bit.
Use Your Brain to Avoid Motorcycle Accidents
Automobile operators are at fault in the majority of two-vehicle motorcycle accidents in Oakland. That means that in order to avoid these types of crashes you have to be smarter than the drivers around you. While it takes years of riding experience to hone the skills you need to feel completely safe in traffic, these few quick tips will help you get closer to that goal. The overall theme is, of course, to always ride smartly. Keep your eyes open and your mind active. If you can anticipate what drivers around you are going to do and have an updated “escape route” in mind, you can avoid collisions and save yourself a lot of pain and agony.