By Don ‘Numbersman’ Schaffer
Today’s safety tip is a short one, but is intended to help you avoid one of the more common causes of rider injury. Blind spots.
A motorcycle is already a small target to be spotted by motorists without our causing ourselves to be even less visible. Where are you invisible? Recently an attorney acquaintance of mine was nearly killed in a totally avoidable accident. He spent months in the hospital and walks with a cane years later because of a momentary failure to observe proper spacing. He was heading south in the left lane of a four lane road through his home town of Northbrook. Yes, he was only a couple of miles from home. He was following a truck at a reasonable stopping distance as he went through an intersection. What he did not realize was that stopping distance was not the problem. He was in the right track, and was totally invisible to the northbound car that turned left as soon as he passed the truck, running right into the following bike.
While the “invisible follow” is the most common accident magnet that I have heard about, it is not by any means the only one. How often have you heard about a bike being run over by a following 18 wheeler pulling away from an intersection? They can’t see you when they pull up too close, and it doesn’t take much inattention to forget you are there. Darned good reason to keep the bike in gear at an intersection.
What about being in front of a truck, but in an adjacent lane? Ever see those great big mirrors on a truck. Ever occur to you that the driver can’t see you if the mirror complete blocks you out?
No problem? What if he changes lanes while you are slowing down for a traffic light. Bam.
You also shouldn’t stay beside a truck any longer than necessary. Yes, you can see the driver’s eyes in the outside mirrors, but that doesn’t mean he or she is paying attention to you instead of a cell phone or CB radio. Even if the driver looks in the mirror before changing lanes or turning, he is probably looking for something with four wheels. First life threatening close call I had when I returned to riding involved a truck that turned left from the right lane, which is where I happened to be trying to go straight. Ever look at the rear wheels of a tractor headed straight for you while you are braking as hard as you can, bailing out as soon as you get stopped, and rolling out of the way to avoid getting run over?
Is a truck following rather closely? If so, either let him get by, or be sure you have a lot of room in front of you. Keep in mind that a bike can stop quicker than most other vehicles, so your only safety cushion may be in front of you if you are being crowded and cannot move over. Be sure you don’t overdo it and make the following driver think you are leaving all that extra space just to taunt him.
I am using the word TRUCK generically here, since you are just as likely to be hidden from sight by a Tahoe with tinted windows as you are by a UPS truck. You are almost always in control of positioning, make the most of it and save your life.