Crotch rockets, choppers, hogs, donor cycles; these are all slang terms used for one of the most challenging vehicles for professional truck drivers to share the road with—motorcycles. In fact, in 2013 motorcyclist fatalities accounted for 14% of all highway fatalities even though they make up only 3% of registered vehicles. Truck-motorcycle accidents often result in death or serious injury to the motorcycle riders.
The following are some reminders and techniques that professional drivers can incorporate into their daily operations to help avoid crashes with motorcycles:
• Always signal well in advance before changing lanes or merging with traffic and then slowly complete the maneuver. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate your movement and find a safe lane position.
• Be cautious when making left and right turns. In 2013, 42% of all motorcycle/vehicle fatality collisions occurred when the other vehicle was making a left turn. Right-turn squeeze accidents with motorcycles are often fatal.
• Be alert at intersections. Take a second look specifically for motorcycles before pulling out or turning. Motorcycles may be obscured by other vehicles. Because of their size, it is hard to judge how far away or how fast a motorcycle is traveling. When in doubt, yield the right of way. If the rider is signaling a turn, wait to be sure of the rider’s intentions before you proceed.
• Increase your ability to see motorcycles. To avoid lane-change accidents ensure your mirrors are clean and adjusted properly. Equip your vehicle with properly placed and adjusted fender mirrors to eliminate as much of your vehicle’s blind spots as possible.
• Increase your following distance Remember, when following a motorcycle, they can stop much faster than other vehicles giving you less time to respond. This gives the rider more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Motorcycle riders may suddenly need to change speed or adjust lane position to avoid hazards such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams and railroad crossings.
• Look for multiple motorcycles. Motorcyclists often ride in pairs or groups so if you see one, expect others.
• Never drive distracted. Always keep your eyes and minds focused on the roadway and anticipate where motorcycles could be.
• Remember a motorcyclist has the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as any other motorist on the highway. They should be given the same courtesies as any other highway user.
• Track motorcyclists as they move through your blind spot. Ensure they have passed before making a lane change. Many may ride in the blind spot due to lack of knowledge and/or training.