As a San Francisco motorcycle accident attorney, if I had to pick the single most common cause of motorcycle accidents it would be “Because they just don’t see you.”
As a motorcycle rider myself, I often feel that I might as well be invisible when I’m out riding. Drivers often look right past me, focusing on other cars, trucks, buildings, or people. So many drivers are distracted these days by cell phones, food, coffee, makeup, or their own passengers. Although we do encourage all motorists to stay alert, focused and aware of motorcyclists, at the end of the day defensive riding is the best choice for any motorcyclist.
One of the best ways my fellow riders and I ride defensively is to pretend we are invisible. How many times have you been riding down the road in plain daylight with your multicolored bike and your reflective gear and bright helmet, and yet some driver takes a left turn right in front of you? This kind of conduct from drivers is outrageous and potentially deadly to riders, but all we can do to protect ourselves as riders is to pretend we are invisible and not be so surprised when the drivers just don’t see us. If we adopt a mindset that no one can or will see us, we can ride more safely and be better prepared when that frightful frustrating moment does come. The hyper-awareness of your surroundings will enable you to deal with your fellow motorists more quickly and efficiently. There are several ways that we can also try to be more visible and ride more predictably and conspicuously, and thereby become less invisible.
Be as conspicuous as possible. Wear bright clothing, light colored helmets, and always use your driving headlight when on the road (most new bikes turn on the headlight with the ignition). Many jurisdictions will allow motorcyclists to use high beam or headlight modulators during the day, which will also provide extra visibility. I also try to ride in the best part of the lane where I am most likely to be seen by other motorists. If you sit in a truck’s blind spot perhaps you should not be as surprised when the truck starts to make a lane change without seeing you. Also, I believe it is a good idea to vary where you are riding in the lane, changing your position often enough to provide more visual cues to other motorists.
You’re never too experienced to take a rider training course. Learn to maneuver in both standard and emergency situations, and understand that riding is as much a mental as it is a physical exercise. Take any opportunity to learn, improve, and increase your riding proficiency and your ability to plan and act quickly. Part of being an experienced rider is learning how to anticipate problems with other vehicles and how to best strategize for a safe outcome.
Don’t assume drivers can see you. Assume they CANNOT. Take the extra time to develop safety plans, drive defensively, and position yourself in the lane as to be seen by other drivers. You should always be ready for a driver to violate your right of way, so cover your brakes, quicken your reactions, and be ready to use your horn if necessary. I also use the loudness of my bike’s exhaust to let motorists know that I am close to them. Loud pipes really do save lives, so make some noise.
Remember, drivers only see what they expect to see. If you are conspicuous, experienced, and responsive, hopefully you’ll get noticed, and if they still don’t see you, at least you will be able to anticipate their move and avoid a collision. Great luck for a fun and safe ride.