'See Me Save Me:' Motorcycles join traffic on the road

  • Published
  • By Allan Woods
  • Hill AFB Motorcycle Safety Program Manager
The early summer months have finally arrived. With warmer weather, now is the time to make an extra effort to look closely for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.

Drivers will begin seeing many more of them on the roads in the next few weeks.

This time of year four-wheel vehicle drivers are generally not used to seeing the smaller traffic out there on the commute. Very soon there will be thousands of motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians on the roads with drivers everywhere they go. Please drive alert and be aware of the smaller traffic and pedestrians sharing the road with people each day.

Utah has lost three riders to fatal motorcycle accidents this year, which is obviously three too many.

The Air Force motorcycle accident rate has doubled from this time last year. This is an unacceptable increase. All of Team Hill needs to do their part to ensure these numbers do not affect Hill AFB.

Here are a few safe driving and riding tips provided by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation:

Safe driving and riding both rely on an array of good habits that can only become habits through constant practice.

Use the following tactics while driving: Maintain a 360 degree awareness of surroundings by constantly scanning the road ahead, to the sides, and in the rear-view mirrors. Assume that any vehicle spotted can enter your path of travel -- whether from an adjacent lane, a sidestreet or driveway, or approaching from the other side of an intersection -- and drivers must be ready to brake, swerve or accelerate as required. Maintain a two- or three-second following distance to increase reaction time if the car in front of the drivers' vehicle stops unexpectedly. Drivers must communicate their intentions to other motorists by using turn signals for all turns and lane changes. Motorists must turn their heads to check the adjacent lane before making a lane change. Finally, drivers must pretend they are invisible and act as if all other traffic is operating without regard to their existence.

When riding a motorcycle, riders need to be aware of inattentive car drivers and use the MSF SEE system -- Search, Evaluate, Execute -- to stay aware and minimize risk.

A safe following distance ensures riders won't rear-end a car or motorcycle that stops suddenly, and won't hit a road hazard (pothole, debris) that is spotted after the car in front passes over it.

Following distance must account for the three components of stopping distance:

- Perception distance
- Reaction distance
- Braking distance

The MSF recommends a minimum 2-second following distance in most riding conditions. Some traffic safety organizations are now recommending a 3-second (or more) following distance to account for the fact that operators of all types of motor vehicles tend to be more distracted now than at any time in the past. Distraction lengthens perception distance.

Some riders feel that too great a following distance may lead to people pulling into the gap, forcing them to decelerate. It also might lead to riders being lulled into a false sense of security and getting more distracted because they feel they're no longer within "striking distance" of another vehicle.

This is called "risk compensation," a phenomenon in which some individuals take additional risks when using additional safety measures or equipment, thereby diminishing the benefits of the safety measures/equipment.

With following distance, drivers balance the need for adequate spacing so they can react to a hazardous condition and the need to protect their space. The more riders and drivers employ good street strategy (Search/Evaluate/Execute, keeping escape routes in mind, covering the brakes when in heavy traffic, etc.), the less they'll need to rely on their good maneuvering skills to extract themselves from a dangerous situation.

All riders and drivers must do their part and share the road with everyone, no matter how large or small.

Everyone has the right to live another day!