Motorcycle Safety Awareness and Tips


Motion Induced Blindness

You may find this interesting, I think it explains how drivers pull in front of motorcycles or a bicycle and say I didn’t see him”. Lack of motion Induced Blindness was initially presented as a flying issue, but one can also miss things (pedestrians, motorcycles, bicycles other cars) while driving too, so, keep your heads and eyes moving. The below link is a great illustration of what was taught about scanning outside the cockpit when military pilots went through training they were told to scan the horizon for a short distance, stop momentarily, and repeat the process.

This was the most effective technique to locate other bicycles, pedestrians or motorcycles as well as aircraft. It was emphasized repeatedly to not fix one’s gaze for more than a couple of seconds on any single object. The instructors, some of whom were combat veterans with years of experience, instructed pilots to continually “keep your eyes moving and head on a swivel” because this was the best way to survive, not only in combat, but from peacetime hazards (like a midair collision) as well.

The most dangerous target is the one that has NO apparent motion. This is the one you will hit without evasive action and also the one you will NOT see as presented below. This advice had to be taken on faith until technology produced the display linked below.

Ten Things All Cars & Truck Drivers Should Know About Motorcycles

1. Over half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most of the time, the motorist, not the motorcyclist, is at fault. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don’t “recognize” a motorcycle – they ignore it (usually unintentionally with motion induced blindness- see above).

Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc). Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles, whether you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections.
Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.
Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.
Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.
Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle’s signal is for real.
Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle’s better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don’t expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.
Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can’t always stop “on a dime.”
When a motorcycle is in motion, see more than the motorcycle – see the person under the helmet, who could be your friend, neighbor, or relative.
If a driver crashes into a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian and causes serious injury, the driver would likely never forgive himself/herself.

General Guidelines for Riding a Motorcycle Safely

Be visible:

Remember that motorists often have trouble seeing motorcycles and reacting in time.

Make sure your headlight works and is on day and night.

Use reflective strips or decals on your clothing and on your motorcycle.

Be aware of the blind spots cars and trucks have.

Flash your brake light when you are slowing down and before stopping.

If a motorist doesnt see you, dont be afraid to use your horn.

Dress for safety:

Wear a quality helmet and eye protection.

Wear bright clothing and a light-colored helmet.

Wear leather or other thick, protective clothing.

Choose long sleeves and pants, over-the-ankle boots, and gloves.

Remember the only thing between you and the road is your protective gear.

Apply effective mental strategies:

Constantly search the road for changing conditions. Use MSFs Search, Evaluate, Execute strategy (SEESM) to increase time and space safety margins.

Give yourself space and time to respond to other motorists actions.

Give other motorists time and space to respond to you.

Use lane positioning to be seen; ride in the part of a lane where you are most visible.

Watch for turning vehicles.

Signal your next move in advance.

Avoid weaving between lanes.

Pretend youre invisible, and ride extra defensively.

Don’t ride when you are tired or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Know and follow the rules of the road, and stick to the speed limit.

Know your bike and how to use it:

Get formal training and take refresher courses.

Call 800.446.9227 or visit to locate the Motorcycle Safety Foundation hands-on Rider CourseSM nearest you.

Practice. Develop your riding techniques before going into heavy traffic. Know how to handle your bike in conditions such as wet or sandy roads, high winds, and uneven surfaces.

Remember: Give yourself space. People driving cars often just dont see motorcycles. Even when drivers do see you, chances are theyve never been on a motorcycle and cant properly judge your speed.

Guidelines for Riding with a Passenger on Your Motorcycle

Legal Considerations

1. All state laws and requirements for carrying a passenger must be followed.

2. Some states have specific equipment requirements. Examples: the motorcycle must have passenger footrests, passengers must be able to reach the footrests, and a motorcycle must have a separate seating area for a passenger.

3. The decision to carry a child, assuming all safety and legal factors have been considered, is left to the parent or guardian. Ensure that the child is mature enough to handle the responsibilities; tall enough to reach the footrests, wears a properly fitted helmet and other protective gear, and holds onto you or the passenger hand-holds. Check your states laws; a few states have set minimum ages for motorcycle passengers.

Operator Preparation

1. Passengers should be considered as a second active rider so they can help ensure that safety and procedural operations are correctly followed.

2. A passenger will affect the handling characteristics of a motorcycle due to the extra weight and independent motion.

3. A passenger tends to move forward in quick stops and may bump your helmet with theirs.

4. Starting from a stop may require more throttle and clutch finesse.

5. Braking procedures may be affected. Braking sooner and/or with greater pressure may be required.

6. More weight over the rear tire may increase the usefulness and stopping power of the rear brake, especially in quick stop situations.

7. Riding on a downgrade will cause braking distance to increase.

8. Extra caution is called for in a corner because of the extra weight.

9. Cornering clearances may be affected.

10. More time and space will be needed for passing.

11. The effects of wind, especially side wind, may be more pronounced.

Motorcycle Preparation

1. The motorcycle must be designed to accommodate a passenger.

2. The motorcycle owners manual should be reviewed for manufacturers tips about motorcycle setup as well as any related operational recommendations.

3. The motorcycles suspension and tire pressure may need adjustment.

4. Care should be taken to not exceed the weight limitations specified in the owners manual.

Passenger Preparation

1. Passengers should be tall enough to reach the footrests and mature enough to handle the responsibilities.

2. Passengers should wear proper protective gear.

3. Passengers should receive a safety briefing (see #7 below).

4. Passengers should consider themselves a second operator and share responsibility for safety.

General Safety Considerations

1. You need to be experienced in the motorcycles operation and have a safety-oriented attitude before taking on the added responsibility of carrying a passenger.

2. Practice low-speed clutch/throttle control as well as normal and emergency braking in a low-risk area like an open parking lot, with a passenger.

3. Use caution in cornering and develop cornering skills over time to ensure passenger comfort and safety.

4. Use caution in corners as clearance may be affected.

5. Use MSFs Search, Evaluate, Execute strategy (SEESM) to increase time and space safety margins.

6. Allow time for a passenger to adjust to the sense of speed and the sensation of leaning; speeds should conservatively safe and reasonable until a passenger acclimates to the proper riding techniques.

7. Ensure passengers follow safety procedures:

a. Complete personal protective gear is properly in use.

b. Hold operators waist or hips, or motorcycles passenger hand-holds provided.

c. Keep feet on footrests at all times, including while stopped.

d. Keep hands and feet away from hot or moving parts.

e. When in a corner, look over the operators shoulder in the direction of the corner.

f. Avoid turning around or making sudden moves that might affect operation.

g. If crossing an obstacle, stand on the pegs with the knees slightly bent and allow the legs to absorb the shock upon impact.

8. Allow more time for passing.

9. Be ready to counter the effects of wind.

10. Avoid extreme speeds and dramatic lean angles.

11. Be ready for a passenger bump with their helmet when stopping quickly.

12. Start the motorcycle before the passenger mounts.

13. Have the passenger mount after the motorcycles stand is raised and the motorcycle is securely braced.

14. Annually complete an ERC Skills Plus Rider CourseSM with a passenger.

15. Have frequent passengers complete a Basic Rider Course so they can better understand the operators task.

Guide to Group Riding

Motorcycling is primarily a solo activity, but for many, riding as a group — whether with friends on a Sunday morning ride or with an organized motorcycle rally — is the epitome of the motorcycling experience. Here are some tips to help ensure a fun and safe group ride:

Arrive prepared. Arrive on time with a full gas tank.

Hold a riders meeting. Discuss things like the route, rest and fuel stops, and hand signals (see diagrams on next page). Assign a lead and sweep (tail) rider. Both should be experienced riders who are well-versed in group riding procedures. The leader should assess everyones riding skills and the groups riding style.

Keep the group to a manageable size, ideally five to seven riders. If necessary, break the group into smaller sub-groups, each with a lead and sweep rider.

Ride prepared. At least one rider in each group should pack a cell phone, first-aid kit, and full tool kit, so the group is prepared for any problem that they might encounter.

Ride in formation. The staggered riding formation (see diagram below) allows a proper space cushion between motorcycles so that each rider has enough time and space to maneuver and to react to hazards. The leader rides in the left third of the lane, while the next rider stays at least one second behind in the right third of the lane; the rest of the group follows the same pattern. A single-file formation is preferred on a curvy road, under conditions of poor visibility or poor road surfaces, entering/leaving highways, or other situations where an increased space cushion or maneuvering room is needed.

Avoid side-by-side formations, as they reduce the space cushion. If you suddenly needed to swerve to avoid a hazard, you would not have room to do so. You dont want handlebars to get entangled.

Periodically check the riders following in your rear view mirror. If you see a rider falling behind, slow down so they may catch up. If all the riders in the group use this technique, the group should be able to maintain a fairly steady speed without pressure to ride too fast to catch up.

If youre separated from the group, dont panic. Your group should have a pre-planned procedure in place to regroup. Dont break the law or ride beyond your skills to catch up.

For mechanical or medical problems, use a cell phone to call for assistance as the situation warrants.

MSFs Guide to Group Riding: Hand Signals


Street Survival – On the Ride

Assume you’re invisible
Because to a lot of drivers, you are. Never make a move based on the assumption that another driver sees you, even if you’ve just made eye contact.

Be considerate
The consequences of strafing the jerk du jour or cutting him off start out bad and get worse. Pretend it was your grandma and think again

Dress for the crash, not the pool or the prom
Sure, Joaquin’s Fish Tacos is a five-minute trip, but nobody plans to eat pavement. Modern mesh gear means 100-degree heat is no excuse for a T-shirt and board shorts

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
Assume that car across the intersection will turn across your bow when the light goes green, with or without a turn signal.

Leave your ego at home
The only people who really care if you were faster on the freeway will be the officer and the judge.

Pay attention
Yes, there is a half-naked girl on the billboard. And the chrome needs a polish. Meanwhile, you could be drifting toward Big Trouble. Focus.

Mirrors only show you part of the picture
Never change direction without turning your head to make sure the coast really is clear.

Be patient
Always take another second or three before you pull out to pass, ride away from a curb or merge into freeway traffic from an on-ramp. It’s what you don’t see that gets you. That extra look could save your butt.

Watch your closing speed
Passing cars at twice their speed or changing lanes to shoot past a row of stopped cars is just asking for trouble.

Beware the verge and the merge
A lot of nasty surprises end up on the sides of the road: empty McDonald’s bags, nails, TV antennas, ladders, you name it. Watch for potentially troublesome debris on both sides of the road.

Left-turning cars remain a leading killer of motorcyclists
Don’t assume someone will wait for you to dart through the intersection. They’re trying to beat the light, too.

Think before you act
Careful whipping around that Camry going 7 mph in a 25-mph zone or you could end up with your head in the driver’s side door when he turns in front of you.

Beware of cars running traffic lights
The first few seconds after a signal light changes are the most perilous. Look both ways before barging into an intersection.

Check your mirrors
Do it every time you change lanes, slow down or stop. Be ready to move if another vehicle is about to occupy the space you’d planned to use

Mind the gap
Remember Driver’s Ed.? One second’s worth of distance per 10 mph is the old rule of thumb. Better still; scan the next 12 seconds ahead for potential trouble.

Beware of tuner cars
They’re quick and their drivers tend to be young and aggressive, therefore potentially hazardous

Excessive entrance speed hurts
It’s the leading cause of single-bike accidents on twisty roads-some cruisers can make unheard of amounts of power. Use it on the way out of a corner, not in.

Don’t trust that deer whistle
Ungulates and other feral beasts prowl at dawn and dusk, so heed those big yellow signs. If you’re riding in a target-rich environment, slow down and watch the shoulders.

Learn to use both brakes
The front does most of your stopping, but for a lot of heavy cruisers a little extra rear brake can really help haul you up fast.

Keep the front brake covered-always
Save a single second of reaction time at 60 mph and you can stop 88 feet shorter. Think about that.

Look where you want to go
Use the miracle of target fixation to your advantage. The motorcycle goes where you look, so focus on the solution instead of the problem.

Keep your eyes moving
Traffic is always shifting, so keep scanning for potential trouble. Don’t lock your eyes on any one thing for too long unless you’re actually dealing with trouble

Come to a full stop at that next stop sign
Put a foot down. Look again. Anything less forces a snap decision with no time to spot potential trouble.

Raise your gaze
It’s too late to do anything about the 20 feet immediately in front of your fender, so scan the road far enough ahead to see trouble and change trajectory.

Get your mind right in the driveway
Most accidents happen during the first 15 minutes of a ride, below 40 mph, near an intersection or driveway. Yes, that could be your driveway

Never dive into a gap in stalled traffic
Cars may have stopped for a reason, and you may not be able to see why until it’s too late to do anything about it.

Don’t saddle up more than you can handle
If you weigh 95 pounds, avoid that 795-pound cruiser. Get something lighter and more manageable.

Watch for car doors opening into traffic
And smacking a car that’s swerving around some goofball’s open door is just as painful.

Don’t get in an intersection rut
Watch for a two-way stop after a string of four-way intersections. If you expect cross-traffic to stop, there could be a painful surprise when it doesn’t.

Stay in your comfort zone when you’re with a group
Riding over your head is a good way to end up in a ditch. Any bunch worth riding with will have a rendezvous point where you’ll be able to link up again.

Give your eyes some time to adjust
A minute or two of low light heading from a well-lighted garage onto dark streets is a good thing. Otherwise, you’re essentially flying blind for the first mile or so.

Master the slow U-turn
Practice. Park your butt on the outside edge of the seat and lean the bike into the turn, using your body as a counterweight as you pivot around the rear wheel.

Who put a stop sign at the top of this hill?
Don’t panic. Use the rear brake to keep from rolling back down. Use Mr. Throttle and Mr. Clutch normally-and smoothly-to pull away.

If it looks slippery, assume it is
A patch of suspicious pavement could be just about anything. Butter Flavor Crisco? Gravel? Mobil 1? Or maybe it’s nothing. Better to slow down for nothing than go on your head.

Bang! A blowout! Now what?
No sudden moves. The motorcycle isn’t happy, so be prepared to apply a little calming muscle to maintain course. Ease back the throttle, brake gingerly with the good wheel and pull over very smoothly to the shoulder.

Drops on the face shield?
It’s raining. Lightly misted pavement can be slipperier than when it’s been rinsed by a downpour, and you never know how much grip there is. Apply maximum-level concentration, caution and smoothness.

Everything is harder to see after dark
Adjust your headlights, carry a clear face shield and have your game all the way on after dark, especially during commuter hours

Wear good gear
Wear stuff that fits you and the weather. If you’re too hot or too cold or fighting with a jacket that binds across the shoulders, you’re dangerous. It’s that simple.

Leave the iPod at home You won’t hear that cement truck in time with music cranked to 11, but they might like your headphones in intensive care.

Learn to swerve
Be able to do two tight turns in quick succession. Flick left around the bag of briquettes, then right back to your original trajectory. The bike will follow your eyes, so look at the way around, not the briquettes. Now practice until it’s a reflex.

Be smooth at low speeds
Take some angst out, especially of slow-speed maneuvers, with a bit of rear brake. It adds a welcome bit of stability by minimizing unwelcome weight transfer and potentially bothersome driveline lash.

Flashing is good for you
Turn signals get your attention by flashing, right? So a few easy taps on the pedal or lever before stopping makes your brake light more eye-catching to trailing traffic.

Intersections are scary, so hedge your bets
Put another vehicle between your bike and the possibility of someone running the stop sign/red light on your right and you cut your chances of getting nailed in half.

Tune your peripheral vision
Pick a point near the center of that wall over there. Now scan as far as you can by moving your attention, not your gaze. The more you can see without turning your head, the sooner you can react to trouble.

All alone at a light that won’t turn green?
Put as much motorcycle as possible directly above the sensor wire-usually buried in the pavement beneath you and located by a round or square pattern behind the limit line. If the light still won’t change, try putting your kickstand down, right on the wire. You should be on your way in seconds.

Don’t troll next to-or right behind-Mr. Peterbilt
If one of those 18 retreads blows up-which they do with some regularity-it de-treads, and that can be ugly. Unless you like dodging huge chunks of flying rubber, keep your distance.

Take the panic out of panic stops
Develop an intimate relationship with your front brake. Seek out some safe, open pavement. Starting slowly, find that fine line between maximum braking and a locked wheel, and then do it again and again.

Make your tires right
None of this stuff matters unless your skins are right. Don’t take ’em for granted. Make sure pressure is spot-on every time you ride. Check for cuts, nails and other junk they might have picked up, as well as for general wear.

Take a deep breath
Count to 10. Visualize whirled peas. Forgetting about some clown’s 80-mph indiscretion beats running the risk of ruining your life, or ending

Information from Motorcycle Safety Foundation at