It’s that time of year when the sun is shining, the streets are dry and the temps beckon the motorcyclists to start riding again. This also means that motorcyclists and automobiles have to start sharing the roads with each other. Here are some tips for both drivers and motorcyclists to help keep everyone safe on the roads this motorcycle season.
Ways for Motorcyclist to be seen in Traffic
- Wear a brightly colored or white helmet
- Wear a fluorescent, reflective safety vest or brightly colored riding jacket
- Use strategic lane positioning
- Flash your brakes at stops
- Incorporate reflective materials on your motorcycle
- Install additional driving lights
- Install position and marker lights
- Avoid riding at night, dawn and dusk
- Install a louder horn
- Avoid riding during low sun angle times
- Avoid riding in poor weather conditions
Use reflective clothing for night time driving. Place reflective tape on your helmet and the backs of your boots to increase your visibility.
Make sure you are not in a blind spot or behind a large truck. Use your lane and make sure you are seen. Always drive with your headlights on. Newer models of motorcycles have headlights that are hardwired to automatically come on when the engine is turned on. Older models don’t have this feature so make sure you turn your headlights on!
8 Things a Motorist Should Know About Motorcycles
- Over half of motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most often it is the fault of the car or truck driver, not the motorcyclist.
- Because of a motorcyclist’s narrow profile it can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spot (door or roof frames). Take a second look before changing lanes or turning at intersections.
- The smaller size of a motorcycle makes it appear farther away than it actually is. A motorcycle’s speed can also be difficult to judge. Before turning at an intersection or into or out of a driveway, expect a motorcycle to be closer than it really is.
- Follow a motorcycle with the 3 to 4 second rule of distance between you and the motorcycle. Motorcyclists often slow down by down shifting or letting up on the throttle so you won’t see a brake light come on. When at an intersection a motorcyclist may slow down without any visual warning.
- If you see a motorcyclist in your rear-view mirror shifting in the lane behind you they have a reason for it. It is to minimize the effects from road debris, passing vehicles and the wind. It is not to show off, be reckless or to share the lane with you. They are also doing it to insure you know they are there!
- A motorcycle’s turn signals don’t turn off automatically after a turn or a lane change and sometimes a rider forgets to turn them off. So make sure a motorcyclist’s turn is for real.
- Motorcycles have great maneuverability at low speeds and good road conditions; however, under slippery conditions they have the same issues that automobiles have. In slippery road conditions you need to allow more space between you and the motorcyclist as they won’t be able to stop “on a dime.”
- When you see a motorcyclist keep in mind that it might be a friend, neighbor or relative under that helmet.
Things to Know When Buying Motorcycle Insurance
Insuring your motorcycle is not the same as insuring an automobile. In Minnesota you have personal injury protection of $20,000 in medical coverage on you automobile policy. However, this coverage is optional with motorcycle insurance and most companies will go to $10,000. Uninsured and under-insured motorist liability coverage is optional on a motorcycle policy as well. Bodily injury coverage for passengers is not offered on all motorcycle insurance policies. Make sure your policy includes this coverage. Tell your agent if you have added any special equipment such as saddle bags, special handle bars or anything else not factory installed. Most companies will allow some coverage for this type of equipment. Check with your agent to make sure the amount covers your additional equipment. If you are planning on pulling a trailer, make sure you have both trailer and towing coverage.
By: Christine Gaffron, Insurance Advisors, Inc.
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New Intersections in Minnesota
Many states have begun to build two new types of intersections to help with traffic congestion and safety; Roundabouts and Diverging Diamond Interchanges. When you drive across the United States you can experience these new intersections in states like Missouri, Utah, New York, Tennessee and Wyoming to name a few.
Minnesota’s Department of Transportation opened Minnesota’s first diverging diamond intersection in October of 2013 in Pine Island, MN and opened a second one on October 16, 2013 in the Baxter/St. Could area.
Diverging Diamond Interchanges (DDI’s)
A Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), also known as a Double Crossover Diamond Interchange (DCD), is becoming more common where intersections meet highways. DDI’s/DCD’s are built above the freeway or highway, and require less land to be built on. It also reduces the amount of time needed for traffic to get through the intersection by reducing the number of perpendicular intersections at each interchange. Pedestrians also benefit by having less corners to navigate. The pedestrian has access on each side of the intersection and a main crosswalk access is in the middle of the intersection. Concrete barriers provide protection to the pedestrians from potential harm. The cost of building a DDI is far less than a conventional loop and ramp intersections.
Roundabouts are a circular intersection with a central island. Traffic travels in a counter clockwise motion. Approaching traffic must yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Roundabouts eliminate intersection conflicts because there is no perpendicular or opposing direction turns to have to deal with like at a normal four-way stop intersection.
European cities have used various types of roundabouts since about the 1900’s. Cities and townships in Minnesota are beginning to use more roundabouts to control intersections. Roundabouts reduce crashes at busy intersections where accidents occur at a higher rate or where more than two intersections come together. Accidents at roundabout intersections have been known to be decreased by 39 percent for all crashes and decreased by as much as 89 percent for fatal crashes. Roundabouts provide smoother traffic flow. Also, when traffic is not idling at an intersection, vehicle emissions and fuel consumption is reduced by as much as 30%
When approaching a roundabout:
- Slow down as you approach the roundabout.
- For multi-lane roundabouts, as with any intersection, get into the appropriate lane as you approach the roundabout.
- Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the roadway.
- Watch for signs or pavement markings that require or prohibit certain movements.
- When entering a roundabout, yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Do not cross into the roundabout until all traffic from the left has cleared.
- After entering the roundabout, drive in a counter-clockwise direction until you reach your exit.
- Do not stop, pass or change lanes within a roundabout.
- If an emergency vehicle approaches, exit the roundabout immediately and then pull over.
Since diverging interchanges have reduced traffic delays by 60 percent, improved safety to pedestrian and bicyclists’ access and lowered construction costs, MN Dot will continue to build DDI’s throughout the state where this type of interchange fits the areas traffic needs best.
Source: Minnesota Drivers Manual
Bikers & Motorists Need to Share the Road
Heavier than normal traffic during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally requires bikers and drivers to share the road for safety, officials with the South Dakota Highway Patrol and Office of Highway Safety caution.
Motorcycle traffic has increased since early summer and likely will continue to be heavy through the end of August. There has already been eight fatal crashes involving motorcycles this year. “Rally Time” puts thousands more motorcycles on the highways. Many of the fatal injury crashes involving motor cycles happen to inexperienced drivers.
The Highway Patrol reminds motorcyclists and motorists alike of the rules for sharing the road. Once again, it pays to follow a few safety tips.
- Motorcyclists should ride in single-file lines and avoid crowding he center line or crowding motorists.
- Motorists should remember not to crowd cycles. Motorcycles have the same rights on the road as motorists.
- Motorists and cyclists should follow the recommended speed limits. Motorcyclists should be especially aware of speed limits on curves.
- It is against the law to drink and drive. Motorists and cyclists must be sober when driving.
- Motorists, remember to buckle up. It’s the law.
- Motorcyclists are encouraged to wear helmets.
Do you need one?
People buy insurance policies to protect themselves and their families from unexpected events that could end up costing them a significant amount of money. Homeowner and auto insurance are two types of insurance policies that help to reduce the risk of financial liability. However, what many people do not realize is that most insurance policies do not cover the entire financial risk. This creates a coverage gap.
An umbrella insurance policy covers liability that go beyond the limits of your homeowners, auto, renters, watercraft or motorcycle and/or other personal policies.
Your homeowners, auto, and other personal insurance policies have limits; a maximum they will pay on a single incident. If you are sued or a claim is settled against you for more than the maximum the insurance company allows, you are personally responsible for the rest.
An umbrella policy is only used if you exceed the liability limits of coverage under your other personal insurance policies, so the premiums are usually very affordable.
An umbrella policy helps protect your assets from being seized or attached in the event you are held liable for paying a claim or lawsuit that it exceeds the limits of your other insurance policies; a policy like this can also prevent a judgment against you that can eventually lead to a lien on your house or business.
Umbrella insurance policies typically offer coverage limits starting at $1 million; some police limits can be up to $5 million. You can enlist the advice of your insurance agent to help you decide if an umbrella policy would be appropriate for your financial situation.
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Sources: New York Times, Smart Money
Perhaps the most renowned study of motorcycle accident causes and countermeasures was done for University of Southern California by researcher Harry Hurt. He investigated 900 motorcycle accidents and analyzed another 3600 motorcycle traffic accident reports. The Motorcycle Safety Courses developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation are designed largely to build the skills that the Hurt Study found to be missing in the accident-involved rider. Some of the findings allows us to see some essential things we can do to avoid an accident.
Who hits us?
Most accidents involve a car violating our right-of-way. Most frequently, the car turns left in front of the motorcycle.
Where do we get hit?
Intersections are the most likely place for the motorcycle accident, with the car not only violating our right-of-way, but often traffic controls as well. Most accidents are on short trips, and occur close to the trip origin.
Why do we get hit?
The main reason is that the driver of the other vehicle does not see us in time to avoid the collision. Alcohol is involved in almost half of the fatal accidents. Most motorcyclists are vigilant with regard to drinking and driving.
Why aren’t we seen?
Conspicuity of the motorcycle is a critical factor; especially from the front of the bike.
How can we be seen?
Wear high visibility yellow, orange or bright red jackets. Helmets should be white or bright colors during the day and reflective material at night. It also means positioning our motorcycles where we can be seen in traffic.
How else can we avoid accidents?
Pay attention! Be extra cautious if you have less than 5 months experience. Motorcycle rider courses reduce accidents and injuries by teaching the braking and swerving skills that are necessary. Remember to wear proper eye protection to avoid impaired vision which delays hazard detection.
How can we prevent injuries in an accident?
Heavy boots, jackets and gloves reduce or prevent road rash. Full coverage helmets increase protection and reduce face injuries.
“You have to be completely crazy to ride a motorcycle. Those things are dangerous!”
How often have we heard that? Zealous four-wheelers are bent on saving us from our own stupidity. Anyone bright wouldn’t go near one of those death machines.
In small part, they are right. There is risk involved in operating a motorcycle. There’s also risk involved in driving on a freeway, even in a tank. The trick is to manage the risks and to not take dumb chances.
Managing risk is key, and taking a motorcycle rider course will help you do just that. (And, you may get a discount on your motorcycle insurance.) Keep your mental and physical skills sharp; practice good cornering and curve-riding techniques. Know the limits of your motorcycle and the limits of the environment.
Five Key Tips for Safe Riding
- Assume you are invisible to other drivers. Don’t ever assume another driver knows you’re there.
- Look where you want to go. It’s called visual and directional control. Keep your head and eyes oriented 3-4 seconds ahead of you when cornering. In an emergency, do not stare at the guardrail, the gravel shoulder or the oncoming car. The term for this is target fixation, and it can distract you from the task at hand.
- Counter-steer. Use precise inputs to the hand-grips to lean the motorcycle. Press forward on the left hand-grip, the bike leans left. Press forward on the right hand-grip, the bike leans right. You can learn this technique by taking a rider course.
- Use both brakes. Your front brake provides 70 percent or more of your stopping power in an emergency. Squeeze, do not grab the front brake.
Never stop riding the bike. Don’t ever give up control of your motorcycle. Again, part of the challenge of motorcycling is risk management. Don’t create dangers for yourself by taking unnecessary chances. As a biker, that is your responsibility, and the joy of motorcycling.
Watch for more articles about motorcycle safety, sense and sensibility.
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Information gathered from:
Minnesota Department of Public Safety