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Sharing the Road with Cars: What Motorcyclists Need to Know


Riding a motorcycle can be a joyful, exhilarating experience. Unfortunately, however, it can also be a dangerous one. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), while motorcycles account for just two percent of all registered vehicles, they also represent about 10 percent of road fatalities in the state.

This is often due to three factors: They are more challenging to see than cars, inherently less stable than other vehicles, and their operators often need more safety protection. With these factors in mind, here are three tips for motorcyclists to stay safe while sharing the road.

1. Watch Out for Blind Spots

Motorcycles are much smaller than other passenger vehicles on the road. While this may make it easier to maneuver, it also means that they can easily go unseen by other drivers. Motorcycles are often overlooked when they are in a car’s blind spot. This is why it’s crucial that motorcyclists take the extra time to ensure they have checked the traffic before changing lanes – especially at intersections, where most accidents occur.

2. Always Wear a Helmet

A big difference between a motorcycle and another passenger vehicle is that a motorcycle lacks the same type of protection. If a car is involved in an accident, the car’s sides and roof protect the driver. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a motorcycle. That’s why it’s so important to wear a motorcycle helmet.

Under North Carolina law, everyone on a motorcycle must always wear a safety helmet that complies with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. Therefore, it’s not enough just to wear a helmet. You must also ensure that your helmet complies. For it to be compliant, a motorcycle helmet must:

  • Have a thick inner lining of polystyrene foam. You should be able to feel this.
  • Have a DOT symbol on the back of the helmet permanently installed by the manufacturer.
  • Have a permanent label inside the helmet that includes the name or identification of the manufacturer, the model name, the size, the date it was manufactured, the type of liner and shell materials, and an instruction label regarding how to care for the helmet.

The above requirements must come with the helmet at the time of purchase – it is not compliant if you add them yourself.

3. Obey All Signs and Signals

When you’re stuck in a long line of traffic, you may feel tempted to weave in and out of the vehicles in front of you simply because you can, rather than wait. However, motorcyclists must always follow the road rules and drive defensively to share the road safely with other cars. This includes maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you, checking the weather before getting on your motorcycle, assuming you can never be seen, and always using your turn signals. The more you can indicate your next move to other drivers, the safer you will be.

4. Avoid Distractions

Staying aware and alert is crucial for a safe motorcycle ride. As the most vulnerable driver on the road, diverting your attention for even a moment could result in a crash. You must keep your eyes on the road and eliminate distractions during your ride, such as using your phone and adjusting your music.

5. Regular Maintenance

Ensuring that your motorcycle is in good working condition could prevent an accident before it happens. Make sure to routinely check tires, brakes, lights, and other critical components such as the fuel levels, cables, drive chain, and battery. Always refer to your motorcycle manual for regular check-up information.

6. Never Ride Impaired

Drinking or using drugs before riding impairs your judgment, delays your reaction time, and could have potentially deadly consequences. Riding under the influence puts your and others’ lives at risk and could result in jail time, hefty fines, or a revoked driver’s license. In addition, avoid riding fatigue, as this could also impact your ability to drive – especially on long rides. Make sure to get enough sleep and take breaks to rest and stretch to stay alert and focused.

7. Stay Educated

There’s always room for improvement; take motorcycle safety courses to improve your riding skills. In addition, stay up-to-date on new laws and safety recommendations.

8. Be Cautious at Intersections

Many motorcycle accidents happen at intersections. Be prepared for left-turning vehicles in your path, and always signal before you make turns.

9. Practice Emergency Maneuvers

Practice emergency maneuvers like swerving and braking in a controlled environment to enhance your ability to react in critical situations. When unprepared, swerving or sudden braking could result in you falling off your bike and becoming seriously injured.

10. Stay Visible

It’s crucial to wear high-visibility clothing and gear, especially when riding at night in low-light conditions and in bad weather. You should always use your motorcycle headlights, even during the day, to increase your visibility to other motorists on the road.

An Experienced North Carolina Motorcycle Accident Attorney Can Help

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, it can result in very serious – even deadly – consequences. The experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Daggett Shuler understand the serious nature of such an accident and understand how to best deal with insurance adjusters. We’ll help you get the care and justice you deserve.

I would like to take time to thank the staff at Daggett Shuler Attorneys at Law. To Megan Youngblood for helping me get my disability started; thank you so much for everything!

Olivia Winston