How to Share the Road with Motorcycles

At The Wiser Driver Driving School, safety is our top priority.

Motorcyclists often face unique challenges on the road that car drivers might not be aware of.

Understanding these dynamics can significantly reduce accidents and improve safety for everyone.

Let’s explore how drivers can better share the road with motorcycles.

What Makes Motorcycles Different?

Size and Agility

Motorcycles are significantly smaller and more agile than cars, allowing riders to maneuver through traffic in ways that cars simply can’t. This agility can sometimes be misinterpreted by car drivers as erratic behavior. For instance, motorcyclists often shift lanes quickly or weave through traffic to maintain a safe distance from larger vehicles. Understanding this need for maneuverability is essential for car drivers to predict and respect motorcyclists’ actions on the road.

Acceleration and Braking

One of the key differences between motorcycles and cars is their ability to accelerate and brake. Motorcycles can accelerate faster than most cars, which can be surprising to car drivers expecting a slower start at traffic lights. Furthermore, motorcycles often use engine braking—a method where riders decelerate by downshifting instead of using the brake lever. This may result in less obvious deceleration cues for other road users, so maintaining a safe following distance is crucial.

Visibility and Blind Spots

Visibility is a common challenge when sharing the road with motorcycles. Due to their size, motorcycles are more likely to be hidden in blind spots. This necessitates that car drivers frequently check mirrors and physically turn their heads to detect motorcyclists before changing lanes or merging into traffic. Additionally, motorcyclists are often more difficult to see at night or in inclement weather. Drivers should be extra cautious during these conditions and always use their turn signals to alert motorcyclists of their intentions.

Intersections and Turns

Intersections are particularly hazardous for motorcyclists. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 40% of all motorcycle-car collisions occur at intersections. Car drivers making left turns are advised to take an extra second look for approaching motorcycles, which might be closer than they appear. Additionally, because motorcycles have less stability than four-wheeled vehicles, sudden turns without signaling can lead to accidents. Clear communication through proper use of turn signals is vital.

Lane Positioning and Sharing

Motorcycles have the legal right to an entire lane, even if their size suggests they don’t need it. Drivers should avoid attempting to share a lane with a motorcycle. Additionally, lane splitting—where motorcycles travel between lanes of stopped or moving cars—is legal in some states like California but illegal in others. Drivers in states where lane splitting is permitted should be vigilant for motorcycles maneuvering between lanes, especially in heavy traffic.

Road Conditions

Uneven surfaces, potholes, and road debris pose significant risks to motorcyclists. What might be a minor bump for a car can be catastrophic for a motorcycle. Car drivers should be aware and cautious when passing motorcyclists on rough or debris-filled roads, giving them ample space to navigate safely.

Are Intersections the Danger Zone?

For further insights on safe driving practices, you might find our guide on essential driving mistakes helpful.

How Can Drivers Improve Motorcycle Safety?

Checking blind spots regularly

Motorcycles are easily concealed in a vehicle’s blind spots. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) highlight that 36% of fatal multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes occur when other vehicles fail to see motorcycles while turning or changing lanes. Regularly checking mirrors and physically turning to check blind spots can prevent tragic accidents. This is particularly important at intersections, where visibility is crucial.

Fact - Are Motorcyclists Invisible on the Road?

Maintaining Safe Following Distances

Motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars, and tailgating increases the risk of rear-end collisions. The NHTSA recommends maintaining a following distance of at least four seconds behind a motorcycle. This not only provides ample reaction time but also allows motorcyclists to navigate road debris and potholes safely. In 2015, nearly 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in crashes, emphasizing the need for cars to respect safe distances to reduce fatalities.

Using Signals and Indicators Clearly

Clear communication on the road is vital. Always use turn signals well in advance to alert motorcyclists of your intentions. Motorcycles often lack the same stability as cars, especially during sudden stops or turns. According to an IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) study, 23% of motorcyclist deaths happen in collisions with other vehicles while turning. Consistent and timely use of indicators can drastically reduce the likelihood of these accidents.

For more actionable tips on road safety, consider checking out our guide on how to navigate traffic circles.

Wiser driving practices not only save lives but also create a safer, more predictable road environment for everyone.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Misjudging Motorcycle Speeds

Many drivers find it difficult to accurately judge the speed of an approaching motorcycle. Motorcycles, being smaller and more streamlined than cars, often appear to be moving slower than they actually are. This miscalculation can lead to dangerous mistakes, especially when making left turns or merging into traffic. To avoid this, always assume a motorcycle is closer and moving faster than it appears. According to the NHTSA, nearly 41% of motorcycle crashes occur due to cars turning left in front of them. Drivers should exercise patience and wait for motorcycles to pass before making their moves.

Unsafe Lane Changes

Unsafe lane changes are a leading cause of accidents involving motorcycles. Due to their smaller size, motorcycles can easily be hidden in a car’s blind spot. The NHTSA reports that 36% of fatal multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes happen because the motorcycle was not seen during lane changes or turns. This highlights the necessity of proper mirror checks and head turns to cover all blind spots. Moreover, always signal your lane change well in advance and double-check mirrors to ensure the lane is clear. For further tips on minimizing risks, see our guide on defensive driving techniques.

Ignoring Weather Conditions

Weather conditions drastically affect motorcycle safety. Wet, icy, or otherwise slippery roads can make it much harder for motorcycles to stop or maneuver without skidding. According to data, motorcyclists are 26 times more likely than car occupants to die in a crash per mile traveled, underlining the risks involved. Drivers should extend extra caution and increase the following distance during bad weather conditions. This precaution not only gives motorcyclists enough space to navigate safely but also reduces the risk of collisions caused by sudden braking. For more specific advice on handling adverse weather, check out our bad weather driving tips.

Fact - Are Motorcyclists Facing Greater Risks?


Sharing the road with motorcycles requires a heightened level of awareness and consideration from all drivers. By regularly checking blind spots, maintaining safe following distances, and using clear signals, we can significantly reduce the risk of accidents. Misjudging motorcycle speeds and making unsafe lane changes are common mistakes that can lead to severe consequences, as highlighted in various studies by the NHTSA. It’s essential for drivers to remember that weather conditions can drastically affect a motorcyclist’s ability to ride safely, necessitating extra caution during such times.

Fact - How Can You Share the Road Safely with Motorcycles?

Mutual respect and awareness on the road can make a huge difference. Drivers need to understand the unique challenges faced by motorcyclists and adapt their driving habits accordingly. This not only improves safety for motorcyclists but creates a more predictable and harmonious driving environment for everyone.

Boost your driving confidence with The Wiser Driver’s comprehensive programs, designed for drivers of all ages. Our offerings include state-required Joshua’s Law classes, personalized driving lessons, defensive driving courses for license points reduction, and convenient road testing services available seven days a week. With a commitment to professional and reputable instruction, we strive to be your trusted partner for safe and skilled driving. For more information on how we can help you become a wiser driver, visit The Wiser Driver.