Motorcycling is on the rise in New Brunswick and with it has come an increase in motorcycle accidents.

Once you have been involved in an accident as a motorcyclist or the driver of another vehicle, you might think it could have been easily avoided, and you are probably right. You can never control the actions of other drivers, but here are a few things you can control in order to keep yourself and others safer.

What Motorcyclists can do:

  1. Follow the rules of the road: These rules were not simply written by law-makers for safety purposes; the rules of the road help ensure that all drivers are playing the same game. Think about it: the only way you can communicate with other drivers is with the signal lights on your bike and your body language. If you follow the rules of the road, other drivers will know what to expect from you and be better able to make their own safe driving decisions. This means do not make any move on a motorcycle that you would not make in a car.
  2. Do not drink and drive: While the threshold blood alcohol level is .08 with respect to a criminal charge, in New Brunswick your license could be suspended if a breathalyzer test indicates that your blood alcohol level is over .05. You may have heard that one drink per hour is fine, but keep in mind that this can be affected by your height, weight, whether you’ve eaten recently, and whether your liver is functioning properly. It is so much easier to take a cab, get a designated driver, or stay at a friend’s place than it is to carry the weight of injuring someone on your conscience for the rest of your life. Make the responsible choice: don’t drink and drive.
  3. Know your own abilities: It is not just alcohol that can impair your ability to drive properly, things like fatigue or illness can slow your reaction time or reduce your attentiveness. Only you know if you are too tired to drive. Many prescription drugs carry warnings that a person should not drive after having consumed them. Illegal drugs carry no such warnings, but driving under their influence should also be avoided.
  4. Wear the proper equipment: This cannot be stressed enough. Although only a helmet is legally mandatory, the proper jacket, boots and pants can reduce your injuries if you are involved in an accident.
  5. Drive defensively: Ideally everyone would follow the rules of the road, as number 1 suggests, but this is not always the case. When other drivers create a dangerous situation, you need to be ready to swerve, slow down, or even speed up to avoid a collision.

What other drivers can do:

  1. Take care of your neighbour: Lawsuits following car accidents are based on the simple idea that all people have a duty to take of care to their neighbours. Motorcyclists are your neighbours, so look out for their safety as you navigate the streets.
  2. Leave space: At stop signs or lights, make sure to leave several car lengths between the front of your vehicle and the back of the motorcycle. Likewise, if you are passing a motorcycle, make sure you can see them in the rear-view mirror before moving back into the lane to avoid cutting them off.
  3. Adjust for road conditions: We always think of snowy and icy conditions as being the cause of accidents. While this can be true, do not underestimate the danger of hydroplaning during heavy rain or being blinded by bright sunlight.
  4. Avoid distractions: A driver can be distracted by anything from cell phones to children in the car, to simply gazing out the window instead of at the road. Keep your eyes and your attention on the road so that you are prepared to react if a motorcyclist comes unexpectedly into your path.
  5. Keep your eyes open: Motorcycles are smaller and therefore more difficult to see. You may even assume that they will move out of the way. Keep motorcyclists in your field of vision as much as possible. If you are aware of their presence, it will be easier for you to avoid a collision.
  6. Motorcyclists will often reduce their speed by downshifting or rolling off the throttle, thereby not activating the brake light. Therefore, allow more distance between yourself and a motorcycle in front of you. Furthermore, at intersections, predict/presume that a motorcyclist will slow down without visual warning.
  7. Due to their small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it actually is. Also, it makes it more difficult to predict their speed. Therefore, prior to making a left-hand turn at an intersection or into/out of a driveway or road, predict/presume that the motorcycle is closer and/or going faster than it looks.
  8. Do not drink and drive: While the threshold blood alcohol level is .08 with respect to a criminal charge, in New Brunswick your license could be suspended if a breathalyzer test indicates that your blood alcohol level is over .05. You may have heard that one drink per hour is fine, but keep in mind that this can be affected by your height, weight, whether you’ve eaten recently, and whether your liver is functioning properly. It is so much easier to take a cab, get a designated driver, or stay at a friend’s place than it is to carry the weight of injuring someone on your conscience for the rest of your life. Make the responsible choice: don’t drink and drive.

In spite of our best efforts, accidents can still happen. Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents all too often have devastating results – motorcyclists don’t have bumpers, they have bones. Whether you are on the bike or sharing the road with motorcyclists, it is worth the few seconds to take these extra precautions. You will never forgive yourself should you crash into a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian, and cause serious injuries or death!