If you don't personally drive a motorcycle, you likely spend very little time thinking about their presence on the road. However, with the warmer seasons quickly changing road conditions here in Iowa, it won't be long before seasonal motorcyclists take to the streets. After storing their bikes all winter, most motorcycle riders are anxious to get back on the road again.
Even if you never intend to ride any kind of motorcycle, you need to remind yourself of their presence on the road. Doing so can help keep you as well as the people on the motorcycles in traffic safer. You can't just assume that you will notice a motorcycle if you cross paths with it. Instead, you need to proactively stay on the lookout.
Awareness of the fact that you share the road with vehicles much smaller than your own can help you make better decisions when driving and could even improve your chances of noticing a motorcycle in traffic before it is too late.
Research explains why drivers don't see motorcycles
When people in large passenger vehicles get into a crash with a motorcycle, they often say that they didn't see the motorcycle there. Although a motorcycle is smaller than a car or an SUV, it is still large enough to be noticeable at any time of day. However, the human brain often only acknowledges what it expects and what aligns with its anticipated experience.
In other words, if you are just scanning for large cars approaching, you may not register the motorcycle right there in front of you. You need to mentally add motorcycles to the list of things that you look for while driving in traffic. Doing this could help keep you and people on motorcycles safer. You can use the same tactic with pedestrians and bicyclists. Mentally reminding yourself to check for these kinds of vehicles can reduce your risk of failing to notice them.
Just because you don't see them doesn't mean you are not responsible
You can't avoid legal responsibility for an accident by claiming you didn't see someone else in traffic. Checking for motorcyclists is of the utmost importance for their safety and yours. Although someone in a passenger vehicle is less likely to get hurt then someone on a motorcycle in a crash between these two vehicles, the potential for injury is still there.
There is also both legal and financial culpability for the crash. Motorcycle accidents can leave people severely injured and unable to work. In some cases, motorcyclists who get hurt by other drivers can take legal action against the driver responsible for the crash. Keeping motorcycles on your mind throughout the warmer seasons is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of not noticing them until it's too late.