As spring turns to summer, rural roads are teeming with a variety of vehicles—cars, trucks, farm equipment, campers, and motorcycles, just to name a few. Whatever you may drive this summer, Grinnell Mutual recommends that drivers of cars, farm equipment, and other vehicles watch for motorcycles and give them space to ride safely on the road.
Share the whole road with motorcyclists.
"Other vehicles on the roadway can assist us and they can hurt us," said Imre Szauter, government affairs manager for on-highway activities for the American Motorcyclist Association.
If you come upon a motorcycle in your lane and want to pass, Grinnell Mutual Director of Commercial Underwriting Pam Bryan recommends giving the motorcycle the full lane while making the pass.
"As a motorcycle rider and a bicycle rider, I learned right away how important it is when I’m in my vehicle to give that two-wheeled vehicle the space it needs," said Bryan. "Some cars move barely over the center line, if at all. Give enough room to pass safely without cutting off the bike. Don’t cut back in too quickly either."
This is especially true for large and high-profile vehicles such as trucks with trailers or RVs.
"Those bigger vehicles are pushing a volume of air and at high speeds they generate wind dams," said Szauter. "When passing a larger vehicle, motorcyclists may not anticipate having an air gust that may push them over to one side of the road."
Riders, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Szauter, a rider for over four decades, recommends being cognizant of your surroundings on country roads.
"In a rural area if you come upon a slow-moving piece of machinery, it may be getting ready to turn into a field. Unless you’re prepared for that, you may have a surprise when the vehicle comes out of the lane or enters your lane from a field. You really need to be looking well ahead for that," she said.
"I am constantly adjusting myself in relation to other vehicles, dealing with the traffic and trying to anticipate what someone is going to do," said Matt Williams, a senior claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual who has also taught motorcycle safety for over 15 years. "When I ride my motorcycle I am a very active, defensive driver. What’s that guy going to do? What is he looking at? Is he paying attention to me? How will I react to what he may do on the road?"
Keeping a safe distance may help riders avoid trouble on the highway, too.
"As a rider, one thing you want to be careful of is to not get too close to the vehicle in front of you," said Szauter. "Rural roads may have deposits of mud or other materials. While a car or truck may not have a problem straddling or going over something in the roadway, if there is something that you can’t see well enough in advance you may not be able to plan for it."
"I teach my kids to look left, look right, and look left again," said Williams. "Motorcycles are small. They’re harder to see. You have to actively look for them. A Goldwing or the Harley-Davidson is still a fraction of a size of a Chevy Impala."
"Look well ahead and prepare for the worst," said Szauter. "If you give yourself a cushion to take evasive maneuvers, it reduces the risk while riding."