Left turns can be challenging for all road users. They are complex maneuvers with many variables and potential risks. For motorcyclists, left turns can present unique challenges and require additional thought. At our firm specializing in truck and auto crash cases, we are familiar with these challenges and the potential risks for motorcyclists. In this post, we will cover some of the important things to remember if you attempt to make a left turn on a motorcycle. For those driving cars or trucks, these tips could serve as insights into the challenges and considerations that are faced by the motorcyclists we share the road with.
- Recognizing the Vulnerability of Motorcyclists:
Without the presence of the protective shell found in cars, motorcyclists face an increased risk of injury in the case of a collision. Collisions at busy intersections most often involve left turns, making left turns particularly dangerous for motorcyclists.
- Picking the Optimal Lane Position:
Executing a left turn on a motorcycle in the safest possible way requires choosing the right position within the left turn lane. Riders should position themselves in the center of their lane, or slightly toward the right side within the left turn lane. By choosing this position, riders have more room to maneuver when making their turn, as well as extra visibility in the intersection.
- Clearly Signaling your Intent:
One of the keys to avoiding accidents is predictability. Just like other motorists, motorcyclists must signal their intent. Riders should remember to use their indicators, and use hand signals if possible in order to clearly signal your intention to the other drivers in the intersection.
- Being Meticulous about Checking your Blind Spots:
Both motorcycle riders and other motorists need to remember to check their blind spots. Motorcycles have smaller blind spots than cars, but it is important for riders not to assume that the other drivers on the road are aware of their presence. Motorcycles are smaller and harder to spot than cars, so it is especially important that motorists look out for motorcycles in their blind spots.
- Making the Right Speed Adjustments:
It is important for riders to slow down when approaching the intersection even if they have the signal to complete their left turn. Approaching the intersection slowly allows riders to assess the situation and potentially stop if they need to.
- Scanning the Intersection for Hazards:
It is crucial to scan the intersection before completing the left turn. Look for hazards such as pedestrians in the crosswalk or oncoming traffic.
- Road Conditions May Affect your Turn:
When making a left turn on a two-wheeled vehicle, it is extremely important to make appropriate decisions based on the conditions of the road. If the roads are wet or icy, riders will need to make their turn extra cautiously to avoid a slipping.
- Defensive Riding and Alertness:
All drivers should drive defensively, but this tip is extra important for riders. When making a left turn, riders should assume that other drivers may not see them. Oncoming traffic may not be prepared to stop, so be sure to make your left turn during a safe gap in traffic.
- Do Not Cut Corners Too Tightly:
“Squeezing the turn” is when riders make their left turn tightly. The issue with making very tight turns is that visibility is reduces, as well as the rider’s ability to stop or swerve in response to hazards. It is safer to make sufficiently wide and deliberate left turns.
- Maintaining Smooth Control:
Making a left turn should be smooth and deliberate. Riders should exercise smooth throttle and brake control to avoid jerking movements that could compromise balance and stability during the left turn.
- Practice Low-Speed Maneuvers:
For new riders, making left turns at slow speeds can actually be more challenging. It is important for new drivers to practice slow speed maneuvers until they can safely complete these maneuvers in real life traffic situations.
- Lean Dynamics and Motorcycle Physics:
Riders should be practiced enough to safely lean into a turn and stabilize their motorcycle in the intended direction. Riders should be familiar and competent when it comes to motorcycle physics, and should be comfortable with lean dynamics and counter steering techniques.
- It May be Helpful to Enroll in a Riding Course:
It is important that riders are properly trained to operate their vehicle prior to venturing out on the road. Riding courses can be very helpful resources for new riders, and many of these courses go over the proper technique for completing a left turn maneuver.
- Maintenance and Repairs:
Like any vehicle, it is crucial that riders keep up with the maintenance of their motorcycle. Brakes, signals, and tires should be inspected frequently.
- Group Riding Considerations:
Riders should maintain a staggered formation when riding in a group. If you intend to make a left turn, use your indicators and hand signals to make sure the other riders around you are aware of your intentions.
- Enhancing Visibility:
In previous posts, we talked about how visibility is limited in left turn situations. This makes in all the more important for riders to make sure that other drivers are aware of their presence. Wearing reflective gear can help motorists identify riders.
- Mental Sharpness:
Focus and mental sharpness are important for all road maneuvers, not specifically left turns. For riders, mental sharpness is all the more important. Riders should be well-rested, and they should avoid distractions of all kinds.
Although they have become commonplace maneuvers for most drivers, left turns remain one of the most dangerous maneuvers that you can make. Oncoming traffic, changing signals, pedestrian traffic, and other hazards mean that left turns require the full attention of motorists or motorcyclists. Riders should approach left turns defensively, and be prepared to make adjustments in the case of an unforeseen danger. Riders should signal clearly, and maintain awareness of their surroundings. Although these tips are important for riders, they do not replace the value of experience and proficiency on a motorcycle. If you are a motorcycle rider, consider taking a safety course separate from the already required course you took to obtain your Class M license. Remember, there is no such thing as too much safety experience.