Visibility and Blind Spots

Anyone who’s ever ridden a motorcycle or bicycle in traffic understands that they must act as if they are invisible and assume that every other driver out there can't see them. Motorcycle safety classes teach this concept as one of the basics of safe operation. On the other hand, drivers in larger vehicles tend to assume that everyone can see them and thus, drive accordingly.

As a consequence, commercial vehicle drivers involved in accidents with smaller vehicles and motorcycles are often left wondering "how in the world could they not have seen me?" To begin with, NEVER assume that a cyclist (or any other driver for that matter), will see you in time to avoid a collision. They might be daydreaming, talking, texting, reading or otherwise distracted and be totally unaware of the presence your vehicle – until it’s too late.

Collisions can occur as a motorist comes out of a curve only to realize too late that there is a vehicle ahead of them crossing their path of travel making a left hand turn. Another hazard occurs when vehicles are temporarily "hidden" behind oncoming traffic as other motorists wait to make a left turn. Anticipating the next "break" in traffic, drivers may inadvertently turn in front of a hidden motorcycle or smaller vehicle that had been travelling behind a larger vehicle but did not appear in the turning motorist’s vision until they’d already committed to the turn.

Rear view mirrors can cause momentary blind spots that hide oncoming traffic as well. The rear view mirror on passenger cars can hide even larger trucks just long enough for motorist to pull into their path. This hazard is particularly prevalent at highway merge entrance ramps. Large west coast mirrors on trucks can obscure a driver’s vision while pulling into intersections. Drivers should never roll through stops. Always "Think! Look Twice for Motorcycles". After looking Left – Right – Left, proceed into the intersection only when absolutely certain there is no oncoming traffic hidden behind mirrors or other blind spots such as traffic signs, poles, buildings, trees or other landscaping features.

When it comes to motorcycles, an unfortunate result of visibility and blind spot hazards is that by the time the cyclist recognizes the hazard their instinctive evasive maneuver is to apply the brakes hard and lay the bike down. If the hazard is a large truck, they will not bounce off the side unless they impact a tire location. Frequently they will continue their slide underneath the truck and risk being run over by the opposite side truck tires. Due to the "invisibility" aspect of this collision, it is not uncommon for the truck driver to be unaware what has happened until he has completed the turn and then sees all of the commotion in progress.

We do not wish that event on anyone this spring or summer season. Motorcycle traffic will pick back up again, so please be constantly vigilant, particularly while making cross-traffic turns, pulling into intersections, and at highway merge entrance ramps. Instead of assuming that everyone can see us and expecting them to adjust to our presence, maybe we need to consider that we are driving "invisible trucks" and act as if people don't see us. By doing so, we will all become much more defensive and avoid the "accidents that should have never happened". Remember - never expect the other driver to adjust to you. Give them enough time and distance to avoid braking, swerving, or taking any other hard evasive action. Become the "invisible driver" and drive like you were on a motorcycle instead of in a large truck.