What Hazards Might a Motorcyclist Encounter While on the Road?

what hazards might a motorcyclist encounter

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), motorcyclists account for around 14% of traffic fatalities each year, as well as 17% of occupant fatalities and 3% of occupant injuries. While the freedom of the open road is understandably alluring, it’s important to exercise caution every time you put on your helmet and set out to ride. 

In addition to making sure you’re properly outfitted with the correct gear and following the rules of the road, you must also take a proactive approach to safety. As you drive, look for issues and obstacles that could get in your way.

What hazards might a motorcyclist encounter? Today, we’re sharing some of the most common ones to know, and how to respond accordingly. 

Debris in the Road

When you think of riding your motorcycle, you might think of cruising down your favorite scenic byway with the wind at your back and nothing but the asphalt in front of you. However, the reality is that roadways can quickly get cluttered with debris, such as:

  • Fallen sticks and limbs
  • Litter
  • Rocks
  • Parts of vehicles

If you’re about to collide with any of these items, a few different things could happen. You might hit it and fall off your motorcycle, fall into the debris, or swerve to miss it and hit another vehicle. 

It’s also important to look out for debris that might be falling from a different location. For instance, rocks can fall off the back of a truck or branches can fall from trees overhead. Staying vigilant and driving defensively can help you spot these issues before they occur. 

Railroad Crossings

You might not think twice about driving over railroad tracks when you’re in a car. However, it’s a little more difficult when you’re riding a motorcycle. As your wheels hit the tracks, they might get stuck, which could throw you off your seat. 

It’s best to avoid going over railroad tracks if you can. Try to find an alternate way to get to your destination so you can keep yourself and others as safe as possible. 

Loose Gravel

Again, loose gravel is another issue that you might not think twice about if you’re behind the wheel of a car, truck, or SUV. However, even a small amount can cause your wheels to lose traction. If this happens, your bike could slide out from underneath you. 

Try to look ahead to see if there’s any gravel on the road before you run over it. If you can’t avoid it, try to keep your bike straight and don’t lean too far in any direction. It’s also best to move smoothly over the gravel and avoid making any sudden stops. 

Blind Spots

No matter how rugged and well-outfitted your motorcycle might be, it’s still smaller and more compact than most road vehicles. As a result, it’s easy for motorcyclists to unknowingly enter someone else’s blind spot. 

Blind spots are the areas around a vehicle that drivers can’t see by using their side or rearview mirrors. If they think the coast is clear, these drivers may change lanes, enter a highway, or make another traffic decision all while another vehicle (or motorcycle) is just outside their range of visibility.

If you think you might be riding in that zone, there are two things you can do. First, you can carefully increase your speed and move past the vehicle. Second, you can slow down to allow the vehicle to safely move around you.

Rough or Uneven Surfaces

A rough or uneven road surface is another obstacle that you might face as a motorcycle rider. Many times, this occurs when teams of workers are performing road construction projects. There will normally be signs alerting you to these projects, especially if they require lane changes or closures, but this isn’t always the case. 

In addition to construction, some of the reasons why roads might be rough include:

  • Poor maintenance
  • Roadway resurfacing
  • Storm damage

Rough or bumpy patches in the road can increase the risk of a motorcycle crash. Avoid braking suddenly on these surfaces and reduce your speed if you need to move around them. 

Uneven Edge Breaks

If the lanes you’re traveling on are uneven in height, then an edge break can occur. When this happens, it’s best to stay in one lane until they level back out. This can be an especially dangerous hazard on the highway when riders are traveling at higher speeds and a sudden move can be more jarring.

Use caution if you come upon an edge break. If you need to pass one, slow down as you do so.

Divots in the Road

If you notice divots in the road, these could be from a larger vehicle dragging an object up ahead. When items accidentally get caught in a truck’s undercarriage, they can scrape against the pavement for miles, creating a slight indention that could snag your tires. 

If this happens, the sudden change in speed could jar your bike. This can cause you to lose control, throw you off your seat, or lead to a collision

Expansion Joints

An expansion joint is a metal piece that connects two sections of a road. Similarly, a bridge joint connects portions of a bridge. These joints are built into roadways for a reason: They allow the concrete to naturally expand without cracking. 

However, while they might be useful, they can also be hazardous. Expansion joints can cause large gaps to form in the road. While vehicles can ride right over them, they’re more of an issue for motorcyclists. 

Your wheels can get caught in these spaces, similar to what might happen at a railroad crossing. If you can see one up ahead, try to keep your speed and direction consistent. You don’t want to make any sudden changes that could worsen their impact. 

Wait until your bike is safely over the joint before speeding up, slowing down, or making a turn. Your wheels should stay in a straight, perpendicular line as you cross it. 

Slick Surfaces

Ideally, you’ll check the forecast before hopping on your bike so you won’t get caught in a downpour. However, we can’t control Mother Nature. If the road is wet from precipitation, an oil spill, or any other condition, you’ll need to pay especially close attention to motorcycle safety. 

Slick surfaces can cause your bike to hydroplane. This is where your tires lose contact with the road and instead begin to travel on a thin film of water, moving your bike beyond your control. The most dangerous hydroplaning conditions occur right when it starts to rain and the water mixes with oil residue on the road. 

In a car, you can rely on all four wheels to grip the road. On a motorcycle, you only have two wheels so the risk is higher.

If you’re riding in wet conditions, go slow and brake gradually when you need to reduce your speed, rather than all at once. Be extra cautious when making a turn, slowing down as you enter and gradually accelerating to help your bike balance. This applies to any kind of liquid on the road, including rain, sleet, ice, or standing water. 

Animals

If an animal, such as a dog or squirrel, runs out into your path, the best course of action is to reduce your speed and navigate around it. However, this is only recommended if there are no other vehicles, pedestrians, or obstacles around and you can safely do so. 

Swerving to avoid hitting an animal might seem like the right thing to do, but you could wind up causing a more serious collision if you make a knee-jerk reaction and don’t take the time to assess the scene around you. Check your mirrors and look at your blind spot before deciding to maneuver around it. 

This is another reason why it’s smart to ride defensively, allowing enough speed between your motorcycle and the vehicles around you that you can safely react to anything you see on the road.

Strong Wind

While you’re checking the forecast for rain, also pay attention to wind conditions. If you know it’s going to be an extra windy day, take extra precautions to protect yourself, including wearing the right helmet and face shield.

If winds are super strong, they can test your balance. If you’re not careful, they could even throw you off your bike. 

What Hazards Might a Motorcyclist Encounter? Know Your Rights

Any time you get on the road, you’re assuming a degree of risk. This is true whether you’re riding a motorcycle or driving a tractor-trailer. Still, certain obstacles can affect motorcyclists more than others. 

What hazards might a motorcyclist encounter? Everything from wet roadways and debris to wildlife and winds can pose a threat. Remember to wear your safety gear, drive defensively, and stay diligent as you ride. 

Still, even if you do everything right, an accident can still happen. If you’re in a collision, it’s important to have a motorcycle attorney by your side. Our team can defend your rights and make sure you’re covered.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation!

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