You’re out on your bike going to the store, on your way to or from work, or simply out for a ride. It’s smooth sailing, until you get that feeling on the back of your neck and look in the mirror. There’s a passenger vehicle right on your butt and it either won’t back off or isn’t going to pass. It’s obvious that the vehicle is too close to you, and you can only imagine if what it could do to you if it were to slam into your rear tire or even run over you.
You can get angry (and rightly so) because this driver is either being aggressive or oblivious, and both of those are a huge danger to you and others. Your first instinct probably involves a rude gesture and more than a few obscenities. But what should you really do?
Tailgating: it happens all the time when driving a car, and it will certainly happen at some point while riding your motorcycle. And since many motorcyclists slow down by simply downshifting or coasting instead of using the brake (no brake lights!), the possibility of being struck by a vehicle from behind while being tailgated is greatly increased.
As safely as you ride, there is no way to control other drivers on the road, so at some point you’ll likely find yourself being tailgated. The way you handle the situation can not only affect how the other driver reacts, but also your safety and possibly your life.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends that when being tailgated, allow yourself extra room in front of your bike in case you must react quickly. Basically that means that if someone is tailgating you, do the opposite to the person in front of you. That will lessen the likelihood that you will have to hit your brakes hard or another scenario that could cause a collision from behind.
Also, the majority of motorcycle crashing involve a front-end collision, with a much smaller percentage each year comprising rear-end collisions. What that means for you is that you’re more likely to strike something in front of you while distracted by a tailgater. However, being tailgated is still a dangerous situation and you want to get out of it as soon and safely as possible.
What you do not want to do is speed up even more to try to distance yourself from the tailgating vehicle. Firstly, this only adds to the danger of the situation by increased speeds and possibly some extra maneuvering. Secondly, speeding up will probably cause the passenger vehicle to also speed up, and then you’re in an high-speed tailgating situation, stuck in a worse spot than you were to begin with.
And while anger or frustration may be natural first reaction, keep in mind that other motorists do not always intentionally tailgate. Sadly, many motorists do not understand what it is like to ride a motorcycle and have trouble judging how fast you are going, how close they are in relation to you, the difference in braking, and the fact that you own as much road space as they do, even if your bike is smaller than their SUV.
Although it is the ideal to educate every single driver about motorcycles and motorcycle safety, it simply is not the reality. This does not excuse tailgating, however, and we recommend you keep this in mind when dealing with a tailgater.
Do not provoke a tailgater by making rude gestures or yelling nasty comments to them. If the driver is acting aggressive on the road, this will only raise that tension, increasing the risk for road rage. If they weren’t upset before, but simply aloof as to their bad driving, rude gestures and obscenities will only put them in a worse mood.
Along with increasing the space in front of your motorcycle and the next vehicle, you can lightly tap on your breaks to help alert the tailgater where you are. If the tailgating continues and you feel unsafe, use your signal and pull over when possible, allowing the motorist to pass you. When it is safe, signal again and return to the road.
You won’t want to pull over for a rude motorist or a bad driver, but it’s worth it for your safety. If they won’t pass and a subtle hint (lightly tapping brakes) doesn’t work, just safely pull over and let them go by. They’ll be gone from your road experience then and in reality the whole process can take less than a minute. You won’t want to. You shouldn’t have to. You have done anything wrong – it’s the other person who is the bad driver – so why should you give up the road to let them by? Because your safety and your life is worth it, that’s why.
You can find more information about motorcycle safety on the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s website.
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