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Safe Passing Tips: How Cars Should Pass Motorcycles on the Road

By 8  am on


Motorcycles have different visual profiles compared to other vehicles. Not only are they slimmer and smaller, but they also maneuver differently on the road. Motorcyclists are highly aware of their decreased visibility, which is why they tend to double-check before making turns or changing lanes. Being predictable is the best way to help motorcyclists avoid collisions. To safely pass a motorcycle in your car, follow these tips, brought to you by the experienced agents at Altra Insurance Services, a premier provider of auto, motorcycle, homeowners, and renters insurance San Diego County residents rely on for high-quality service.

Know the Motorcycle’s Location

Many drivers take note of other vehicles’ locations as they pass them, but this can be harder with a motorcycle. Before you pass, make sure you know where the motorcycle is moving alongside your vehicle. Using your mirrors and double-checking your blind spots makes it easier to be sure you’ve completely passed the motorcycle before you move back into the same lane.

Use a Normal Rate of Speed

The urge to speed as you pass any vehicle can be strong. Unless the motorcycle is going much slower than the normal flow of traffic, it’s likely already going the speed limit. As you pass, try to use just the amount of extra speed you need to maneuver around the motorcycle. This prevents your car from creating a strong draft that could throw the bike off-balance. Additionally, maintaining a lower rate of speed prevents your car from potentially throwing rocks or other road debris in the motorcyclist’s direction.

Avoid Forcing a Lane Split

When you’re deciding to pass or trying to do so in heavy traffic, it might be tempting to briefly split the lane with the motorcycle. Although motorcyclists sometimes legally split lanes on their own, it’s best to leave this practice up to their discretion due to the risks involved. Instead, make sure the lane you’re using to pass is fully available so you and the motorcycle are able to maintain fully separate lanes.

Give Plenty of Space

Accidentally cutting off a motorcyclist can have drastic consequences. Applying too much pressure on the brakes too fast could cause a motorcyclist to lose control of the bike. Or the motorcyclist may feel forced to switch lanes quickly and collide with another vehicle. Leaving several car lengths of distance between your vehicles as you move back into the lane gives the motorcyclist plenty of room to maintain a safe speed and stay in the preferred lane.

Try to Pass the Whole Group

Motorcyclists often ride in groups to enhance safety and participate in activities where everyone ends at the same destination. If possible, plan to pass when there’s an opportunity to move in front of the whole group. Passing only one or two motorcyclists can land you in the middle of the group, which affects their riding flow.

Follow All the Usual Protocols

As a general rule, slower traffic stays to the right. Motorcyclists tend to expect people to pass on the left side, which means they’ll be focusing more attention there. If you’re in the left lane and come upon a slower motorcycle, give the rider a chance to move over. Motorcyclists will typically notice other vehicles and move to the right to prevent unexpected lane changes. 

Finally, make sure you only pass in areas where it’s legal to do so, and use your turn signal. You might even catch a wave or nod from the cyclist acknowledging your cautious and respectful behavior.

Driving safely provides a number of benefits, not the least of which is the reduced risk of being in an accident. If you’re involved in an accident, it’s essential to have reliable auto insurance. San Diego drivers know they can trust the team from Altra Insurance Services to be there when they need assistance. For a free quote, give us a call today.

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