The vast majority of scooter/car collisions happen at an intersection. Being vigilant at intersections and increasing your visibility to cars minimizes your chances of becoming a part of this statistic.
These days, you’re up against very distracted drivers. Text messaging, GPS displays, and mobile phone conversations all mean less attention placed on you. So it’s largely up to us as scooterists to save our own hide. It’s unfair, but we need to take total responsibility for our own safety.
A good rule of thumb: pretend you are invisible. At intersections, assume every car is going to turn in front of you. Riding in this way saves me, literally, on a daily basis.
Here are a few of the most common issues you can encounter at intersections when riding.
Most intersection collisions involving cycles are caused by a car in an oncoming lane turning left in front of you. If you assume that the cars don’t see you and will turn in front of you, you will be ready to react when they do.
There’s a strange phenomenon that happens with car drivers: even if the driver sees you and makes eye contact, they may still turn in front of you. Cars turn in front of scooters for a few different reasons:
- You are smaller so you appear to be going slower and they think they have time to turn.
- Drivers are looking for threats to their own safety, i.e. other cars, so you don’t “register,” even though they see you.
- They’re updating Twitter and simply don’t see you.
Even if you’ve got the green light, slow down as you enter an intersection so you can stop quickly if needed. There is a fine line between slowing down so much that you encourage people to turn in front of you and keeping your speed in check so you can stop in an emergency. Be cautious, but don’t be hesitant.
- Ride in the part of the lane that makes you the most visible
- Wear reflective gear and a bright helmet
- Sound your horn if you think someone doesn’t see you
- Wait a few seconds after your signal turns green in case someone runs the light
The really dangerous left-turners are not the car you see, but the driver that turns right behind them, hoping to squeeze in behind the first car. They totally cannot see you and most of the time are just crossing their fingers as they speed through the intersection hoping to make it in time. You’ll see these troublemakers cutting you off at both green and red signals.
The city where I live has many four-way stops, and the right-of-way defaults to whomever got to the intersection first. I would estimate that nearly half the time, when it’s my turn to go, the cars at the intersection skip me. I can’t explain it, but it happens reliably. Because I’m expecting it, I can avoid this danger. I often use my horn in these circumstances. And sometimes a select finger.
Keep Your Speed in Check
The faster you are traveling, the less time you have to react. Other people on the road also have less time to react to you. Speed also affects your cornering. The faster you are going, the longer it takes to stop. Braking at high speed also increases your chances of a wipeout.
Keep to the speed limit, and less when necessary. Remember that speed limits are designed for cars and you may need to be traveling a little slower, especially in construction areas or twisty turns.
Make Yourself More Visible
There are many ways to increase your visibility to other vehicles and decrease your likelihood of a collision. Correct lane position and brightly colored riding gear both make you more visible to traffic. For night time riding add reflective decals to your scooter and topcase, and upgrade to LED tail lights and halogen headlights if you don’t already have them.
The good news is that you can have an enormous impact on your safety by following these guidelines. Many dangerous situations you meet on the road can be prevented or avoided. So be vigilant at intersections and keep the rubber side down!