handling dangerous motorcycle situations

If riding a motorcycle were as simple as cruising in a straight line on deserted highways (always at sunset, of course), we'd all do it. Of course, there's a bit more to it. Here are some high-risk situations for motorcyclists and how you should prepare for them.

tips for dangerous motorcycling situations

Passing and being passed

As you prepare to pass other vehicles, leave lots of space and give them ample time to see your turn signal. Double- and triple-check the passing lane to make sure it's clear. Once you're in the passing lane, move through the other driver's blind spots as quickly as you can (since you'll be difficult to spot) while staying under the speed limit.

When being passed by others, stay in the center of your lane to help avoid their blind spots. Also be on the lookout for motorcycle-specific hazards:

  • Large mirrors that could graze you
  • Debris tossed out of windows (rude, but it happens)
  • Wind gusts caused by passing cars

Driving through intersections

Approach intersections with your headlight on (no matter the time of day) and in the most visible lane position (usually near the middle of the road). As you proceed through the intersection, be ready to brake suddenly if needed.

Driving in heavy traffic

This might be the most tedious situation for motorcyclists. Unlike when you're in a car, driving next to other vehicles at rush hour can lead to trouble when atop your bike, which can stay completely hidden in a driver's blind spot.

It helps to ride in front of or behind other cars instead of going side-by-side. And when it comes to one of the most tempting time-savers, lane-splitting, it's only legal in California and if you choose to do it, only do so at low speeds and when it's absolutely safe. If you live elsewhere, lane-splitting is not allowed.

Riding at night

Most tips for riding your motorcycle at night are just like those for driving a car — use your high beams, slow down, and increase your distance from others. But there is one trick that can specifically aid motorcyclists: pay close attention to the lights of the car in front of you. For instance, if you see its taillights bobbing, you might want to slow down and look for loose gravel or potholes.

Taking curves

When negotiating a tight bend, you want to be in the position that best lets you see oncoming traffic. This might mean starting wide, going into the curve on the inside, and then moving wide again as you exit. It could also mean riding near the center of your lane the whole way.

Riding with passengers

Anyone who hops on your bike with you should be donning the same safety gear. You should also instruct motorcycle passengers to sit forward, hold you firmly at your waist, use the footrests, lean into curves with you, and avoid unnecessary conversation (not that you could hear them anyway).

With a passenger, you should drive slower and be even more cautious. The added weight of another person behind you will make the bike respond slower too.

Riding in bad weather

Take it slow, avoid quick moves, and use the brakes gently (just as you would in a car). One other trick you might be able to pull off, given the conditions, is riding in a tire track left by another car (finally, a benefit to your bike's small stature).

Riding in a group

For many, motorcycle group riding is one of the chief draws to having a bike. But it's also a unique (and uniquely risky) situation. Learn more about group-riding safety here.

Bumps and uneven surfaces

As you approach railroad tracks, sewer grates, speed bumps, or debris in the road, slow down, keep the bike straight, lift yourself slightly off the seat, and throttle up slightly to lighten the front end and help disperse the force of these obstacles evenly.


Parking a motorcycle presents its own special challenges — mostly because maintaining balance while turning at low speeds is surprisingly difficult. Make sure to practice the counterweight technique, which involves leaning away from the turn and putting stress on the outside footrest.

emergency maneuvers

Caution in tricky situations is the best way to avoid trouble. But sometimes, no matter how careful you are, you might be headed for an accident. That's where emergency motorcycle maneuvers come in.

  • Quick braking: Apply both the front and rear brake. Brake firmly and progressively harder without grabbing or clamping down. If the front wheel locks, release the front brake and try again; if the rear wheel locks, it's usually OK. You can keep the rear brake on and still keep the bike from tipping.
  • Swerving: Put a small amount of pressure on the handgrip on the side you want to move toward. As your bike leans, keep your body upright and feet firmly planted on the footrests. Once you clear the danger, put pressure on the other handgrip to stabilize.
  • Reducing wobbling: If your bike starts to shake (a sign it's bearing too much weight, has an accessory problem, or has incorrectly inflated tires), don't brake or speed up — these will only worsen the shaking. Instead, close the throttle to slow down gradually, grip the handlebars firmly, and move your weight as far forward and down as you can. Pull over ASAP to fix the problem.

be prepared with motorcycle insurance

Hopefully these tips will help keep you out of a sticky situation or 2. But the roads are always unpredictable — especially for motorcyclists. In case you ever do run into trouble, motorcycle insurance through Esurance can help get you and your ride back to road-warrior status in no time.

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