Sharing the road with motorcycles

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Safe driving practices and cooperation from all road users will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our state’s roadways. But it’s especially important for motorists to understand the safety challenges faced by motorcyclists, such as size and visibility, and motorcycle riding practices, like downshifting and weaving, to know how to anticipate and respond to them. By raising motorists’ awareness, both drivers and riders will be safer sharing the road.

Be on the Lookout

Motorists must be on the lookout for motorcycles and anticipate sudden and unexpected moves from them. Motorcycles are smaller, harder to see and can move faster and stop quicker than expected. Motorcycles can usually stop in shorter distances and may slow by downshifting, a maneuver that does not engage the brake lights. Their control is also more easily hampered by road defects and debris and they may suddenly swerve to avoid obstacles. You should watch for motorcycles, use extra caution when driving around them and increase your following distance. Always treat motorcycle operators with courtesy. Leave plenty of extra space between your vehicle and a motorcycle.


At intersections, a motorcycle’s smaller size makes it difficult to judge its distance and speed. An oncoming motorcycle is probably much closer and approaching much faster than it appears. It is best to wait for a motorcycle to pass and avoid pulling out in front of it. The majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes generally are caused when other drivers do not see the motorcyclist. Proceed cautiously at intersections and yield to other vehicles as appropriate.

Increase Awareness

Motorcycles have the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles. Because of their size, they are also more difficult to see. This vulnerability leaves the motorcyclist at an increased risk of a crash, and, when compared to the weight and size of an automobile, without much protection should a collision occur.

  • Do not share a lane with a motorcycle. They have the right to use a complete traffic lane, and they need space to react to other traffic and road conditions.
  • Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots, by turning your head and looking before entering or leaving a lane of traffic, and at intersections.
  • Before turning left, be alert for motorcycles by looking carefully to the front and sides of your vehicle.
  • When following a motorcyclist, allow at least a 4 second following distance or more in wet conditions. Motorcycles can stop quickly and may have to swerve suddenly to avoid obstacles.
  • Motorcyclists may use hand signals in addition to their turn signals.

The Michigan Department of State. 

Speed is everything

When driving in heavy traffic areas, like town centers, school zones, and near freeway access points, your speed can be a matter of life and death for you and fellow road users. Follow speed limits and respect all road users.