Motorcycle Safety Awareness Training



Can You See Me?

Many drivers who are involved in a crash with a motorcycle report that they did not see the motorcycle.  The question is “why not?”

Vehicle hitting motorcyclist 


Some Statistics About Motorcycle Crashes

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) “Traffic Safety Facts: Motorcycles” report (HS 812353), among all fatal motorcycle crashes in 2015, 54% of fatal crashes were multi-vehicle crashes. Other notable characteristics include:

  • In 41% of the crashes between passenger vehicles and motorcycles, the passenger vehicle violated the motorcyclist’s right-of-way;
  • 74% of the motorcycle-passenger vehicle crashes were frontal collisions and 7% of motorcyclists were struck in the rear;
  • 90% of the motorcyclist fatalities occurred on non-interstate roadways;
  • 55% of the motorcyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas, while 45% occurred in rural areas;
  • 57% of the motorcyclist fatalities occurred during daylight.


Some other statistics for you to consider:

  • The NHTSA reports that, in 2015, 41 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes in the US occurred with “the other vehicle turning left while the motorcycles were going straight…” 
  • In 2014, there were 4,750 reported motorcycle crashes in New York State.  2,546 of these crashes involved another vehicle.  That’s 53.6% of the reported crashes. 

Simply put, a large proportion of motorcycle crashes – particularly those resulting in fatalities – involve other types of vehicles in the crash. It is imperative for drivers of all levels of experience to understand the importance of sharing the road. Motorcycles are common on New York roads.

It is your responsibility as a driver to be aware of motorcycles and understand how to safely share the road with them.


Sharing the Road With Motorcycles

Motorcycles, including two or three wheeled vehicles like scooters and mopeds, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Examples include (but are not limited to): Cruisers, Standards, Dual-sport, Off-road, Sport bikes, Tourers, Mopeds, and Scooters.

Cruisers, Standards, Dual-sport, Off-road, Sport bikes, Tourers, Mopeds, and Scooters


Motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles, and must follow the same traffic laws. However, motorcyclists, like pedestrians, bicyclists and skaters, are less visible to drivers. Though you may often see motorcycles on the roads in the spring, summer, or fall – you can encounter motorcycles anytime and anywhere. Because we don’t see them all year, we may not actively think about them.

When there is a crash involving a motorcycle and another vehicle, the rider (and passenger) have a much higher chance of being seriously hurt or killed than the driver (and passengers) of the other vehicle. Though motorcyclists are required to wear approved helmets and goggles or a face shield, motorcycles themselves do not offer the rider the protections that you have with other types of vehicles. For example, motorcycles don’t protect the rider with a frame around the rider. 

Always keep in mind: a fender bender for you is likely to be a major wreck for a motorcycle operator.

Motorcyclists might have to drive differently than you on some road surfaces such as:

  • Loose gravel, sand, or leaves
  • Potholes, seams, or grooves in the pavement
  • Sewer grates or access covers
  • Animals
  • Railroad crossings
  • Steel deck bridges


A motorcyclist might quickly change speed or lane position, or decrease speed and change direction, or move to the center of the lane to avoid a hazard.

In all situations, allow extra space between your vehicle and a motorcycle.


Be Aware of Motorcycles


Motorcycles on the highway 


There are several factors that make motorcycles less visible

  • Motorcycles are smaller.
    No matter from which direction you view a motorcycle (front, back, or side), you’ll find they are smaller than most other highway users. 
  • Motorcycles appear to move faster than other vehicles.
    A motorcycle’s smaller size makes it seem much farther away, and makes it difficult to judge how far away they are or how fast they are going. 
  • Motorcycles do not take up an entire lane.
    An experienced rider may move around within a lane to avoid obstacles, or to help them see better.  In addition to using the full lane, two motorcyclists are allowed to ride side-by-side in a single lane, but a motorcyclist cannot pass or share a lane with another motor vehicle that is not a motorcycle. If you are overtaking a car/SUV/truck, you might not have seen the motorcycle in front of that vehicle until you’re already in the passing lane.  The same holds true if you are entering an expressway. You may not see a motorcycle that is driving in the left portion of the lane you intend to merge into.
  • Motorcycle lighting is different, and often less obvious, than other vehicles
    • Cars and trucks have an additional light that lights up only when they are braking. This is not the case with motorcycles; it is sometimes hard to notice when the tail light changes from a medium to high brightness.
    • Unlike most cars and trucks, motorcycles don’t have a tail light at eye level.
    • Turn signals on motorcycles are often close to the headlight or taillights, which often makes them more difficult to notice.

Intersections can be especially dangerous for motorcycles. There are often many vehicles at intersections, and it’s human nature to notice large vehicles first, so motorcycles may seem to “blend in.”

Drivers may not see motorcycles simply because they don’t look for motorcycles. A new driver may be told to look for cars (and trucks) before going through an intersection – and that is precisely what the driver will look for.  All drivers need to train themselves to look for a multitude of hazards (including – BUT NOT LIMITED TO - trucks, buses, bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorcycles).

Drivers need to adjust how they drive around motorcycles.

  • Don’t tailgate.  Motorcycles can stop in a shorter distance than cars. It may be more difficult to notice they are slowing or stopping.

  • If it’s raining, or dark, give motorcycles even more space.

  • Be careful when you pass a motorcyclist. Like bicycles, the air pressure created by vehicles as they quickly pass by may act like a cross wind and blow the motorcycle around.

  • If you see one motorcycle, there may be others with them. Keep alert.

  • Allow the motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem as though there is enough room in the traffic lane for an automobile and a motorcycle, remember the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Do not share the lane.

  • Always make a quick visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.

  • Remember that road and weather conditions that are minor annoyances to you pose major hazards to motorcyclists.

  • Make sure to avoid distractions while you are driving. Don’t text and drive!


For More Information

If you would like more information on motorcycle safety and awareness, you can refer to the following:

For more information, please contact Driver Training Programs at (518) 473-7174. If you have concerns or would like to submit a complaint, please use the Driving Training Programs Complaint Form (PDF) (DTP-201).