The Infamous Left Turn

By Domenic Mozzone – Safety Officer

left turn

 I read in a motorcycle safety article recently that 99% of the accidents most riders get involved in are avoidable. While that may seem a little hard to believe, it just may be true. The most common motorcycle accident, involving another vehicle, occurs is when the vehicle violates your right of way, I’ll call the top rated one that ‘infamous left turn’. Recently one of our members posted on our web site that she lost a friend in a motorcycle accident caused by a vehicle making a left turn in front of her friends motorcycle due to not seeing it, which happens to be the number one statement drivers say to police during the accident investigation. This happens as you approach an intersection and a vehicle turns left in front of you. It also occurs when a vehicle pulls out from a side road into your path, but let’s look at the left turning vehicle for now and how to avoid an accident since your reactions should be pretty much be the same for both scenarios. Its been determined that the best ways to avoid an accident in these situations is: First, look at least 12 seconds ahead of your motorcycle. Your eyes should be scanning from left to right and up and down. The sooner you see the potential hazard, the more time you’ll have to react instinctively and plan your approach. Second, since most accidents happen in an intersection, slow down when approaching one. Cover both your front and rear brakes as you get closer to the intersection. Position your bike to the left side of your lane. If you’re going to have to swerve around the left turning vehicle, your swerve will usually be to the left around the back of the vehicle and then quickly back to the right. However, most of the time in that situation, your only course of action will be to stop quickly using both your front and rear brakes. That’s why it is so important to take a safety course where they drill you through emergency stops and to practice emergency braking using both brakes. The average rider never does practice emergency braking, consequently, in the situation I described, the average rider slams on the rear brake, locks the tire and skids right into the vehicle. Even if he misses the vehicle, he still slides onto the ground which can cause serious injury. This could have been an avoidable accident using awareness of an approaching hazard and instinctively preparing for a possible evasive maneuver.  The bottom line is to always anticipate and be prepared for others who unintentionally cause us grief. By looking way ahead of your motorcycle, you’ll be able to anticipate the actions of that vehicle and be able to apply your brakes long before it becomes an emergency. If you spend just a few minutes a month practicing emergency braking, you will lessen the chances of locking the rear wheel dramatically.


We also need to be aware of the time of day it is and the effects of approaching an intersection.  If its high noon your visibility will most likely be at its peak, closer to dusk and the chances of someone pulling in front of you will increase.  If the sun is at your back you better damn well be aware that the sun can cause glare to the driver your approaching who may not see you approaching. At night is another story altogether, many older drivers have vision impairments while driving at night with lighting glare.  As we approach that intersection at night we need to be acutely aware of the increased potential of someone inadvertently crossing our path due to not seeing us in the maze of lights around us.  It is imperative to adjust your speed accordingly for each situation, anticipate, instinctively observe your surroundings and be prepared to react if necessary.