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The terrifying reality of left-turn motorcycle accidents

When you learned how to ride a motorcycle, you started thinking through different tactics you would use if you ever got in an accident. Should you swerve or lay the bike down if someone cut you off? If a vehicle was going to rear-end you in traffic, could you quickly dart around the car in front of you? In a case where a driver was going to merge into you, could you ride safely on the shoulder of the road to get out of the way?

Essentially, you thought about avoidance. You trusted your skills. You trusted your reactions. By planning ahead, you felt like you could get out of situations that may cause accidents for other riders.

And perhaps you can, in some situations. But accidents happen quickly, and there may be very little you can do. The frightening reality is that one type of accident in particular is almost impossible to avoid: The left turn accident.

How it happens

This accident is fairly simple. You drive down the road in one direction, while a car coming from the other direction stops to turn left, with the blinker on. You have other traffic in front of you and behind you. The driver appears to wait to turn left as you pass by.

Here’s the problem: That driver doesn’t actually see you. The bike is too small and hidden behind the next car in line. Instead, that driver thinks you are a gap between the vehicles. And they’re going to shoot through that gap to make the turn.

As you go by, the driver guns it and turns left right in front of you. At full speed and not expecting it, you can’t avoid it. You smash right into the side of the vehicle.

What can you do?

While it may prove impossible to avoid this accident as it happens, you can take steps to prevent it from happening in the first place.

For instance, ride far enough back that your bike never hides behind the next car. Try not to ride behind semitrucks and other large vehicles.

At the same time that you make yourself more visible, stay alert. Expect other drivers to make mistakes. Pay close attention to anyone waiting to turn, even if you have the right of way.

Always pick escape routes. If the driver doesn’t turn and you don’t need it, that’s fine. If the driver does turn, though, you can instinctively ride toward your escape route to limit the damage.

After an injury

These steps can help you avoid some accidents, but left-turn crashes happen so quickly that you could suffer serious injuries no matter what you do. Make sure you know all of the legal options you have.