I'm glad the driver saw me

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John T. Hale
  • Nellis AFB, Nev.
I shouted, "What a knucklehead! You're going to get yourself killed!" as the motorcycle flew past me, weaving in and out of traffic. Another sport bike raced in pursuit, nearly smashing into the concrete wall and barely slipping down the off ramp.

Minutes later, out of congested traffic, I sighed with relief and noticed in my mirrors I was the only one on this stretch of highway. Half a minute later, without taking a second look, I changed lanes. Suddenly, a motorcycle dodged to the left out of my path; I was within inches of striking the bike. I failed to see the motorcycle that entered the highway and was passing me in the left lane. Now it was the motorcycle rider shouting, "What a knucklehead! You're going to get someone killed!"

Some motorcycle riders ignore traffic laws and put themselves in grave danger. Some automobile and truck drivers fail to notice motorcycles in traffic and put riders in grave danger. Drivers can do three things to share the road with fellow Airmen and neighbors riding motorcycles. Those three important safety tips can be found in the acronym "SAW."

The "S" in "SAW" stands for space. Give motorcycles space; they need extra room in traffic for evasive actions around cars, debris and potholes. The pieces of broken tire tread or the rut in the road might be just a bump to a driver but it can cause a rider to lose control of the motorcycle. The rider needs space for quick maneuvers around the hazard.

When a motorcycle is stopped at a red light, drivers need to make a slow approach and leave a car length of space. At the traffic light, with a car approaching from behind, consider how nerve-wracking it must be for the rider. He's thinking, "Does the driver see me stopped at the light? Will the driver give me space or am I going to get run over?"

The "A" in "SAW" is for ascertain speed and distance. As drivers, we're accustomed to judging cars and trucks moving in traffic and how far away they are. Motorcycles have a narrow silhouette and accelerate more quickly than cars. It can be challenging to determine their speed and distance. Advance your skills as a driver, practice observing motorcycles in traffic to determine their speed and distance. You'll be surprised as you realize how, with just a glance, you misjudge the location of motorcycles on the roadway. With this simple activity you'll become conscious of how quickly a motorcycle can accelerate and move through traffic compared to a car or truck.

Finally, the "W" in "SAW" stands for watch for bikes. You'll begin to be more aware of motorcycles on the roads. Drivers should watch for bikes by using their side and rear view mirrors and scanning the road. Before changing lanes activate your turn signal for several seconds, and just before you move, look over your shoulder. Take a second look before turning left across lanes of traffic. When pulling onto the road from a parking lot or side street, make sure to look carefully for your fellow Airmen and neighbors on their motorcycles.

Share the road so the motorcycle rider can say, "I'm glad he 'SAW' me."

(This article first appeared in Wingman, spring 2011)