From 18 Wheels to 2 Wheels

Valuable learning can come from a variety of sources, including driver training programs designed for vehicles nine times the number of wheels we are accustomed to. Tom Balaz, an active motorcyclist and commercial truck driver (and a former Class 8 commercial tractor trailer Driving Instructor), shared some valuable tips from a one day course developed for the trucking industry. So here are The Smith System’s Five Keys for Space Cushion Driving, which can also be applied to motorcycle riding:

1. Aim High in Steering – Avoid Collisions by seeing, evaluating, and acting upon all information available. As an example, look at least 15-30 seconds into your future, so you can evaluate what may happen before you get there.

2. Get the Big Picture – Fewer mistakes are made when you have the complete traffic picture. Obtain as much information about other traffic as you can. You may be able to identify distracted, or impaired drivers before they cause you problems. Having this information gives you more time to plan an escape route, should that be necessary.

3. Keep Your Eyes Moving – Proper scanning techniques separate safe drivers from people who make costly errors. Check mirrors every 7-12 seconds (we recommend every 4-5 seconds for motorcyclists. ET). This is important for commercial vehicle drivers as these vehicles have large blind spots. It also aids in information gathering.

4. Leave Yourself an Out – All that separates drivers from a collision is space. Use it to your advantage. Try keeping the front and one side of your vehicle open. The more space you can create, the more relaxed your drive/ride will be. When in traffic, others will always try to take your space, but that doesn’t mean stop trying to find it. There’s much more space available than you might think.

5. Make Sure They See You – Seek eye contact and use your warning devices at the same time. Trying to obtain eye contact allows each driver/rider to become aware of the other, which is often enough to prevent collisions. Always use your headlights at all times. People are naturally drawn to lights. This won’t always keep them from entering your path, but that is no reason to not use them. Lastly, you want your family and friends to see you at the end of your ride.

How well do you feel these tips apply to motorcycling? Are there any special considerations we should have when interacting with large trucks? Thanks Tom for sharing this with us. ET

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