How to avoid motorcycle rear-enders

Rear-enders like the one in the video below, are the most common form of accident for motorcycles, but there are things you can do to prevent them including lane filtering where it’s legal.

This Seattle rider was not allowed to lane filter, but there are still things he could have done to avoid the crash.

Yes, he seems to check behind him, but his lane position wasn’t good.

“Once I hear the tires squealing, it’s already too late,” he says and he’s right.

Lane-filtering is proven to prevent a lot of those rear-enders. Thankfully more and more states and jurisdictions in Australia and around the world will introduce it.

READ ABOUT LANE FILTERING LAWS

But until all governments wake up to the practicality and safety of lane-filtering, motorcycle riders should take their own preventative measures. You don’t want to become another rear-ender statistic thanks to distracted drivers.

If you get rear-ended at the traffic lights on your motorcycle and you run into the back of the vehicle in front, you may be liable for the damage to that vehicle. You may even cop a traffic offence.

It seems unjust, but it can and has happened. You should leave a big enough gap between you and the vehicle in front.

Here are five tips to avoid rear-enders

  1. As you slow down for traffic lights or in slow-moving commuter traffic, try to attract the attention of the driver behind you by slightly weaving in your lane and dabbing at the brakes so your brake lights flash on and off. A lot of riders do their slowing down with gears and don’t activate the brake lights until the last second, so think about riding the rear brake lightly just to activate the light. You can also fit auxiliary brake lights to your bike or install brighter bulbs, but check the legality in your jurisdiction first. Always check your brake lights are being activated by both the hand and foot levers before leaving home.
  2. When you stop, leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front. If you are sitting right on the bumper of the vehicle in front you will not have enough space to manoeuvre out and around if required in an emergency.
  3. Always check your mirrors as you slow down to see if the vehicle behind you is also slowing. While waiting at the lights or in a traffic queue, it’s an idea to keep a check on what’s happening behind you. Make sure your mirrors are clean.
  4. Stay in gear in case you need to suddenly accelerate out of harm’s way. It doesn’t burn the clutch to leave it engaged for the duration of a change of lights. Keep your right foot on the brake, left foot on the ground and your bike in first gear.
  5. Look for an escape route. Either pull over to the left or right wheel track and scan where you would head if you suddenly had to escape a distracted vehicle behind you. It may be illegal but probably safer to undertake the stopped vehicle in front. Otherwise, slip between lanes, if allowed, rather than going out and around the vehicle into oncoming traffic.

 

22 Comments

  1. If you end up behind cars, do not stand right behind the rearlights. Distractec cardrivers will only see two rearlights and realize too late, there is a bike behind the car.

  2. It’s cute that you’re arguing about who’s at fault if you’re HIT FROM BEHIND. I go to the front of the queue, and shall not participate in your pathetic argument. F the law. I put my safety into my own hands.

  3. If you are hit from behind and pushed into the car in front, the person who hit you is liable. I’ve never heard of any insurance company who makes you liable for a vehicle you have been pushed into.

    1. Hi Kim,
      Yes and no.
      It’s a grey area, but if you don’t keep a big enough distance from the vehicle In front and you are hit from behind, you can be fined for being too close. The insurance company can also find you partly culpable. It has happened and it is worth noting.
      The key is don’t pull up too close to the vehicle in front. Leave enough room for an escape route.
      Cheers,
      Mark

  4. “Rear-enders are the most common form of accident for motorcycles”

    That is why, as well as filtering, we need the freedom to use the performance and manoeuvrability of our bikes to overtake so that we are not stuck between other vehicles. On the open road we need to be able to exceed the speed limit briefly for quick overtaking manoeuvres. Even if the cars front and rear of you are travelling at the speed limit it is safer to overtake and get away from them. We also need to be allowed to overtake in some places were it currently is not permitted. We have the intelligence to decide for ourselves where overtaking is safe and shouldn’t have to abide by road markings that are designed for cars.

  5. Whilst there are multiple scenarios re rear end collisions as a general rule if a line of cars is parked at traffic lights and a car runs into the last car, which then runs into the car in front and so on right up the chain, then the last car is at fault for all of the collisions in the line.

  6. I agree Oldie, I’m a big fan of tapping my brake lever until the cars behind me pull up at the lights, while I’m aimed at an escape route that is. (So we will just lane split, problem will be solved. Although in the future manufacturers may include the pulsating brake light technology onto bikes, much like some semi trailers use in Australia. I also think that in the majority of situations if I get hit on my bike it’s my fault for putting myself in that position on the road, no matter who is actually to blame under the road rules. But you cannot put yourself in a safe place all the time.)

    1. Peter,
      I agree. It’s easy to find someone else to blame. We need to be in a constant state of defensive riding when we’re on the roads. I may be paranoid, but I’m, sure they’re out to get us!
      As for pulsating brake lights, several car manufacturers have something similar. It either pulsates or glows brighter, or features a high-mount auxiliary brake light.
      The BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive is the first bike to include an extra brake light. Check this out: http://motorbikewriter.com/bmw-k-1600-gtl-exclusive-preview/

  7. I got hit from behind several years ago on my bike. I was at the front of three others cars that ploughed into each other. The insurance claim bounced back to the first person to hit someone. As I recall I think it was the car behind the woman who ploughed into me that bore the brunt of the insurance claim.

    In any event, they were all travelling too close to each other. I slowed as someone decided to turn right into a street from my lane. Then I got hit by a woman from be hid me. All I remember was hearing a screech and being thrown up in the air and landing beside my bike. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, and is one of the main reasons that I filter today. You must always stay out of the way of car drivers who can take you out. And filtering to the front, and placing yourself where they can see you, dominating their line of sight, looking them in the eyes to confirm that they know you are there are all tactics that I employ to keep myself safe and out of trouble.

    1. Exactly, I was once pulled over by a bike officer, some time before lane filtering was legal in NSW. He asked me why did I pull in between the cars.

      I just told him I did not want to hit from behind, and was taking my life into my own hands and not those of the people stopping behind me.

      He just said thank you, and left me alone.

  8. Ooorrr, just accept that the nobs sitting in parliament don’t know poop from toothpaste, and get in between the cars where it’s safe.
    My spine matters more than some politician’s opinion.

  9. I’ve personally been trialing lane filtering in Queensland for several years now. I find it very effective and safe. Of course its technically not legal, but I’d rather pay the occasional fine than risk loosing a leg or two if I get sandwiched between two cars because the person in the car behind was texting or applying another coat of make-up.

    Hopefully the Qld government can also introduce these revised laws as well so we’re at least as safe as our Mexican compadres. But with the Qld governments opinion that anyone who rides a motorcycle must be a criminal, its unlikely!

  10. No if you hit the car in front as a result from the car behind you they are at fault as the instigator. This happenEd to my wife in a five car pile up and the last car that pushed all the others was responsible for the whole accident. On a motorbike with the weight of a car.behind you I dought you can avoid hitting the car in front.

      1. Mark’s right Tunchie, if you can prove that you went into the car in front due to the overwhelming force which you were hit, the person who hit you may be liable due to the circumstances. Generally, if you hit someone else though because you’ve been rear ended, you’re liable.

  11. When pulling up at lights in traffic I’ve taken to pulling the brake lever on and off to make the brake light flash, until the vehicle behind me has stopped. So far, so good. Now I just have to stop people pulling out to overtake while I am overtaking them.. a set of loud pipes might do the trick.. I hope.

  12. I think you have it wrong – if YOU get rear-ended the car is at fault (not you as in the first line). If YOU rear-end someone then you might be at fault.

    Of course here in Australia the bike is ALWAYS in the wrong according to our useless Police.

    1. That’s what the story says. If you get rear-ended the vehicle that hits you pays only for the damage to you and your bike. If you then catapult into a vehicle in front of some other property, you pay for that damage.

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