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Motorcycles, semis and blind spots: A dangerous mix

Riding a motorcycle does come with an inherent amount of danger, but smart riders always look for ways to reduce the risk. They wear bright clothing so that others can see them. They wear proper helmets to protect them if they do get in an accident. They remain vigilant and practice defensive driving, looking for critical mistakes that could lead to a crash.

Experts often note that the small size of a motorcycle really works against it. Many drivers do not see bikes, even when they should be obvious. Just look at many of those infamous "left turn accidents" and you will find that a lot of drivers turn in front of motorcycles that they simply failed to spot.

Semi truck accident risks

One of the biggest dangers on the road, for motorcyclists, is getting caught in a semi truck's blind spot. Entire cars can disappear into these huge blind spots, leading to accidents when trucks try to merge or change lanes. How much more dangerous is it for a tiny motorcycle? If someone in a pickup truck or a passenger sedan has trouble seeing a bike, is there any hope that a truck driver will see it?

One illustration that helps show the risk level comes from an experiment in which multiple bicycles -- complete with riders -- lined up next to a truck. There are 12 bikes. This is not just one person out for an evening ride. It could be a minor bike race.

Even so, from the truck driver's perspective, the bikes are invisible. They do not show up in the mirrors at all. They all fit in the blind spot.

This was a controlled experiment, but imagine something like that happening on the road? If that truck driver needed to merge suddenly to get to an exit or to get around another vehicle, even if he or she glanced at the mirrors, every last cyclist could get hit.

The same danger waits for motorcycle riders. Though on slightly larger vehicles, many riders go out alone or with one or two friends. It would be easy for the whole group to find that blind spot on the truck's passenger side. And it is not the only blind spot that semi trucks have.

After an accident

The most frightening part of this experiment is that even safe truck drivers who use their mirrors frequently could cause serious accidents. It is not just a negligent or distracted truck driver that poses a risk. Every truck on the road is a potential safety risk. All it takes is a split second for an accident to happen.

After the crash, make sure you know about all of your legal rights.

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