Topic: Freeway Survival Tips 2.0  (Read 2548 times)

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Offline The Stig

Freeway Survival Tips 2.0
« on: 09/12/16 04:07PM »
Several years ago I wrote up a little piece of advice. I decided to dig it up, dust it off, and share it again. This is for all you moto buddies out there. Shiny side up!

I've been riding motorcycles for several years now but I've been a freeway citizen for much, much longer. Most of what is written here is a result of many years of observation on the roads and though much of it was first learned in a car it works equally well on a motorcycle. The following tips are in no particular order. They are also not guaranteed 100% of the time. They're just generalized observations and tips that prove useful in everyday commuting. This is for Southern California. I'm not sure what it's like elsewhere.
  • Most drivers think turn signals are optional.
  • Cars have body language. Learn how to read it.
  • Freeway traffic mostly moves in a straight line except for when it doesn't.
  • Every driver is the only driver on the road. Or put more accurately, they believe they are more important than everyone else on the road.
  • Many drivers make the actual act of driving 4th or 5th on their list of priorities, somewhere below texting. This means they're not paying attention to the road which also means you need to compensate for that by paying even more attention.
  • The likelihood of you encountering a texting driver tends to increase dramatically during rush hour.
  • Vehicles rarely make sudden moves without a tell. Learn to look for it.
  • Be extra vigilant near the first of every month. That's moving day and there is more furniture on the road than usual.
  • Commercial truck drivers are restricted to the rightmost lanes and tend to travel a bit slower than the rest of traffic. They create little traffic flow eddies. Don't get caught up in them. They rarely deviate from this law and you can see them a mile away, literally. Adjust accordingly as early as you can.
  • While on the subject of commercial truck drivers, these guys drive for a living. As a result they're extremely good at it because of the ridiculously high miles they pack on as well as the fact that their livelihood depends on it. But something that big doesn't change direction or slow down quickly no matter how good the operator is. Just stay out of their way and they won't be a threat. Oh, and most of them will look out for you.
  • Motorcycles are much more agile than cars. This can work against you. People take mental pictures of what's going on around them. Some do it more frequently than others. If you move too quickly between someone's mental snapshots you'll be somewhere they're not expecting you to be and you're more likely to have a very close encounter with a large chunk of rolling metal.
  • Vehicles rarely stay stationary relative to their lane. Follow someone for a short while and notice how much they drift back and forth within the lane. Consider this if you're thinking of splitting lanes.
  • How someone drove 30 seconds ago is pretty much how they drive now.
  • Never drive in a hurry. You'd be surprised how little time you save doing this and how much it compromises judgment. Sometimes those rushed judgments actually slow you down.
  • If you can't see through or around the vehicle in front of you then move to where you can. Always pay attention to what the car in front of the car in front of you is doing. This dramatically improves the amount of time you have to respond to a situation as well as improving your options.
  • In light to moderate traffic vehicles tend to bunch up. This creates big gaps in the traffic flow. I call these "freeway holes". Look for them. If you see one use it. It's like having a huge space cushion all around you. With practice you can learn to identify these freeway holes before they even form. I find myself "accidentally" in them all the time.
  • No, your car does not have one way glass. We can still see you picking your nose. (Sorry, I had to go there.)
  • The greatest chance for accidents occurs when there is a change in velocity (speed or direction). This one warrants some explanation so here goes. With light to moderate traffic and little or no off ramps, on ramps, or interchanges traffic flows fairly well with little incident and traffic conditions remain relatively stable. Cars getting on or off the freeway interrupt the flow causing lots of people to make little adjustments. Sometimes lots of little adjustments compounds into one big adjustment which is why we get sudden braking, swerving, and diving of traffic. Stalled vehicles, road debris, rubbernecking, and many other factors can also contribute to this. If you know you're coming up to a freeway interchange or a busy on ramp adjust accordingly. Also if you're looking far enough ahead you can often see a flock of brake lights when things are starting to go pear shaped. Slow down as soon as you see it. Don't wait until you're in the problem and become part of it. By slowing earlier you give yourself more time and, believe it or not, help to balance traffic flow by causing other motorists to also respond earlier.
"Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"
-- George Carlin

Remember that YOU are always someone else's idiot and someone else's maniac.

Ride safe everyone!
Owning a liter bike is like owning a pet tiger. If you know it's a tiger and you treat it like it's a tiger you'll probably be OK. If you start treating it like a house cat then it will likely maul you, possibly to death.

Offline r0ckrat

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Re: Freeway Survival Tips 2.0
« Reply #1 on: 09/12/16 04:23PM »
Good tips.

Also on the subject of #'s 7 & 8 (commercial trucks) - If you ever have to follow someone in traffic, they tend to maintain a steady speed and stop less than surrounding traffic. So if it's to tight to filter, and you just want to keep rolling, behind them is a good place to be. Maybe not the fastest route, but you'll have to put a foot down less frequently.

Offline Throttle Chopper

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Re: Freeway Survival Tips 2.0
« Reply #2 on: 09/13/16 09:59AM »
Welcome back, Stig!  :30:

I'd also add know your route, and if you don't, slow down.  There are frequent areas you may become accustomed to that will also have high frequencies for accidents, the Crown Valley corridor on the I-5 in Mission Viejo is notorious for accidents, and many junctions such as where the 91 and 55 split is also a bad spot.  Check the traffic maps and/or ride accordingly.

I'd be cautious with commercial vehicles, particularly box vans, if it says "Ryder" on it or it's unmarked, that's a sign to avoid following these vehicles.  These are likely inexperienced drivers whom still have bad habits they learned driving a car, brake slamming and generally driving unsafe is to be expected.  Also commercial vehicles are a double-edged sword: I agree these drivers tend to maintain a steady speed, visibility around them, their visibility of you and others cager's visibility of you while following is limited, sticking to the #1 and #2 lanes is usually a safer bet.
Every day is ride to work day!


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