Dear RideApart,

I saw this video of a bike running into the back of a truck that stopped suddenly. Are there any tips you can share to help me avoid the same fate?

They say it's not the fall that'll get you, but that sudden stop at the end. So, too, is the case with motorcycles. In this case, traffic comes to a sudden stop on the highway, and a motorcycle along with its rider become unexpected passengers in the back of a ute (pickup truck to us Americans) after crashing into it. It looks like all's well that ends well, but this crash could have easily been avoided.

Pay Attention

The most important thing to do is simply pay attention to what's going on around you. The rider was clearly in slow-moving , which can be prone to stopping for no reason at any time. While the ute slows down, the bike doesn't brake and is unable to take action until it's too late. You should always maintain situational awareness and have a good idea of what's happening around you at all times. While brake lights are often a good indication of a car slowing down, don't rely on them, either. Some or even all of them might not be working.

Look Ahead

The rider should have noticed the ute directly ahead of him slowing down. That's pretty basic. The more advanced tactic would be to look past the ute and watch what several cars ahead of it are doing. If they stop suddenly, you know the ute is going to have to. Even on a low-slung motorcycle, your eyes are higher than if you were driving most cars, even trucks and SUVs. Use this to your advantage to see past what's right in front of you and get a read on what's happening further ahead.

Choose A Good Lane Position

It's hard to look ahead if you can't see around the vehicle in front of you. Fortunately, as motorcycles, we can choose where in our lane we want to be. On a multiple lane highway like this, I would want to be hugging the left side of the right lane. This would give me an unobstructed view around the ute. In addition, even if I missed the signs of a sudden stop, I could easily swerve between lanes and avoid the crash if I'm already that close to the edge of the lane anyway. Even in the US, where lane splitting is illegal in most states, that's a valid move if it means avoiding a crash.

Don't Follow Too Closely

This is a tricky one, especially in traffic. If you leave a generous gap between you and the car ahead of you for safety, another car will inevitably slide into it, eliminating the safety benefit. Still, it's best to allow an absolute minimum of two seconds of time between you and the car ahead, regardless of speed. Another benefit of following from a greater distance is that it's easier to see around the car in front of you. If this is impossible, be extra alert and prepare to swerve around a suddenly stopped car if you need to. 

Practice Emergency Braking

This is something to do in an empty parking lot, far away from traffic, but it will help you when the time comes to use it. Worst case, you've missed the signs, and you don't have time or space to swerve. If you've practiced threshold braking (the art of pushing your brakes to the point of impending lockup, but just shy of locking), it should be an instinct to do it in a situation like this. Just be careful of the car behind you not paying attention and running into you. That's why it's best to avoid having to brake suddenly in the first place.

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