I was recently riding Rosinante, my TANK Sporty, which was purring along comfortably, glad to be a scooter and not something else (a washing machine, for example), but was apparently in the blind spot of a large truck that had decided it wanted to move to the right and into our lane. In this particular case, the truck heard and reacted appropriately to Rosinante's somewhat anemic but clearly audible horn and desisted in its bid to usurp our lane. I noted, however,with some satisfaction that there had been an escape route -- that, even had the truck continued in its assault upon our safety, I could have slowed rapidly enough to fall behind the impinging vehicle -- and even were that impossible, Rosinante would easily have fitted into the space between the lane and the curb, a margin that would not have been adequate had I been driving a car (or indeed a washing machine).
Of course, it is best to anticipate possible contingencies and to ensure the existence of escape routes in advance, rather than simply to feel gratitude for their presence in retrospect. The key to safety is awareness, anticipation, and a knowledge of one's scooter's size and capabilities -- for in some respects, diminutive size can clearly be a safety advantage. Driving for safety and driving for fuel economy go hand in hand. See Fuel Efficient Driving.
Be sure to read the excellent Motorcycle Safety Foundation scooter safety manual: Your Scooter.
One scooter forum member posted the following piece on scooter safety that may be of value.
There is one common denominator, contributing factor, to all traffic accidents: Speed. Simple, if nobody is moving, accidents can't occur. All accidents are the result of increased speed. Eventually, as you accelerate, there will come a point where there is a loss of control of the vehicle. Push it far enough and long enough and you /will/ have an accident.
On a motor scooter one is not protected as one would be in a metal box. Thus, it is quite simple. One must to compensate for that lack of protection. First and foremost, one should not assume one can travel at the same speeds as the metal boxes out there and remain as safe from possible bodily injury in the event of an accident. Therefore, reducing speed will automatically compensate to some degree in preventing an ouch.
The second thing to keep in mind is the average metal box operator spends well over 90% of it's time trying to fit the metal box into a given space, staring straight ahead. While this is generally a good idea and keeps said metal box from climbing power poles or burrowing under the car in front, there is more to operating a vehicle safely. This safe operation is called the planned /escape route/. Instead of 'hole diving', driving into the nearest area that allows your metal box enough room, reducing speed and watching for escape routes is the second most significant way of preventing an accident.
Planning escape routes, alternative directions to travel in case one's current path gets filled up with impending ouch is a big plus in the safety department --. watching not just in front but in a twin V pattern. That is, imagine a pair of wide Vs coming out of your eyes. They converge at the center of your direction of travel and each extends all the way to behind your shoulders. Using both your mirrors and turning your head, practice being aware of what is in these two Vs. These two Vs are your planned escape routes. Example: traffic suddenly stops up in front. If you are unaware of your Vs, well, you cram on the brakes and hope you don't pile in, or you wildly swerve and hope you don't swerve from impending accident A directly into impending accident B.
As you plan your escape routes, you adjust your speed accordingly. No room in front and no escape routes means you slow down until you have room and escape routes become available. The general rule is, always have a free direction of travel in front of you and at least one escape route planned at all times.
On a motor scooter one deadly temptation is called hole shooting. You see an opening up ahead and dive for the hole. What is the problem with that? Absolutely nothing, provided you know the hole will stay open and nobody else is going to dive for it as well, and, once you get into the hole, you already have a safe direction of travel and a planned escape route.
In addition to hole shooting, one makes assumptions: that car isn't going to turn across my direction of travel, is he? Well, if it comes a choice between slowing down a bit, figuring out alternative routes, and experimenting with the impact of my scooter and body against the side of a car, the former has a bit of an edge. The big rule when driving a motor scooter is to make lots of assumptions, make them constantly as one travels, and assume somebody is going to do something really dumb, . If they don't, great! If they do, your anticipation and preparations may enable you to arrive at your destination feeling really smug about how bright you are, don't become complacent as, invariably, people do dumb things that will prove your assumptions correct.
To sum up. Slower is safer. Plan escape routes as an alternative to assumptions of immortality and assume some big stupid is just waiting to leap at you. Add these three together with proper safety equipment such as a helmet, acuity, and knowledge of the road ahead if at all possible; and you will have a happier more enjoyable time on your scooter.
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