As every seasoned motorcyclist knows, it’s bound to happen sooner or later: the close call. The near-miss that reminds you just how quickly things can go wrong.

Those seasoned bikers know how to react in emergency situations. They’re well-practiced in proper braking techniques, they understand how (and when) to lay the bike down, and the best of them can do so even under the adrenaline rush of an imminent collision.

Most of the time, however, crash avoidance isn’t about applying those techniques in the heat of the moment. It’s about avoiding close calls in the first place.

Author and avid motorcyclist Jim Ouellet advocates a more proactive approach to accident prevention. On average, he notes, bikers have less than two seconds to react to hazards in close-call scenarios. That’s just not enough time, no matter how experienced the rider.

Ouellet urges bikers to reduce their risk by riding smart. This means:

  1. Maximizing your chances of being seen: Wear brightly colored attire. Stand out by turning on your high beams during the day. Stay out of blind spots, and never assume that other drivers see you.
  2. Positioning yourself strategically: In traffic, aim to stay in the middle of a group of cars rather than zooming ahead or trailing behind, where you’re more likely to get hit by cross-traffic. When nearing potential left-turning vehicles in the oncoming lane, move toward the right to give yourself more time to react. On freeways, allow tailgating vehicles to pass you, reducing your chances of getting rear-ended.
  3. Slowing down (especially around curves): Yes, speed is one of the chief appeals of riding. But it’s also one of the biggest risk factors for accidents. Slowing down gives you more time to spot hazards and respond appropriately.
  4. Anticipating what could happen: Understanding how accidents happen gives you the ability to foresee threatening situations before they unfold. Knowing that left-turning vehicles are a common cause of collisions, for example, makes you more aware of them in oncoming traffic.

Of course, as every biker knows, there are inherent risks to riding. But there’s no reason to make it any riskier.

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