We have tackled courtesy and defensive driving on the road with regard to regular cars and small trucks and SUVs, but we should discuss the additional challenge of driving on the same roads with the very small or the very large; Motorcycles, Recreational Vehicles (RV) and small and large commercial trucks.

Let’s review some tactics to drive defensively — and courteously — around them.


Two-thirds of motorcycle crashes involve a car, and are most often the fault of the car driver.

These crashes are due to the fact that the driver either fails entirely to see the motorcycle driver, or sees him/her too late. This is often due to the fact that as drivers, we are not tuned in to looking for smaller vehicles such as motorcycles and motor scooters.

As a SmartDriver you must be diligent in checking and double checking for smaller vehicles, listening attentively to their unique sound and adjusting to their presence.

Motorcycle riding is different from driving, reacting on two wheels is far different than on four. The elements have a dramatically more profound impact on bikes than on cars.

This video, created by the Washington Motorcycle Safety Program, follows a teen driver as a motorcyclist helps the driver learn about safer choices while sharing the road with motorcyclists.

CREDIT: Washington State Department of Licensing, Motorcycle Awareness — A Second Look

How Can I Become More Aware of Motorcyclists?

  • Respect the motorcyclist: Remember the motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the privileges of any vehicle on the roadway. Give the motorcyclist a full lane of travel.
  • Look out: Look for the motorcyclist at intersections, when a motorcyclist may be making a left turn, and on the highway, when a motorcyclist may be changing lanes. Clearly signal your intentions.
  • Anticipate a motorcyclist’s maneuver: Obstructions that you do not notice may be deadly for a motorcyclist. Predict evasive actions.
  • Allow plenty of space: Don’t follow a motorcycle too closely. Allow enough room for the motorcyclist to take evasive actions.

What Are Some Situations When Crashes Are Most Likely to Occur?

  • Car making a left turn: You are attempting a left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle operator.
  • Riding in your blind spot: A motorcyclist is riding in your blind spot and you may not see the motorcycle. Additionally, you may fail to adequately check blind spots before changing lanes or making turn.
  • Hazardous road conditions: Potholes, wet leaves, railroad tracks and other road obstructions may dictate that a motorcyclist take an action that you may or may not.
  • Obstructed line of sight: Large vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles, delivery vans, and large trucks may block a motorcycle from your view and the motorcyclist may seem to suddenly appear.

As the “Save A Biker” website says, “Look twice, save a life.”

How to drive defensively around trucks and RVs:

While many trucks and RVs seem almost the same size, there is one very important difference.

  • In most cases, truck drivers are very experienced professionals who understand the importance of road awareness and safety;
  • However, more often than not in the case of RV operators, they have much less experience behind the wheel of their vehicles, and they increase risks by towing cars or trailers behind their vehicles.

So remember these tips:

  • Do Not cut off a truck or RV in traffic or on the highway to reach your exit or turn and Do Not try to beat them into a single lane construction zone. Both of these situations can easily turn into crash situations.
  • Do Not linger alongside a truck or RV when passing. These vehicles both have large blind-spot areas: pass them completely, at a steady pace, and on the LEFT side.
  • Do Not rush ahead on the right side of the vehicle, as these vehicles make wide right turns… If it appears they are about to turn left, remember it may be actually making a right turn and you will be caught in the NO ZONE.
  • Do Not follow too closely or tailgate, as it will deny you escape routes and the ability to react to roadway hazards that may lie ahead.

CREDIT: Driver Solutions, 10 Tips for Sharing the Road with Truck Drivers

Remember too, the stopping distance for a much larger and heavier vehicle is in some cases TWICE that of a car.

• Passenger cars have a stopping distance of 193 feet on dry, level payment.

• RVs and fully loaded semi trucks have a stopping distances of 243 feet to 430 feet.

CREDIT: Truck It Smart, Relative Stopping Distance

While you may not see them too often in the U.S. Eastern Seaboard traffic corridors, many states now allow double and even triple semi-tractor and trailer combinations on their Interstate and Primary highway systems.

If you do not drive often on Interstates and other Primary Highways, what you may encounter local streets on a regular basis are delivery trucks servicing homes and stores, and gasoline tankers making deliveries to gas stations and convenience stores.

Delivery trucks may make what seem to you to be sudden turns and stops, and you must be alert for those maneuvers.

Gasoline tankers are large vehicles often trying to squeeze into small spaces to deliver their products, and, of course, the gasoline, diesel and kerosene products they deliver are hazardous and highly flammable.

In every case, being an alert and aware SmartDriver will keep you and your passengers safe around these large vehicles.