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'Right on red' accidents and motorcycles: What you need to know

If you've spent any time at all on a motorcycle, you're conscious of the fact that you're very vulnerable. There's no steel frame or glass windshield between you and the concrete if you're involved in a wreck with another vehicle. That's why it's always wise to be alert to the dangers that are around you -- particularly at intersections.

Motorcyclists are trained from the very beginning to look for speeders, tailgaters, inattentive drivers and vehicles cutting across their lanes while making a left. But most motorcyclists don't think much about approaching an intersection and encountering a driver who suddenly makes a right on red.

The ability to legally make a right on red is actually a relatively modern invention. It started in the 1970s as a way to help drivers conserve gas when cars were big and shortages on fuel were common. Some areas don't allow it at all, while others restrict rights on red to certain hours of the day. That can make intersections tricky for motorcyclists.

The fact that motorcycles have a low, narrow profile and are less common on the roads than passenger vehicles and trucks tends to make drivers overlook them. Not only can a driver "stare right through" a motorcyclist without registering their presence, they often misjudge the distance between themselves and the bike. At night, a motorcycle's lone headlight can even blend into background lights or the lights of other cars, making the motorcyclist harder to spot. Consequently, drivers waiting at a red light may turn directly into a motorcyclist's path, causing a wreck.

As always, motorcyclists need to be vigilant when they're on the road. Reduce your speed at every intersection -- even when you're passing straight through a green light. You never know when the vehicle waiting at the intersection will suddenly turn when a right on red is allowed.

If you're involved in a motorcycle accident due to another driver's negligence, worry about getting help and medical treatment before you do anything else. Once your condition has stabilized, you can find out more about how to hold the other driver accountable.

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