In the most recent issue of Scoot!, I wrote an article about scooter safety. In it I noted that the most dangerous place for a scooter is an intersection. A car driver turning left in front of a scooterist/motorcyclist is the most common accident. For proof you need not look further than the news:
2/23/09: Man on motorscooter struck by car in Florida
2/27/09: Oakland Woman Arrested in San Francisco Scooter Crash
3/3/09: Woman Dies Following Friday Crash in Tennessee
3/11/09: Scooter Struck by Vehicle
Now, I don't bring this up to scare anyone. I know many riders who haven't had this type of accident. But, of those who have had accidents, this sort ranks at the top. It can also be a deadly accident.
What can you do to protect yourself at an intersection?
1) make yourself more visible: most motorists that turn left in front of a rider claim to have not seen the rider. Wear a bright helmet and clothing (especially with highly reflective trim) and keep your hand ready to hit your bright headlights and honk your horn. In congested cities like Los Angeles, I have flashed my lights & honked at intersections to make sure I am noticed.
2) mind your position in the road: if you are too far over or tailgating the car in front of you, you hinder your chances of being seen. Give a reasonable berth for other cars and for you to be seen, and escape if needed.
3) use your eyes: scan for cars in all lanes, and when entering an intersection look at the oncoming cars to gauge if they are looking for you or are otherwise distracted.
4) be scooter psychic: my way of saying that you need to develop a sense of human behavior based on body language of the drivers around you. For example, someone looking down at their cell phone most likely won't see you. A car in the oncoming lane that slows down at an intersection with a green light may still be turning even if they forgot to put on their turn signal.
For more tips on how to be a safer, smarter rider, check out my article in issue #49 with Carlos Alazraqui on the cover.