Late spring to early summer marks Dead Motorcyclist season. It's the time of year when fatal encounters between motorcyclists and motorists are particularly apt to happen.
Many bikers are seasonal riders. They put their machines away in the fall and over the winter and only get back on the road once the weather warms. If someone is away from something that is skill-intensive for any extended period their skills will naturally degrade. They won't be as sharp, as quick and probably not as alert either while they get into form.
Car and truck drivers experience something similar. They're coming off a several months-long stretch in which motorcycle traffic is extremely light to non-existent. They're not accustomed to looking for motorcyles, anticipating them.
And into this mix comes the "lethal left-hand turn." You're in your car or truck and you're waiting for an opening in oncoming traffic to make a left hand turn. You might have been waiting quite a while. You might be frustrated, anxious. You might be in a hurry to get somewhere.
Up ahead you see what appears to be a gap in the oncoming traffic, an opening in which you can nip through and make your left-hand turn. You begin to key on the front vehicle to time your turn. As it nears your foot comes off the brake and onto the gas pedal and you turn the wheel.
Only once you've moved off and are committed to your turn do you discover that the apparent gap wasn't an opening after all. There's a vehicle there, a motorcycle that you hadn't noticed. At this point there's probably not much you or the motorcyclist can do about it. You're going to collide and there's every chance the biker will get the worst of it. In fact this is the by far leading cause of motorcycle fatalities, the lethal left-hand turn.
The driver making the left-hand turn is at fault. It's their responsibility not to enter oncoming traffic until they know the way is clear. It's no excuse that they didn't see the motorcycle.
A lot of motorcyclists, while not strictly at fault, do little to improve their chances. These days really low-slung bikes are quite popular. The lower the machine the easier it is for the car or truck in front to mask it from oncoming drivers. This can be made worse by riders who position their motorcycles in the very centre of their lane, in effect tucking their bike in behind the vehicle in front. That can make it harder, even impossible, for the motorcyclist to spot the left-hand turner ahead.
For the next month or two especially, if you're waiting to make that left-hand turn across oncoming traffic, don't budge until you're absolutely sure that the gap that seems to be an opening is actually open. Don't assume there's not a motorcycle in that apparent gap until you can see that with your own eyes.
Photograph - the accident shown in the photo above happened this morning just outside the Nanaimo airport at around 8:15. The female motorcyclist was northbound. A pickup truck was in the southbound lane, waiting to make a left turn. The truck driver turned in front of the motorcycle and they collided. The woman was airlifted to hospital in Victoria, her condition currently unknown.