TOTW: Never get between a car and an exit ramp

The riding tips on these pages are my personal opinion about matters related to motorcycle riding. They are not the official position of any organization, and are for your consideration only. They are not hard and fast rules, they should not necessarily be applied in all circumstances, and they should not be applied without thinking. Always use your judgement and take all current safety factors into account while riding. You are responsible for your riding, not anyone else (especially me). These tips were originally published by a motorcycle riding course, called “Tip of the Week” (the reason for the TOTW in the titles).

What’s the problem?

How many times have you seen a car exit a multi-lane highway from a lane other than the outside one? Typically, they will be in the middle lane either because they didn’t know the exit was coming up, weren’t paying attention, or waited too long to change lanes and got stuck. Or, frequently, they have misjudged their speed, or yours, and think they’ll pass you before the turn off. Then they’ll suddenly veer across the outside lane and onto the ramp.

How many times have you seen or heard evidence that car drivers have difficulty seeing motorcycles?

Combine these two tendencies and you will realize that riding in the outside lane of a freeway, and positioning yourself between a car and an exit ramp, is a very high-risk situation. If the car makes a last-minute exit decision, it’s unlikely they’ll see you and you will be hit.

In a situation such as this one, one of my instructor colleagues liked the phrase “your spider sense should be tingling.”


The solution to this problem isn’t complex. You already know, through your rider training, that you should be constantly scanning for potential hazards. This includes scanning behind and judging the rate at which traffic is catching up. See if you can estimate when they will get alongside. Be aware of the other drivers around you, and what common mistakes they might make that would put you at risk.

Rather than planning an escape manoeuvre should something happen, immediately take action to remove yourself from the risky situation. In the example above, you can just adjust your speed, or change lanes, to pass by the exit ramp out of the other car’s target zone.

Try to make this a habit, so you automatically adjust your speed or lane choice to never put yourself in this situation. (By the way, since you have so few movement choices in a crowded highway in rush hour, this implies the outer lane is not a good place to spend much time.)

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