Out on our roads, there are several threats that a rider faces. In the SOAR (Surviving On Aggressive Roads) series, we address some of these, part by part. This time, we are going to discuss one of the biggest threats to two-wheeler riders on our roads - heavy vehicles.
To begin with, the most important aspect of staying safe around heavy vehicular traffic is being visible. Big machine operators have limited visibility and have to deal with multiple blind spots owing to the size of the vehicle they operate. For a two-wheeler rider, it is best advised to maintain a safe distance from heavy vehicles and avoid getting caught in one of their blind spots. If the driver of the vehicle cannot spot you, to him, your presence on the road is non-existent. Always be cautious around heavy vehicles and make sure you are noticed by its driver. Try and draw his attention by flashing the headlights or use the horn if required, in a situation where you feel your presence must be noticed but it’s not.
Parked Bus Panic
Well, it isn’t as much about the bus drivers here as much it is about the occupants of a bus. Often, occupants of a bus exit from the front door and instead of waiting for the bus to move out and then cross the road, they attempt to cross from the front, staying hidden behind a stationary bus, before making a sudden appearance in the middle of the road. What becomes a deadly blind spot for riders and other road users, even for those attempting to cross the road in such a manner, they cannot see oncoming vehicles and risk their own lives too. One way to take precaution in such instances is to try and notice any movement from under the front axle of the parked bus. Notice a parked bus well in advance and look for signs of movement from under the bus. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is a habit that can save a probable disaster.
One of the largest vehicles on our highways are multi-axle trailers. Just their size and dimensions are enough to intimidate a lot of smaller road users. Understand the limitations of the driver of a vehicle of such size and make amends in your riding habits. A long 18-wheeler trailer will take up a lot of space on the road and will need to make changes well in advance than a relatively smaller cargo truck. So, if a trailer has to overtake another vehicle, its driver will have to change lanes much before than a truck or bus half its size. The sheer length of a trailer makes it necessary to change lanes well in time to avoid colliding with the vehicle it is attempting to overtake. So, when you see a trailer ahead, check if it has a vehicle in its path and if it will make an attempt for an overtake. If so, avoid trying to overtake the trailer and let him finish his pass on the other vehicle and return to his lane before you initiate an overtake.
More importantly, as you approach a trailer ahead, keep flashing and if needed, honk – to draw the driver’s attention. Try to secure an eye contact with the driver so you know that he has noticed you and you are not in his blind spot. A lot of these long-distance hauliers are parked for days around the lay-bye sections and next to tolls or eateries on our highways. The parked trailers naturally become safe havens for dogs and animals, especially around the monsoon season and on hot sunny days. Look for signs of stray dogs sleeping under these trailers and make sure you take into account a possible animal dashing from underneath the trailer and on to the road.
Last but not least are farm tractors plying on smaller and narrower B-roads. These machines are usually used for small distance travel. So always expect a tractor to make a sudden turn into one of the alleys into the surrounding farmland or worse, expect one to just dash out on to the main road from a feeder alley or dirt track. A lot of tractor operators are not trained about road etiquettes, making the farm equipment a high-risk vehicle to be sharing the road with. Be extra careful around them and always maintain enough distance.
Thankfully though, tractors have open driver cabins, which means it is easier to draw their attention and help them to notice you. Use this to your advantage and even if they have noticed you, keep a considerable distance from the tractor when overtaking. Since these machines are designed to work on a farm, tractors have smaller front wheels and they usually have a weave in their track. So a tractor which may seem distant will most probably come to kiss your handlebars before you can react. Always keep as much distance as possible and strictly avoid overtaking a tractor if there is not enough space for it.
And as always - stay alert and ride safe.