You can never be too safe when riding a motorcycle. That’s why the question of whether to use hand or turn signals needs discussion. A quick answer, however, is “Both are needed.”
Back in the day, hand signals used to be the only way to signal your intentions when driving a motorcycle or a passenger car. Then, in the 1950s, new technology came along and changed all that with the introduction of automatic turn signals.
Why both hand and turn signals should be used by motorcyclists
A lot of novice bikers ask, “If we already turn signals on our bikes, why should we use hand signals?” Those who are more experienced bikers know the reasons.
- The most important safety tip for all motorcyclists is to stay visible. There are several reasons why passenger car drivers often don’t see bikers on the road. They may be distracted, the biker might be in their blind spot, or they just really don’t see the motorcycle. Using hand signals, in addition to turn signals, makes you more visible. Even the mere motion of your hand making the signals can alert drivers to your presence. The more visible you are, the less likely you are to be in a motorcycle accident.
- A lot of bikers ride vintage bikes that don’t have turn signals. Using hand signals is not only necessary to indicate your intentions, but is required by law, if there are no automatic turn signals.
- No matter how attentive you are to maintaining your bike, mechanical problems can arise when you are on the road. Knowing how to signal by hand is very important should your turn signals malfunction.
- Many bikers belong to motorcycle clubs. They love the sense of community, meeting new people, sharing their love of riding and making new friends. Members of motorcycle clubs frequently ride together. Hand signals are an excellent way to safely and effectively communicate with other riders behind you on the road. The signals are given by the lead rider to communicate such information as, “Follow me,” “Single file,” “Double file,” “Pull off,” “Fuel,” “Slow down,” and “Speed up.”
What is the law in New York regarding motorcycle turn signals?
New York State law takes into account the age of the motorcycle you drive saying that, “Any 1985 or newer motorcycle must be equipped with directional or turn signals.” This takes into account the vintage bikes we were discussing earlier.
The law further states, “Any motorcycle which was originally equipped with such signals, or to which such signals have been added, must have them inspected. Turn signals must show amber to the front and red or amber to the rear.”
Both hand and turn signals have a place in today’s motorcycling. Even though not all the hand signals used by bikers will be understood by passenger car drivers, most know right, left and stop. Using hand signals along with turn signals not only helps with your visibility, which is of paramount importance, but with making sure your intentions are clearly understood.
Safe riding out there!
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