The ultimate guide to defensive driving for bikers in India

The ultimate guide to defensive driving for bikers in India
23 May 2024

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Long story short: Learn the defensive driving tips & safe riding techniques for bikers in India. Learn the skills you need to protect yourself.

What is the meaning of defensive riding or safe driving?

Defensive driving is not just a style; it’s a powerful tool that empowers you to keep yourself and others safe on the road. It’s a proactive approach to riding that enhances your awareness and anticipation and gives you the control to manage errors effectively.

What is the core concept of defensive riding or safe driving?

Don’t expect other drivers to see you or behave perfectly. Ride as if you’re invisible and prepared for anything.

List of all defensive riding & safe driving techniques & tips

Here are the list of all tips & techniques that comes under defensive driving in India and we have to learn & implement each one of these on our roads for our safety and the safety of others. Donot skip reading any of these defensive driving tips and here are the those 20 defensive driving techniques.

Defensive riding informatory traffic signs in India
Mandatory traffic signs in India

1. Maintain proper tyre pressure & tyre health

Even with defensive riding, a tyre that is worn out may not always protect us from unforeseen circumstances. A good grip, whether sand, gravel, oil, water, or anything else, is crucial. Check your tyres’ air pressure at least once a week. During regular inspections, look for signs of side wear, significant cuts, punctures, bent spokes, or cracked rims. Certain tyres have indicators for minimum and maximum tread wear. It’s essential to replace them before they reach the minimum tread level.

2. Check brakes and brake pads

Checking brake pads at a regular interval is very important because we won’t know about wear until the pads start biting the disc plates. Disc plates, also known as rotors, are costlier to replace. Don’t let it happen. Remember, once there is a scratch on the disc plate, the braking efficiency is already compromised. Regularly replacing brake fluids once every two years is also essential to ensure good braking performance.

3. Left side overtaking

There are three scenarios in which left-side overtaking is allowed in defensive driving techniques, and the third scenario is very few really know about, and they are

  1. The vehicle to be overtaken is either turning right or making a U-turn from the centre of the road and giving a signal to turn. It would be safe to overtake from the left.
  2. The vehicle to be overtaken is stationary and safe to pass from the left.
  3. The vehicle to overtake and the vehicle to be overtaken are both riding on a multilane road. The vehicle ahead can be safely overtaken in a marked lane to the left of the vehicle being overtaken.

4. Signal precautions

When approaching a red signal, it’s not just a stop sign; it’s a moment to be extra cautious. Always check your rearview mirrors for any approaching hazards. And remember, signalling your intentions and keeping to the left side of the road can help you control the situation.

Be extra cautious when you wait on the right side. More crashes occur while a vehicle is on the right side. In fact, studies have shown that vehicles waiting on the right side are 50% more likely to be involved in a collision. The more vehicles waiting at the signal, the fewer the chances of crashing are. Be extra vigilant if you are on a signal with less traffic. Look through the rearview mirrors. Watch out specifically for buses and trucks on Highways, as they have more significant blind spots and may not see you.

5. Do not drive in neutral gear

Do not drive in neutral gear while riding on descending hills or roads. When you ride with the clutch pulled or in neutral, the only way to control speed is with the brakes. So, if you apply the brake continuously, there is a chance that the brake will overheat and fail. So instead, use engine braking along with normal braking while riding on descending roads/ hills. Engine braking is when you use the engine’s resistance to slow down the vehicle, reducing the strain on the brakes and preventing them from overheating.

cautionary traffic signs in India
Cautionary traffic signs in India

6. Use high beam, low beam, and pass light

Use high and low beams in an interchanging manner, especially on highways. Switch to the low beam when oncoming traffic from the opposite side is present. This is the most important defensive driving & safe riding tip in night ride.

Use a pass light to alert oncoming traffic while overtaking or riding on narrow roads, to turn off the high beam, etc. Always give priority to a vehicle that uses a pass light. Refrain from blindly trusting that the other vehicle will give way when you turn on the pass light.

7. Check all lights in your motorcycle

Always check the tail light, brake light, hazard light, and headlight for issues. These are equally important day and night. Also, watch out for vehicles without tail lights and headlights on the roads.

8. Maintain center position while cornering

While cornering, do not try to enter or maintain the left or right side of the corner. Instead, try to corner while keeping the middle position of the lane to avoid unexpected obstacles. Remember, bringing the right speed into the corner is the key to exiting it safely.

9. Be aware of parked vehicles

The main thing to be careful of with parked vehicles is that the door can be opened anytime, leading to an accident. So always remember this and maintain a certain distance from parked vehicles while driving.

For those travelling in cars or more oversized vehicles, always open the door with the opposite hand, and you will see what’s behind. You can also use rearview mirrors.

10. Lane splitting only at slow speeds

Lane splitting or filtering allows a rider to pass through two vehicles in between in bumper-to-bumper or slow-moving traffic. In India, lane splitting is permitted in defensive driving under 3 conditions and are

  1. Only a 40km/h city speed limit or bumper-to-bumper traffic is allowed.
  2. Only to lane split 3 or 4-wheelers, not more oversized vehicles.
  3. Only a 15km/h speed difference between your vehicle and the vehicles in front.
mandatory traffic signs in India
Mandatory traffic signs in India

11. Know all traffic signs

Traffic or road signs are placed alongside roads to convey important information to drivers. Instead of words, pictorial symbols are used on these signs. Drivers must give their full attention and respect and respond appropriately to these signs, as they serve as traffic control devices. There are three main categories of traffic signs.

12. Shoulder check is essential

Performing a shoulder check, also known as a lifesaver, is an essential technique for motorcyclists. It provides a visual confirmation of your blind spot before making lane changes or merging into traffic.

While mirrors are helpful, they have limitations. Mirrors cannot fully capture your blind spot, which is the area surrounding and behind you. A shoulder check is necessary to eliminate this blind spot and prevent potential collisions with hidden vehicles.

13. Avoid tailgating in defensive driving

Maintain a safe following distance and leave ample space between you and the vehicle in front to react to unexpected situations, such as hard braking by vehicles in front.

Issues with tailgating as a defensive

  1. Less space to react to sudden stops or road hazards.
  2. Motorcycles can’t quickly swerve to avoid a collision caused by a tailgater.
  3. Motorcycles need more space to stop safely, especially on slippery roads. Tailgating eliminates this space.
  4. Motorcycles may need to adjust for wind or road imperfections. A tailgater does not allow for these adjustments.
  5. A tailgating car can block the view of a motorcycle from other drivers.

14. Keep the headlight always on

Using daytime running lights (DRLs) or keeping your headlight on during the day can make you more visible. New motorcycles launched in India from April 2017 onwards come with DRLs as standard.

A 2023 study by Monash University in Australia found that DRLs reduced the risk of accidents by nearly 9% overall. This effect was even more pronounced at dawn and dusk, reaching reductions of over 20%.

Defensive driving cautionary traffic signs in India
Cautionary traffic signs in India

15. Always scan the road

Establish a routine of constantly monitoring the road ahead and preparing for potential hazards like sudden stops, merging vehicles, or road debris.

16. Gear up for visibility & protection

Wearing a high-quality helmet is a legal requirement. It serves as your primary protection in the event of an accident. Enhance your visibility, particularly during nighttime, by donning a brightly coloured jacket, pants, and reflective accessories. Closed-toe boots provide added safety in case of a fall.

17. Adjust for conditions

Consider the impact of weather, road conditions, and traffic on your riding speed. Decrease your speed in rain, fog, on uneven surfaces, and during nighttime rides.

18. Avoid Aquaplaning/Hydroplaning

Aquaplaning, or hydroplaning is a situation in which a layer of water accumulates between the motorcycle tyre and the road surface. As a result, the tyre loses grip, making it challenging to maneuver the motorcycle effectively.

Here are some tips to help you avoid aquaplaning on your motorcycle:

Before you ride:

  1. Make sure your tyres are properly inflated and have sufficient tread depth. Worn tyres lose grip much easier, especially on wet roads.
  2. If heavy rain is forecast, consider delaying your ride or planning an alternate route with less chance of standing water.

While riding:

  1. Reduce your speed significantly when riding on wet roads.
  2. Be extra vigilant and scan the road ahead for puddles, especially in low-lying areas or near drains.
  3. If possible, safely maneuver around large puddles or areas with deep standing water.
  4. Avoid sudden braking, acceleration, or sharp turns. These maneuvers can upset the bike’s balance in wet conditions.
  5. Disengage cruise control if present when riding in the rain. You need complete control over your speed in case of sudden water encounters.
  6. Maintain a straight posture and avoid leaning the motorcycle too much during turns on wet roads.

19. Beware of animals in rural areas

Animals like cows, dogs, and goats are a common hazard, especially near rural areas or during dusk and dawn. Be extra cautious and slow down if you see animals near the roadside.

20. Assume invisibility

Ride with the mindset that other drivers might not see you. Be prepared to react accordingly, anticipating potential dangers and making yourself visible through proper positioning and headlight usage.

21. Avoid Riding Fatigued

Being Tyred can significantly affect your ability to make decisions and react quickly. To stay attentive and concentrated, remember to take breaks when going on long trips.

22. Practice peripheral vision

When riding a motorcycle, having tunnel vision refers to solely concentrating on a small section ahead of you, resembling a tunnel. This causes you to overlook potential hazards on the sides, such as merging vehicles or unexpected obstacles. Tunnel vision can occur due to stress or lack of experience, and it poses significant danger.

Defensive riders, on the other hand, train themselves to utilize their peripheral vision in order to perceive the enTyre surroundings and respond safely. Peripheral vision is crucial for defensive motorcycle riding because it lets you see potential hazards out of the corner of your eye, without needing to turn your head.

Peripheral vision allows you to:

  1. Spot moving vehicles entering your lane.
  2. See drivers turning signals before they activate.
  3. Detect road dangers like potholes or debris.

Overall, it increases your awareness and reaction time to threats on the road, keeping you safer.

  1. How-Tos: Master The Art Of Safe Motorcycle Riding In India
  2. The Dos And Don’ts Of Bike Modification & Traffic Rules In India
  3. The Ultimate Guide To Bike Number Plates In India – Everything You Need To Know

Conclusion

So, above is the list of all defensive riding & safe driving techniques & tips for motorcycles in India, and we are summarising defensive driving tips in a nutshell and are hoping that you now clearly understand the meaning of defensive riding.

  1. Maintain proper tyre pressure & tyre health
  2. Check brakes and brake pads
  3. Left side overtaking
  4. Signal precautions
  5. Do not drive in neutral gear
  6. Use high beam, low beam, and pass light
  7. Check all lights in your motorcycle
  8. Maintain centre position while cornering
  9. Be aware of parked vehicles
  10. Lane splitting only at slow speeds
  11. Know all traffic signs
  12. Shoulder check is essential
  13. Avoid tailgating
  14. Keep the headlight always on
  15. Always scan the road
  16. Gear up for visibility & protection
  17. Avoid Aquaplaning/Hydroplaning
  18. Adjust for conditions
  19. Beware of animals in rural areas
  20. Assume invisibility
  21. Avoid riding Fatigued
  22. Practice peripheral vision

If you have any other doubts or queries, email us at bikeleague2017@gmail.com. We are always eager to help and assist you. Also, here are several social media platforms of Bikeleague India to raise your suspicions.