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Common Signs and Signals of Motorcycle Riders

By Evan L. Kaine

The rules of the road are fairly easy to understand. Following traffic laws provides order and a sense of understanding between drivers. However, one means of transportation is often overlooked – the motorcycle. Many of us may be confused by the signals or particular movements motorcyclists perform on the road.

Motorcycle Hand Signals

To understand why motorcyclists “do” what they do – we thought that a list of common practices by motorcycle riders may help:

  1. Wave to each other when they pass
  • Riders are not necessarily waving like drivers do in their vehicles. Instead you may notice they point down with two fingers or wave downward. This is a simple sign of solidarity – a mutual respect they have for one another because they enjoy “riding.”
  1. Crack the throttle when they downshift
  • For many of us – we find the rev of a motorcycle engine annoying and disrespectful. However, often times the rev is due to riders shifting down to change gears. This is often referred to as “blipping the throttle” so they can rev-match the RPM of their engine to the higher RPM so the lower gear is engaged. By not doing this, the lower gear will cause the engine RPMs to surge upwards and the rider can be shoved forward. Riders do this so their ride is not only smoother, but safer.
  1. Have loud exhausts
  • As we discussed, the rev of a motorcycle engine can be aggravating but the loud exhaust a motorcycle should have is for safety purposes. The larger and louder an exhaust pipe is on a bike, the easier it is for cars to hear the motorcycle approaching. Since many drivers don’t see motorcycles, loud exhausts help notify other drivers they are near.
  1. Tap on the top of their helmets
  • This gesture can be beneficial to vehicle drivers! Why? Because if a rider taps the top of his helmet, he is notifying the other rider of law enforcement ahead. This has been a means of not only watching-out for fellow riders, but to also notify them to slow down and be careful.
  1. Lane switching
  • Many vehicle drivers don’t understand why motorcyclists go from the right to the left to the center lanes when riding. For motorcyclists, they use it as a means to improve their visibility around cars and the road ahead. They also change lanes to avoid road hazards, potholes or manhole covers.
  1. Take a foot off of the footpeg and wave it
  • This particular signal can take on different meanings. It can be a way that riders say thank you to a vehicle whhich allowed the rider to pass. Additionally, it is used to warn others that there is debris or dangerous conditions on the road. When they point their foot down, they are showing where that debris is located.

Just like drivers who use different signals, motorcyclists are trying to help other riders and drivers on the road. The roadways can be extremely dangerous, so knowing and understanding all of the rules can help us drive, and ride, safely.

Kaine Law is a personal injury law firm representing injured accident victims in Georgia.  With offices in Atlanta, Conyers, Lawrenceville and Stockbridge, Kaine Law’s personal injury attorneys specialize in representing injured motorcycle accident victims, injured car accident victims, injured dog bite victims and injured pedestrian accident victims.  Kaine Law represents their injured accident victim clients using a contingency fee agreement which provides that there are no legal fees unless we win.


Published February 19, 2019


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