What Do Motorcyclist Hand Gestures Mean?

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When you are on the road, you need to keep an eye out for many things. And unfortunately, all too many drivers fail to recognize motorcyclists as fellow motorists on the road, motorcycles being rather out of their wheelhouse.

Fort Lauderdale motorcycle accident lawyer Gabriel Levin of the Levin Firm says that “In one year alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  reported 5,172 motorcyclist fatalities nationwide, along with 89,000 individuals who were injured while riding their motorcycles.” It’s a terribly common motor vehicle accident and one that can lead to serious injuries.

Regular drivers and new motorcyclists can avoid accidents with motorcyclists by learning motorcyclist hand signals. Understanding them gives you a better chance of an overall positive interaction with motorcyclists on your daily commute.

Understanding motorcyclist hand gestures

Now, let’s get the joke out of the way right away: the middle finger is just an expression of dissatisfaction with you or someone else on the road, and you should not give it the time of day. Now that that is out of the way, let’s get on topic. Being that motorcyclists do not have quite as much visibility as other drivers, it is important for them to express as much visibility as they can without it proving a detriment to their own ability to drive, and safely. And in turn, people who drive regular vehicles, such as a car or a pickup, need to know what to look out for when they do see a motorcyclist using these hand gestures. Here are some examples of hand gestures that you may see used by a motorcyclist in your day-to-day life. Honestly, a lot of these signals are ones that people should know in general, as knowing would definitely benefit everyone.

The two basic ones to keep an eye for with hand gestures are for turning left and turning right. When the motorcyclist is sticking their left arm out with it bent at the elbow 90 degrees and with a closed fist, that means that they are about to turn right. On the other hand, if they intend to turn left, they will stick out their left arm all the way with their palm facing down. You should make sure to pay attention to the palm’s orientation, as if it is facing back, it means that they are about to stop, so be prepared to react to that. In the event that the motorcyclist has identified a hazard in the roadway, they will then extend their left arm, pointing their index finger towards the ground, and pointing their right foot towards the ground as well. Finally, the fifth turn signal is to indicate that their turn signal is on, which they accomplish by opening and closing their left hand. The left hand tends to be used for hand signals due both to how roads work in the United States with drivers typically driving on the right side of the road, as well as people’s dominant hand being their right hand.

Now, those are the hand signals for a solo motorcyclist, but it is important to remember how to read hand signals when you run into a group of motorcyclists. These hand signals are meant to give guidance to the other motorcyclists, so use this guide to help you understand how motorcyclists are going to act as a group before they act themselves. They have commands for both speeding up and slowing down. The command to speed up is conveyed using an extended left arm with a palm facing up, while doing an upward motion. Meanwhile, the command to slow down is conveyed the same, but with the palm facing and moving downward. When the leader of the motorcyclists wants them to follow, they will extend their left arm up, palm facing forward. Next up, we have single file and double up. When they want the rest to follow single file, they extend their left arm up and pointing their index finger up as well, while double file is the same except that they point up with their index and middle fingers. If they need to have someone else lead or for someone to approach, they will extend their arm up at a 45-degree angle while pointing with their index finger, waving back to front.

There are a number of gestures for pulling to the side as well. If they need them to pull off, they will extend their left arm while doing a vertical wave towards their body. For refueling, they extend their left arm while pointing to their tank. If they are pulling over for a comfort stop, they extend their left arm with a closed fist while doing short up-and-down motions. Finally, if they are pulling over to get some refreshments, they close their left fist and put their thumb to their mouth.

It is of the utmost importance that people know motorcycle hand gestures, regardless of whether they are a motorcyclist or a driver of any other kind of vehicle. All too many victims of motorcycle wrecks exist, and motorcyclists themselves are at an increased risk of damage, being that they have less protecting them from injury if they lose control of the vehicle or are impacted.