Riding Tip: Manage Intersections Like A Boss

March 6, 2018 Tags: ,
Intersections can be unkind places for motorcyclists.  They are especially unforgiving for riders who aren’t vigilant or fail to have a strategy for managing intersections.

For the next few months, we will be releasing instruction videos to assist riders with managing intersections.  In particular, we’ll be looking at some key areas in the Phoenix Metro area that represent higher than average challenges for motorcyclists.  We’ll be using the latest comprehensive data from the City of Phoenix to help us understand risk in certain locations.

Phoenix Area Motorcycle Crashes at Intersections
A lot of the messages will be ones you’ve read from us in the past <CLICK HERE FOR TEAM ARIZONA RIDING TIPS ABOUT INTERSECTIONS>.  Frankly, a lot of the messages in the videos will be familiar.  You’ll hear us say, time and time again, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Some themes will become evident:

  • Adjust your position to increase your chance to see and be seen
  • Reduce speed as you approach
  • Cover your controls
  • Keep your head on a swivel
  • Gear up with bright protective gear to maximize visibility.

We also want to invite you in the comments below to share what works for YOU.  We want to know what difficulties you’re having, too, so we can address them in our videos.  Ultimately, we are doing these videos to help riders in Arizona reduce their probability of being in a crash.  If we can save one life, then our efforts will be well worth it.

If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to our YOUTUBE Channel.  We’ll be sharing our videos there, on our Facebook page, and in our Newsletter.


  For the Entire TEAM Arizona Newsletter Content, CLICK HERE

Bill Seltzer Yamaha FJ-09Bill Seltzer has been a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach since 2003 and a Total Control Advanced Riding Instructor since 2011.  He currently serves as the Marketing Director for TEAM Arizona and is a member of the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Planning committee.  Have questions or comments about the article?  Email him: Bill@MotorcycleTraining.com


  1. Tony 3 years Reply

    Looking at the info from above there is an area from 51av to 44st north from Glendale to deer valley. It’s more culstered around the I-17. Interesting demographic and an area to be aware of. To the south’s there’s only 5 areas and they are not near each other like the north side is.

    • You are absolutely right there is some interesting conclusions we can draw from the data. Our question: What exists in those areas that may contribute to higher rates of motorcycle traffic? Any thoughts?

  2. Carl 3 years Reply

    One of the things I remember from my Basic Rider Course was to, if possible, pass through intersections along with a larger vehicle (car, truck, etc) as they are more likely to be seen. It made perfect sense to me and so I always try to do that. I will safely position myself in some adjacent proximity to a larger, more visible, vehicle when approaching intersections. Thanks for all you guys do!

  3. Alan Graham 3 years Reply

    I knoI know the schools gonna hate me, …BUT MMI is in the NW end of town, and a lot of MC traffic on Deer Valley….possible correlation….any thoughts?w I know the schools gonna hate me, …BUT MMI is in the NW end of town, and a lot of MC traffic on Deer Valley….possible correlation….any thoughts?

    • Alan, you are not alone in making that assessment. It makes sense that higher crash totals would occur in areas with higher concentrations of motorcyclists. Also, those motorcyclists tend to be less experienced. Another valuable correlation that you make is that there is a lot of traffic in general in those areas, so it makes sense there are more opportunities for crashes in that area. We are waiting for traffic counts at these various intersections to see if that latter correlation is correct.

      Thanks for your input Alan!

  4. Charmaine Dubow 3 years Reply

    What does it mean to keep your head on a swivel?? I am constantly looking all around, especially at or near intersections. Never feel safe by cage drivers!!

    • Charmaine, you ask a great question. Keeping your head on swivel comes from the athletics world and also the military world. Imagine being a linebacker on a football team. You have eleven other guys trying to run over you and they are spread out on a wide and long field and can come at you from all directions. Therefore, you’d need to be scanning all around you to detect threats. Same goes for a fighter pilot. They are taught to scan all around them (keep their head on a swivel) to detect enemy threats.

      Essentially, it reads like you are doing just that by “constantly looking all around”. Kudos to you Charmaine!

  5. JP 3 years Reply

    If one can’t pass through an intersection with a car/truck, consider flashing your lo/hi beam a few times and/or shaking your bars a tiny bit to use your headlight to make your two-wheeled presence less ‘static’ to an oncoming left-turning vehicle. Often, it will ‘wake up’ a driver and prevent him from seeing right through you before he starts that turn…

    • JP you bring up a valuable point. Humans use there peripheral vision to detect motion and animation. By using your handlebars and lights in that fashion, you are helping other motorists see you by engaging their visual circuitry. Thanks for sharing those great points!

  6. Arnold 3 years Reply

    I have ridden those routes that run parallel to I17: 19th, 35th, 43rd and 67th Avenues. I use them to avoid the freeway.
    Union Hills, Deer Valley and Bell Rd are alternatives to Loop 101.

    • You bring up an interesting question. Are surface streets safer for motorcyclists than freeways. Also, are motorcyclists using the surface streets instead of the freeway due to stop-n-go situations during rush hour. That is one of the challenges with data…it tends to create more questions than answers!

  7. Trisha Tombstone 3 years Reply

    very useful data! Perhaps the northern area is conjested due to the high concentration of MMI students. I live in that area.

    • Interesting thought Trisha. You are not alone in suggesting that. It makes sense that a higher concentration of motorcyclist in an are brings about more opportunity for more motorcycle crashes. Thank you for sharing!

  8. I guess life is a game of percentages. For Rear End Collisions overall, they were 17.5 percent of total collisions. However, they were:

    38.5% of collisions at Bell + Cave Creek
    36.4 % of collisions at 43rd and McDowell
    50 % of collisions at 7th and Camelback

    For Left Turn Collisions overall, they were 31.2 Percent of total collisions. However, they were:

    46.2% of collisions at Cave Creek and Union Hills
    50 % of collisions at 6th and McDowell
    60% of collisions at 35th and Peoria
    62.5 % of collisions at 27th and Camelback
    62.5% of collisions at 43rd and Dunlap
    66% of collisions at 35th and Glendale

    All of the data presented would make me reconsider riding on 35th Avenue.

    Keep it Swiveling


    • Thanks for sharing your review of the data Bruce. Looking at rates of interaction is important, and yes, no matter what we do we have risk Bruce. The question becomes how do we reduce that risk. By understanding data, we can consciously make decisions to better manage risk. The elements we are missing are motorist density and vehicle-miles-traveled through those intersections. Tough for us to make any claims at this point, which is why our upcoming videos will discuss general strategies for intersection management.

  9. Robert 3 years Reply

    What freaks me is approaching a light that turns yellow and has a car wanting to turn left and I’m too close to the intersection to stop safely. Not sure if the car is gonna take the turn or wait for me to cross.

    • You’re right to be freaked out while passing through intersections. You may hear some coaches in our courses make a general statement. When possible, try not to be the first vehicle or the last vehicle through an intersection. We find that some intersections have count down meters at the sidewalk which can be helpful for us to adjust our approach of any intersection. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with yellow lights and cars wanting to turn?

  10. Larry Wisniewski 3 years Reply

    For me the most effective tips would be to:
    1. Reduce speed on approach
    2. Keep your head on a swivel,
    I like to make a quick right left glance for red light runners, then a look at vehicles turning left, I will sometimes lightly tap my horn or flash my hi-low beam just prior to entering the intersection but the key it to control my speed.
    Quick note about flashing hi-low beams,
    Once while riding on a city street just up a head of me I saw a guy waiting to make a left turn, he started inching out so I quickly flashed my hi-low beam to get his attention.
    He mistook the meaning of my signal and though I was giving him to go ahead so he waved as if too say thank you and pulled out in front of me very quickly. I actually had to swerve to miss him.
    Since then I have attached a high intensity light to my handlebar originally designed for night time mountain bike riding. I mounted it to the left handle bar just behind the clutch and aimed it to the right so drivers making a left will see it.
    It is a 4000 Lumina light which during the day it not that bright but bright enough to stand out.

    • Thanks, Larry, for offering your insight. It is enlightening! 🙂

    • JP 2 years Reply

      Good call on the meaning of flashing hi/lo beams at a car. I didn’t elaborate on it because I’ve never had it happen to me, though I am indeed aware that it could instead be interpreted as ‘you’re fine’ or ‘go ahead’ to another driver. With my hi/lo beam flashing, I mostly rely on the oncoming driver understanding the context inherent in the situation, but I also do my hi/lo flash in a manner which would leave me enough time to slow sufficiently or to evade if the driver misinterpets my action. I’ve kept dozens of cars from turning in front of me by using this method, so I haven’t abandoned it even if it comes with the possibility of misinterpretation.
      As always, one’s mileage may vary ✌?️

  11. Rick Baena 2 years Reply

    I always manually modulate my beam/high beam RAPIDLY upon approaching and through the intersection while doing all the other things listed. Been doing it for 25 years with success. Newer than 2014 HDs make it easy as the switch is spring loaded! Since most H-D Touring also have passing lamps that will go on and off also, it’s quite a visible light show to half asleep cagers!

    • Thanks for your comment. Getting people’s attention is important and flashing lights do a decent job. We just might mention something about that in the next video Rick. 🙂