SUV vs Motorcycle on the Speed-Change Lane on Route 53 Over Palatine Road — Crash Course

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Each year in Illinois more than 150 people die in motorcycle crashes. There are fewer motorcycles registered in Illinois than there are passenger vehicles and they’re on the roads far less than cars. However, deaths from motorcycle and motorcycle/vehicle crashes make up approximately 15% of Illinois roadway fatalities. Motorcyclist safety is the responsibilities of the operators and all other drivers. YouTube Tips ⓘ

When a motorcycle operator and motorist in an SUV are headed for a collision course at an on-ramp at the top of an expressway interchange, odds are the motorcyclist will face the greatest risk of harm. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2016 data, motorcyclists compared to operators of a passenger vehicle (a “cage” to a motorcyclist), had a 28 times greater chance of being killed per vehicle mile traveled. For this reason motorcycle operators that want to live should be extra careful when they’re on streets, highways and expressways.

Start Seeing Motorcycles is a slogan of motorcycle safety advocates, but this slogan doesn’t apply to all motorcycle situations as the cause of crashes, and motorcyclists should never assume that drivers see them.

Last night, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, a motorcyclist traveling southbound on Route 53 was seen by a motorist, who was attempting to enter Route 53 from Palatine Road in an SUV, but it was the motorcyclist that was at fault for driving too fast and misjudging the approach of the SUV traveling up the on-ramp to enter the expressway. Motorists should strictly adhere to the Speed Limit on ramps of small interchanges like Route 53 and Palatine Road, as there have been plenty of rollover crashes at this interchange over the years. The Speed Limit sign at the beginning of the on-ramp from westbound Palatine Road to southbound Route 53 is 25 MPH with a warning indicating a tight circular curve.

When entering and exiting an expressway, motorists will usually discover there is a speed-change lane, but the speed-change lane on southbound Route 53 is very short because the distance on the bridge from the entrance ramp from westbound Palatine Road to the exit ramp to eastbound Palatine Road is tight (about 400 feet). At 55 MPH, a motorist exiting at southbound Route 53 will likely be in the speed-change lane at least 4.9 seconds depending on the deceleration rate (e.g., 4.9 seconds would involve a fast, late deceleration into the ramp). The speed-change lane on the bridge allows the motorist exiting the expressway to decelerate to the exit ramp speed. The speed-change lane also allows the motorist entering the expressway to accelerate to the speed necessary while merging; and with fast speeds and slow speeds, the time in the speed-change lane will be a little shorter or a little longer, respectively. If the motorist is over the Speed Limit, the time in the 400-foot speed-change lane will be even shorter than 4.9 seconds. But what happens if both the motorist that wants to enter Route 53, and the motorcyclist that wants to exit Route 53 are about to enter that same speed-change lane at the same time? You can also conclude that the time allowed to decide whether a collision might occur in the speed-change lane is also only a matter of seconds.

Stopping on a ramp is not recommended, but of course stopping is necessary on an entrance ramp if there is a traffic jam on the expressway, or if there are no traffic gaps available on the expressway. The SUV driver should stop on the ramp to yield to the motorcycle that is on the expressway if the motorcyclist’s motion is unpredictable and on a crash course. Keep in mind, that a motorcycle can accelerate and decelerate much more quickly than a passenger car or SUV. As a driver of a passenger car or an SUV, you might be concerned about getting up to expressway speed from a complete stop at the top of an entrance ramp. Many late model vehicles can reach 60 MPH in about 5.5 to 9 seconds. Even if a motorist stops at the top of the entrance ramp, the motorist can be at expressway speed (55 MPH) in about the same time (4.9 seconds or a little longer) compared to the time it takes other motorists passing in the express lanes to traverse the length of the speed-change lane (400 feet on the Route 53 bridge over Palatine Road).

Motorists on the expressway are supposed to leave a gap in traffic — and even move over to the lane to the left if possible — to let a vehicle operator on the on-ramp enter the expressway more safely in the right lane. The driver on the expressway should slow down to let the driver on the ramp merge, according to the Illinois Rules of the Road. However, the driver on the on-ramp is also advised to match traffic speed and merge with traffic when safe, according to the Illinois Rules of the Road. But what if the driver on the on-ramp can’t match traffic speed because it would mean a risk of colliding with the motorcycle traveling on the expressway? The driver on the on-ramp should yield the motorcycle by slowing down, or coming to a stop if it means yielding to avoid a crash.

In the incident Tuesday night, March 28, 2023, a motorcycle operator was decelerating rapidly while coming in to the speed-change lane on southbound Route 53 with the intention to exit from southbound Route 53 to the off-ramp to eastbound Palatine Road. The motorcyclist couldn’t lane change left of the speed-change lane because he intended to use the exit ramp from the speed-change lane (right lane).

The motorcyclist didn’t prepare for the SUV coming up the on-ramp because he was traveling too fast. He could have slowed down moderately much earlier as he saw the SUV coming up the on-ramp. If he sped up to get ahead of the SUV he may have lost control on the exit, or he may have been forced to skip the exit and use the next exit. Instead, the motorcyclist decelerated abruptly when it was too late. From the 25 MPH on-ramp, the driver of the SUV refused to accelerate rapidly to “thread the needle” in the speed-change land ahead of the decelerating motorcyclist — in order to avoid a collision with the motorcycle. The motorcyclist then became infuriated with the driver of the SUV for decelerating while trying to enter southbound Route 53 from westbound Palatine Road.


The three-sided (triangle) sign tells you to give the right of way to all vehicles and pedestrians before proceeding. Slow down to a safe speed and stop if necessary. When stopping, do so at a marked crosswalk or before entering the intersection. You also may see YIELD signs on expressway ramps. These signs may be posted when there is no extra lane where a driver may speed up to merge with expressway traffic. There is no regulatory sign associated with merging lanes, only advisory and warning signs. Late merge is not typically used due to operational concerns.

— Illinois Rules of the Road 2022


This (the merging) sign tells you that two lanes of traffic going the same direction will soon merge into one lane. Be ready to either change lanes or allow other traffic to merge into your lane. Merge signs may appear on expressways just before expressway ramps. The driver on the expressway should slow down to let the driver on the ramp merge.

— Illinois Rules of the Road 2022


Expressway Driving

Expressways, interstates, toll roads, turnpikes and freeways are fast, multiple-lane roads with maximum speed limits of 55, 65 or 70 mph. Be alert when driving on expressways because speed and traffic volume are major concerns. Following are tips for safe driving on expressways: When entering an expressway, you will usually find a speed-change lane. This lane allows you to gain the speed necessary before merging. Signal and look for an opening in the traffic, match traffic speed and merge with traffic when safe (only one tip excerpted).

— Illinois Rules of the Road 2022

So CARDINAL NEWS was operating the SUV entering Route 53 from westbound Palatine Road. Fortunately there was no crash, and there was no damage or injuries.

Remember, motorists entering the expressway are supposed to look for an opening (“gap”) in the expressway traffic, then match traffic speed and merge with traffic when safe. Well, last night it wasn’t safe to merge into traffic on southbound Route 53 because the motorcycle operator didn’t slow down in time to give space for on-ramp traffic to merge safely ahead of the motorcycle, and it wasn’t safe to merge behind the motorcycle because of the rapid and unpredictable deceleration by the motorcycle operator. The problem wasn’t so much that there wasn’t a gap available, because traffic was light. Instead, the problem was the way the motorcyclist decided to decelerate too late to avoid the collision course. Actually, it turned out the motorcyclist could have easily passed ahead of the merging SUV, but he was probably confused or afraid he would be going too fast for the exit. And again, he could have avoided all of this risk by slowing down moderately when he first saw the SUV coming up the ramp.

Since the motorcycle and SUV were on a collision course, the SUV driver double-checked the rearview mirror to make sure there were no vehicles behind on the on-ramp (there weren’t), and then slowed down on the ramp to nearly a complete stop. That’s when the motorcyclist started yelling and waving the driver of the SUV to go ahead. When the SUV driver didn’t budge, the motorcyclist became more infuriated.

The motorcycle operator was obviously going too fast on southbound Route 53 and was not paying attention to the timing of the approach of the SUV on the ramp. The motorcyclist’s solution? Get angry and blame the driver of the SUV for not merging ahead of him. He had started flailing his right arm while yelling some unintelligible words — apparently demanding the driver of the SUV to increase ramp speed above the speed limit on the curved ramp, and merge ahead of him. After he became more angry with more rapid flailing of his right arm, he continued yelling, and then proceeded south to his exit ramp.

While the motorcyclist was exiting the ramp, he kept yelling and flipped the bird with his left hand, and turned his left shoulder behind him while his right hand was on the handlebars, controlling his navigation of the curve on the off-ramp. Surprisingly, he didn’t lose control of his motorcycle on the off-ramp.

In summary, there were much greater risks to the motorcyclist if he had to stop on the expressway, compared to the SUV driver stopping on a 25 MPH on-ramp. The SUV driver was worried that if the SUV merge occurred ahead of the motorcyclist, the motorcycle operator would have had to come to a complete or near stop on the expressway — possibly causing him to lose control, or possibly causing someone to rear-end the motorcycle. That could cause the motorcycle and operator to get pushed forward, and perhaps the motorcyclist would be ejected and come crashing through the sunroof of the SUV, or the back window of the SUV. There was also the possibility that the operator of the motorcycle was on a suicide mission or was DUI drugs and/or alcohol. He wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Motorcycle crash investigation at an actual motorcycle crash scene in Buffalo Grove
Motorcycle crash investigation at an actual motorcycle crash scene in Buffalo Grove.

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