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10 Common Motorcycle Accidents & How to Avoid Them

August 7th, 2019

Motorcycle accidents are more likely than car accidents to include serious injury or death. A motorcyclist is 35 times more likely to die in a motorcycle accident versus a car accident. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, thousands of motorcycle deaths happen every year in the United States. When motorcycle accidents do not result in death, they can still cause catastrophic injuries including paralysis, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and quadriplegia. Because of the gravity and seriousness of these accidents, motorcyclists should learn the most common types of causes of motorcycle accidents, and how to prevent them or reduce the risk of having them. 

Safety First

Before learning about the most common types of motorcycle accidents and how to avoid them, you need to learn the best way to reduce your chances of any type of motorcycle crash or injury.  All motorcycle riders should become as educated as possible, and take at minimum a basic rider course either through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or alternative safety course.  

The second step to minimize the possibility of a motorcycle accident after taking a rider course is to ensure that you have appropriate safety gear. While safety gear will not prevent a motorcycle crash from happening, it can make you feel more comfortable, more in control, and help you be seen by other drivers, which is a leading cause of motorcycle accidents. 

Before venturing onto the roadways, make sure that you have provided yourself every opportunity to either prevent a motorcycle accident or keep yourself safe if you are involved in one. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that over 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in 2017. Learning about the most commonly seen motorcycle accidents can raise awareness and possibly prevent future accidents from occurring.  

  1. Car Changes Lanes into You:  A driver risks colliding with a motorcyclist when they inadvertently fail to check blind spots or fail to signal their lane changes. Motorcycles can easily be missed by motorists in blind spots. 

    How to Avoid:  Always ride defensively. Make sure that you know where a motorists’ blind spots are and try to spend as little time in those blind spots as possible. Even if you think a driver sees you, they may just be looking in your direction and not actually process that there is a motorcyclist there. Oftentimes, motorists have been psychologically programmed to search their field of vision for cars, and not motorcycles.  Unfortunately, it often rests to the motorcyclist to look at a car’s turn signals, wheels, driver’s mirrors, and even where the motorist is looking in order to better preemptively determine where they are headed.

  2. Car doors: Many motorcycle accidents occur when the driver of a car flings open their car door directly into the path of an oncoming motorcycle. Most commonly, there is a gap between a line of parked cars, and a line of active traffic that is at a standstill. When a motorist sees the gap between these rows and rides through, they can get hit by the sudden opening of a car door.

    How to Avoid:  Never, ever ride a motorcycle between an active lane of traffic and a lane of parked cars and you will likely never have this accident happen to you. There is a term among motorcyclists that this area is called “The Death Zone.” It is called that for good reason. Never attempt to ride through it, and if you do make that decision and see the car door open in front of you, at least brake as hard as possible to attempt to avoid or mitigate the damages of the crash.

  3. Speeding: Half of all motorcycle accidents involve speeding. This unsurprising statistic is shocking only because it is completely avoidable. Speeding reduces visibility and reaction times. The higher the speed, the greater the devastation from an impact, and the more severe are the consequences.

    How to Avoid:  Motorcycle riders have a duty to be proactive and vigilant on the roadways. Driving at safe speeds affords a motorcyclist the opportunity to have better judgment and more time to make potentially life-saving decisions. While motorcyclists should never speed, they should also drive defensively as many motorists will speed around them. The severity of an injury, or possibly death, occurs when motorists are speeding and not paying attention to their surroundings. It is imperative that a motorcyclist always is aware of not only their own speed but the speed of the cars around them.

  4. Driving Under the Influence: If half of all motorcycle accidents are due to speeding, almost the entire other half has been linked unfortunately to driving under the influence. This harrowing statistic was conFirmed in the 1981 Hurt Report, which was the largest study ever conducted on motorcycle accidents.  Riding a motorcycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is almost a guaranteed recipe for injury or death. Even if a motorcyclist refrains from driving under the influence, they can be severely injured from motorists who have made the choice to drink alcohol or do drugs and drive. Additionally, drivers and riders who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on the roadways may face both civil and criminal liability.

    How to Avoid:  Never ride your motorcycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Not only is it illegal, but you can also save your life and the lives of others. It only takes one time of impaired judgment to change lives forever. If you find yourself on the roadways and notice a driver behaving erratically, keep a considerable distance in order to prevent any sort of collision or accident.

  5. Lane splitting: A motorcycle driving between two lanes of traffic is called “lane splitting.”  Lane splitting is illegal in many states due to the tremendous damage, injury and death it can cause. When the proximity of cars to motorcycles is that close, and when the motorcyclist has reduced space to change course or direction, and when cars are not anticipating a motorcyclist to ride next to them so closely is a recipe for disaster.

    How to Avoid: This one is easy. You simply never drive between two lanes of traffic.  While everyone is in a rush to get somewhere, and you may have a unique advantage by having a smaller mode of transportation to navigate through vehicles, this decision is a poor one, that can easily turn deadly. Additionally, this practice is illegal in many states. Therefore, not only are you risking your life and the lives of others but even if you are successful, you could be given a traffic ticket for this behavior.

  6. Sudden stops: A car may rear-end you and hit you from behind. This can happen when a motorist is following too closely, or you stop your motorcycle too quickly. While rear-end accidents between vehicles are known as “fender-benders,” in the case of a motorist and a motorcycle it can be deadly.

    How to Avoid: You can use the other cars around you to protect and insulate you from a rear-end accident. Pull in front of a car gently (and wave nicely) or move between two lanes of cars so that you are protected from any rear-end crashes. If that is not possible, you can attempt to flash your brake light to give notice to the driver behind you that you are stopped. Trying to remove yourself from the situation, or at least alerting other drivers of your presence can help you avoid these rear-end accidents that can lead to serious injury or death.

  7. Inexperience, Lack of Attention, or Recklessness:  Inexperienced motorcycle riders without training are much more likely to be involved in accidents. Inattentive motorcyclists are also likely to make poor decisions on the roadways that can impact themselves and others. Finally, peer pressure from a group of motorcycle riders can lead to unsafe and risky behavior. We have all witnessed a group of motorcyclists pass by cars either too fast, on wheelies in traffic, or zig-zagging among the cars. These foolish acts can lead to permanent injuries and death.

    How to Avoid:  Gain experience through motorcycle riding lessons and always use an abundance of caution on the roads. If your group rides dangerously, then simply stop riding with them. Proper group riding etiquette includes knowing how to ride safely, in a staggered formation, under the speed limit. Pick your riding friends carefully, because to do otherwise can endanger both of your lives.

  8. Left Turn Accidents. A car turning left in front of you is one of the most common causes of a motorcycle accident. Drivers may be distracted, inattentive, misjudgments of distance, or simply fail to check their blind spots. Even if a motorist does check blind spots, they are looking for cars, not motorcycles, and can still cause an accident. These “right of way” mistakes are one of the leading causes of accidents between motorcycles and cars.

    How to Avoid: As always, assume that no motorist can see you and act accordingly.  Look for clues or signs that the driver may make a left turn (i.e. slowing down, using a turn signal, etc.). Always slow down and get ready to maneuver out of their way. Even someone turning left and not seeing you can take your life. Act accordingly. Additionally, you should always attempt to locate objects outside of your scope of vision. There may be a gap between cars, and another car could move into that gap. Try to determine if the driver can see you and more importantly, are they actually looking? Are they speeding?  Are they driving distracted? Worse, are they on their cell phone? Looking at their wheels, instead of the car as a whole, can give you the best indication of their movements. Never forget to also consider what is going on behind you and on your sides. Have an escape plan in case the car turns left into you, including taking note of the condition of the roadways, determining if there are larger cars behind you that will not stop if you do, or where you would move the motorcycle to be out of harm’s way.

  9. Dangerous road conditions: Hitting gravel or a foreign object in a blind corner can take a motorcycle down. Losing control of your motorcycle may have nothing to do with another driver, but rather the debris or potholes in the road. Motorcycle accidents that stem from dangerous road conditions happen all too frequently.

    How to Avoid: The simple answer is: just avoid it. While this is easier said than done, the truth is that if you ride your motorcycle at an appropriate speed where you have the ability to react and take evasive action in a safe way. Some ways to avoid accidents due to dangerous road conditions can include entering a corner wide in order to have a better vantage point of any possible dangerous road conditions. Always keeping a slower pace will also help afford you the time to make safe decisions. There are also several different types of techniques to skidding on gravel that can be learned in rider education courses.

  10. Motorcycle defects: The safety of your motorcycle is paramount to avoiding danger on the roadways. Manufacturers have a legal duty to inform you of any recalled or defective equipment. If your motorcycle has a defective or unsafe part, it can cause injury or death.

    How to Avoid It: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration monitors each safety recall to ensure the manufacturers provide motorcycle owners with effective remedies regarding their recalled motorcycle parts. All motorcycle manufacturers have an absolute duty to notify owners of any damaged, dangerous or defective parts.  Make sure you stay on the manufacturer’s list in order to be notified of any possible safety issue with any part of your motorcycle.

Safety Always

Safety is always the first and most important aspect of riding a motorcycle. Taking safety classes, wearing protective gear, and learning of the most common accidents and how to avoid them minimizes the possibility of your involvement in a motorcycle accident.  Before traveling the roadways make sure you protect and educate yourself and have a safe journey.  

If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence of another, do not face the insurance adjusters alone. Contact The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm today to schedule a complimentary consultation with our experienced team of personal injury attorneys.

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