Bicycles and motorcycles join cars and trucks on the road with no surrounding structure to protect their operators from injury. Therefore, it’s not surprising that cyclists are far more likely to suffer critical and fatal injuries on the road than passengers in vehicles. In fact, on average, motorcyclists are over 5 times more likely to be seriously injured, and 27 times more likely to die, than passenger car occupants per vehicle mile traveled.
These are alarming statistics, but forewarned is forearmed. If you’re a motorcycle enthusiast, or a conscientious car driver, being aware of the ten most common causes of motorcycle accidents may help you avoid serious consequences:
1. Dooring. Many motorcycle accidents happen when a car or truck driver opens the door of their parked vehicle into the path of an oncoming motorcycle. Car drivers can avoid “dooring” oncoming motorcyclists by using the “Dutch reach”, a maneuver created and used widely in Amsterdam where there are more cyclists on the road than vehicles. When you are about to exit your car, reach across your body for the door handle with your far or opposite hand. This action forces you to turn toward the side view mirror and to naturally look back over your shoulder to be sure a cyclist is not coming from behind.
2. Left turn accidents. One of the most common causes of injury or death to motorcycle riders include misjudgments of distance and right-of-way errors.
3. Dangerous conditions. For a motorcyclist, rain, snow and ice are not the only dangerous road conditions. Potholes, trash in the road, and crumbling surfaces create skidding, causing the motorcyclists to lose control. A lack of appropriately placed road signs and signals can also contribute to dangerous road conditions for the motorcyclist.
4. Unsafe lane changes. A driver’s failure to check blind spots before changing lanes is a contributing factor to motorcycle accidents. Always signal an impending lane change.
5. Speeding. Driving at excessive speed reduces your chance of seeing and reacting to other drivers in time to prevent an accident. The higher the speed, the greater the impact and the more severe the collision…and its consequences.
6. Lane splitting. Driving between two lanes of traffic is called “lane splitting.” Sometimes called “whitelining” or “stripe riding”, motorcyclists do this to bypass traffic congestion and avoid having to stop and start. Although legal in Europe and Asia, California is the only US state that allows lane splitting.
7. Sudden stops. Following the vehicle in front of you at an adequate distance is Safe Driving 101. Especially when driving behind a motorcycle, avoid rear-end collisions caused by an abrupt stop. Motorcycles are able to stop and turn more quickly than larger vehicles and a driver following a motorcyclist needs time to react to their quick movements. Always allow plenty of following distance when behind a motorcycle.
8. Motorcycle defects. When a motorcycle accident resulting in death, injury, or disability can be attributed to defective or poorly designed parts, the manufacturer can be held liable.
9. Erratic or inexperienced drivers. Motorcyclists should pay close attention to drivers who appear to be making rookie mistakes, are drifting over lines, or appear distracted. Giving those drivers a wide berth can save your life.
10. Driving under the influence. Maryland law prohibits the driver of any motor vehicle, including motorcycles, from driving under the influence of alcohol. Don’t. Just don’t.
Arthur C. Crum, Jr. is a practicing motorcycle injury attorney, serving areas of Western and Central Maryland including Frederick, Hagerstown, Frostburg, and beyond. To discuss your case, call the law office of Arthur C. Crum, Jr., today. We offer free consultations and there are no legal fees or costs unless we recover for you.