Motorcycle accidents often result in tragic consequences, such as the death of the motorcyclist or the passengers or disabling injuries that change the life of the victims forever. There are many ways a motorcycle accident can happen. Understanding these accidents can help the public become more aware of the hazards motorcycle riders face each day.
Driver Negligence is Often to Blame When a Motorcyclist Suffers a Fatality or Injuries in an Accident
Contrary to the perception that motorcycle riders are the reason most accidents happen, the truth is that many motorcycle accidents occur because of the negligence of other drivers on the road. Motorcyclists rely on others to help keep them safe. A motorcycle rider can do everything right, such as wearing all the protective gear and operating their motorcycle responsibly, yet fall victim to the actions of a reckless and dangerous driver.
In one year across the U.S., over 5,000 motorcycle riders die in accidents. In contrast, more than 80,000 riders will suffer injuries of varying severity. Motorcycle accidents result in some of the costliest personal injuries to victims. The loss of capacity, pain, and suffering impact productivity, and permanent disabilities that result from motorcycle accident injuries cause hardships to the victims and their families, caregivers, and community.
Driving While Under the Influence
Anyone is at risk of harm when a drunk or otherwise incapacitated driver is on the roadways. However, motorcyclists are at the highest risk because of their quick speed, agile movements, and limited visibility. A driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs will struggle with their concentration, coordination, and field of vision, leading them to fail to see a rider traveling ahead of them or near them on the streets.
A sideswipe or rear-end collision by a distracted driver into another vehicle can cause property damage and often minimal injuries to other occupants. These same types of collisions with a motorcycle are likely to result in a fatality. If a driver fails to see a motorcyclist due to inattention, they can cause the rider to lose control of their bike or get thrown from their motorcycle into a vehicle or the pavement.
Speeding and violating traffic laws and signs is an imminent risk to all motorcycle riders, whether on highways, city, or rural streets. Even the most careful motorcyclists cannot anticipate and avoid every reckless act of a driver on the road. When drivers do not identify a rider in the vicinity or ahead in traffic when they run a light, stop sign or travel at excess speeds, they cannot easily change their course or avoid a collision before an impact with the motorcycle rider.
Aggressive drivers tend to make erratic and abrupt maneuvers to get to where they are going as quickly as possible. The sudden and unpredictable driving pattern is a risk to all motorists but a deadly hazard to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders must anticipate the movements of all of the vehicles around them to protect themselves. You cannot easily see what an aggressive driver will do until it is too late. Motorcyclists find themselves in danger of getting hit or losing control of their motorcycles.
Factors That Can Increase the Risk of an Accident to a Motorcyclist
Driver behavior is often the catalyst that sets off the events leading to a motorcycle collision. However, other contributing factors can exponentially increase the chances of an accident. Certain road conditions elevate the risk to motorcyclists because of their limitations in controlling their motorbikes and the difficulties for drivers to maintain control of their vehicles.
Wet roads are not just an obstacle for the motorcycle rider; they also create an imminent danger that they must get out of as soon as possible. When there are heavy downpours, a rider must worry that they are not visible to other drivers on the road, and they must also concern themselves with the slick roadways.
Hydroplaning of vehicles into motorcyclists can result in a collision as the motorcycle will not have a strong grip on the road and can also lose control when the roads are wet, and water is pooling. Unfortunately, weather can be unpredictable, and storms can creep up quickly when riders are already in transit. When other vehicle drivers fail to slow down and adapt to the change in weather conditions, riders can find themselves in the crosshairs as they attempt to flee to safety.
Debris on the Roads
Spilled substances, gravel, and other debris on the roads are obstacles that a vehicle can commonly pass over or maneuver around with little effort. However, a motorcycle rider is at risk of harm from these road obstacles if they are not apparent as they are traveling down a road. Oil spills, chemicals, or other debris falling from trucks or vehicles can cause a motorcycle to change course, lose control, or slide into the pavement in seconds.
In these accidents, a motorcycle rider is not only at risk of crashing into the pavement but also a secondary impact from vehicles that are following too closely or are not paying attention to the hazards.
A bump in the road may not be noticeable to most vehicle drivers. To a motorcycle rider, that same bump in the road can cause them to lose balance or for the motorcycle to lose its traction with the roadway. Roads in need of repair or roads under repair create serious dangers to motorcycle riders. A road work area can be dangerous for motorcyclists traveling nearby from cars veering into other lanes to avoid construction on uneven roads.
Why Are Motorcyclists at Higher Risk of Deadly Consequences?
Accidents between cars are much more common and frequent than motorcycle accidents. This is because cars outnumber motorcycles significantly in the U.S. Of all registered vehicles on the roadway, motorcycles account for only 3 percent. While motorcycles on the road are much fewer than vehicles, motorcycle accident victims account for nearly 14 percent of overall accident deaths and 4 percent of accident injuries due to traffic accidents.
There is no question that motorcycle riders face a high risk of death when an accident occurs. Although there may not be one clear-cut answer as to the reason behind the greater risk of fatality as a motorcyclist, several reasons increase the likelihood of catastrophic to fatal injuries when an accident happens.
Overall Lack of Motorcycle Awareness
Motorcycle accidents often happen because drivers are not aware they are there. Motorists are often on alert, looking for oncoming vehicles or other vehicles in their blind spots. Still, they may not always think of the possibility of a motorcyclist. Motorcycles do not move the same way vehicles do, and they are not as easy to spot. This reduced awareness of motorcycles can lead to accidents when a driver does not react appropriately to their presence on the road.
Absence of External Protections
A glaring difference between a passenger vehicle and a motorcycle is the lack of exterior protection, such as the frame of a vehicle, windows, and doors. When riders are on top of their motorcycle, they have limited protection that includes only what they choose to wear. While helmets, jackets, pants, and boots can protect the rider from severe injury in some circumstances, this safety equipment has limits in its capability, particularly in forceful accidents at higher speeds.
The motorcycle’s design makes it inherently dangerous as the rider and passengers are in danger of not only the direct impact of other vehicles but of weather, debris, and other elements that would otherwise be an afterthought if they were inside of an enclosed vehicle.
Size and Weight of Most Passenger Vehicles
Motorcycles are lightweight, agile, and small compared to standard vehicles on the road. The weight of a motorcycle ranges from under 400 pounds upwards to nearly 1,000 pounds. On the other hand, a passenger vehicle can weigh around 3500 pounds, with SUVs and pickups weighing near or above 5000 pounds. This disparity in size and weight can have catastrophic consequences to the motorcyclist when there is a collision between a vehicle and a motorcycle.
What Is the Most Dangerous Time of Day for Motorcycle Riders?
The time of day during which a motorcyclist travels on the roadways can influence the risk of an accident. Many might assume that overnight hours are the biggest danger to riders due to visibility issues in the dark and a higher prevalence of drunk drivers. While these are real risks to riders and accidents can happen at any time, the most dangerous time for motorcycle riders is mostly during earlier times in the day.
Breakdown of the percentage of motorcycle accidents by time of day:
- Midnight to 3 a.m.—8.5 percent
- 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. – 3.7 percent
- 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. – 5.8 percent
- 9 a.m. to noon – 7.9 percent
- Noon to 3 p.m. – 16.2 percent
- 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. – 20.4 percent
- 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. – 21.1 percent
- 9 p.m. to midnight – 15.6 percent
Where Do Motorcyclists Face the Greatest Threat of an Accident?
Each type of roadway presents different dangers and risks to riders that they must consider when choosing their route. However, there is one area where motorcyclists face the most danger of a collision with another vehicle. Intersections pose some of the highest risks to motorcycle riders, and they are part of every rider’s commute or travel.
Every time a motorcycle rider crosses an intersection, they risk injury or death from an accident with a negligent driver.
Scenarios that most commonly result in motorcycle accidents at intersections:
- Left-hand turns – Motorists making quick left turns across lanes of traffic are more likely to oncoming motorcyclists when they fail to see them down the road. Motorcyclists with the green light or right of way may not see the vehicle coming into their lane until it is too late.
- Speeding – When drivers travel at high speeds, it will take longer to react and act when an obstacle appears on the road. Speeding motorists who approach an intersection are more likely to run a red light, which is a great risk to other drivers and any motorcyclist crossing the intersection simultaneously.
- Stopped at a light – Motorcycle riders waiting at a red light or stop sign are at great risk of getting hit by an inattentive driver from behind. Since the motorcyclist is facing the opposite direction, they are unlikely to see the other vehicle barreling toward them. Even when the rider can identify the risk, they cannot easily get out of the way when they have no momentum and are at a complete stop.
What Should You Do if You Are a Victim in a Motorcycle Accident?
If you find yourself in a motorcycle accident, knowing what action you should take can help you remain safe at the scene while you await help and protect your rights against insurance companies and other parties.
- Move out of danger on the road towards a safe spot.
- Call EMS and the police.
- If you can, photograph or video the scene.
- Go to an ER for an evaluation.
- Follow the doctor’s medical advice and treatment.
- Contact a motorcycle accident injury attorney near you.