Spring is here, and sports cars and motorcycles are being taken out of storage and being put on the road. Every accident is unique, but as a class motorcycle accidents have features or considerations in common. Even if you do not drive a motorcycle, learning about some of the elements of motorcycle accidents may help you be more aware and avoid an accident with a motorcycle.
Motorcycles behave differently than cars. They are more maneuverable and they accelerate and decelerate much faster than their four-wheeled counterparts. Motorcycles typically have separate front and rear wheel braking systems as well. When presented with an emergency, braking very hard on the front brake may cause the wheel to lock and the bike to fall sideways. Over-braking the rear wheel will cause the motorcycle to skid and lose control but remain upright longer. In the latter scenario you may see a motorcycle ‘wobble,’ where the rear wheel moves side-to-side. You may also see a motorcycle wobble when traveling at a very high speed.
There are also physical differences between motorcycles and other vehicles that contribute to the severity of injuries following an accident. Obviously being launched from a vehicle and impacting the roadway or other objects with a plastic covering on your head provides less protection than remaining belted inside a vehicle and impacting airbags, so the injuries involved with motorcycle accidents are typically very serious. If you see a motorcycle on the road you should always take extra caution knowing that the consequences of an accident will be much more severe.
The physical differences between motorcycles and other vehicles increases the likelihood they will be involved in an accident. Motorcycles are smaller and less visible. The number one cause of accidents involving motorcycles is lack of awareness by other vehicles prior to impact. Motorcycle accidents occur frequently at intersections, most often where a motorcycle is proceeding straight through an intersection with the right-of-way and a vehicle turns left in front of it, either because the driver of the vehicle did not see the motorcycle or misjudged its distance and speed. Motorcycles also provide less stability and are more susceptible to poor road conditions than other vehicles.
Although not common practice, it is more common to see motorcycles being used off-road or while uninsured. Driving without insurance is a terrible idea – even if you are hit by a drunk driver who is 100% at fault you very likely cannot sue. You must have insurance even if you are driving a motorcycle off-road.
Another unique issue that may arise in motorcycle accidents involves the duty of a driver or owner to his or her passengers to provide adequate equipment. For example, an oversized helmet provided to a child may not meet the standard of care expected of a reasonable motorcyclist. The failure to wear a helmet or proper equipment does not negate the fact that another vehicle negligently caused the accident in the first place, even if the injuries would be greatly reduced or eliminated by the use of proper safety equipment. Damages in a lawsuit may be reduced, but likely no more than 25%.
Always be extra aware of our fellow commuters on motorcycles. Always check your blind spots and keep track of motorcycles on the road. Give them some extra space. If you ride a motorcycle, consider refreshing your safety training if it has been awhile and always ensure you and your passengers are wearing appropriate safety equipment and clothing. Stay safe and enjoy the road!