Guide to Preventing Motorcycle AccidentsPublished on October 16, 2023
If you’ve ever been on the back of a motorcycle, then you know the sense of freedom that comes with riding on the open road. As thrilling as this experience is, it doesn’t come without its own unique set of risks.
Motorcycles are used as a mode of transportation from people all around the world, but it’s no secret that motorcyclists are some of the most at-risk drivers for accidents that can lead to severe injury. At McIntyre Law, we’re dedicated to educating drivers to keep them as informed and safe as possible. This motorcycle guide will not only teach you of the risks involved with driving a motorcycle, but also how to prevent accidents to help keep you as well as other drivers safe on the road.
How common are motorcycle accidents?
There is no debating that motorcycles are an inherently dangerous means of transportation. With the rising popularity of these types of drivers, the number of fatalities among motorcycle riders is only getting higher.
According to a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists are four times more likely to be injured in an accident compared to four wheel drivers and 24 times more likely to die in one. Being aware of these statistics can help make you more vigilant and avoid accidents as a motorcycle driver.
Motorcycle accidents statistics
Motorcycles are among the most dangerous kinds of motor vehicles:
- There were 83,000 injuries in 2020 resulting from motorcycle accidents
- In 2021, 5,932 motorcyclist were killed
- Although motorcycles make up only 3% of all registered vehicles, they account for 14% of all traffic fatalities, 17% of occupant fatalities, and 3% of all occupant injuries according to a study from 2021
- Nonfatal injuries increased by 5% from 2020 to 2021
- 36% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2020 were riding without a valid license
- 41% of motorcyclists who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2020 were driving under the influence
What makes motorcycles more dangerous than cars?
Unlike other vehicle types, the unique riding position of motorcyclists keeps them fully exposed to dangers that are not common among drivers and occupants in other vehicles on the road. In addition to being exposed, these individuals remain on two wheels and are far less stable than drivers in other vehicles. For this reason, it is imperative for riders to be more aware of their surroundings in order to avoid potential injury.
Individuals who ride motorcycles are more likely to be injured on the road due to a variety of reasons:
- Less protection. When motorcyclists crash, drivers lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, and are more likely to be injured or killed. Even if you are wearing a helmet, driving a motorcycle is still inherently riskier than driving a car.
- Road hazards. Hazards like potholes, puddles, and debris make balancing on two wheels extremely difficult.
- Compact size. The smaller size of motorcycles in comparison to other vehicles makes them more likely to be missed by other drivers on the road.
- Unstable at high speeds. At high rates of speed, motorcycles become increasingly unstable. This can present unique challenges and dangers in itself.
- Difficult to make quick stops. Trying to stop while traveling at a high rate of speed can be nearly impossible on a motorcycle.
- Lack of knowledge or experience. Individuals who do not have mastery riding skills or familiarity with roadways are more likely to be injured or killed in collisions.
Common types of motorcycle accidents
Motorcycle accidents can happen for a variety of reasons. Each factor can present a unique set of skills needed to take preventive measures at reducing your risk of injury. Understanding the common types of accidents and what causes them can help you stay safer on the road as a motorcyclist.
- Head-on collisions. When a car strikes a motorcycle head-on, it can cause the motorcyclist to become airborne. These types of accidents account for the majority of fatal motorcycle accidents.
- Left-turn accidents. Left-turn accidents are a significant cause of motorcycle accidents and are often a result of lack of visibility of the motorcyclists by other drivers.
- Rear-end collisions. Rear-end collisions occur when a car collides with the back end of another vehicle.
- Sideswipe collisions. When the side of one vehicle makes contact with the side of another, this is called a sideswipe collision.
What are the most common causes of motorcycle crashes?
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to a motorcycle accident. The narrative has always been that the actions of motorcyclists themselves are the cause for the majority of accidents but this is far from the truth. A lot of accidents occur due to the negligent acts of drivers sharing the road.
There are certain actions that drivers make that place motorcyclists at an increased risk of being involved in an accident.
Speeding is a major contributing factor for motorcycle accidents. Motorcyclists who speed often have difficulties stopping for sudden obstacles or dangers in the roadway. Conversely, other drivers who are speeding may not be able to stop in time to avoid a collision.
2. Drunk or impaired driving
As is the case with car accidents, alcohol often plays a major role in motorcycle crashes. According to the NHTSA, motorcycle riders killed in traffic crashes at night were three times more likely to be alcohol-impaired than those killed during the day (40% and 12%, respectively).
3. Distracted driving
Drivers who are careless behind the wheel place motorcyclists at substantial risk of being injured. It is far too common for drivers to fail to pay attention to their surroundings and drive under distress. These negligent acts are known to cause sideswipe accidents, rear-end collisions, and T-bone collisions at intersections.
4. Rough or damaged road surfaces
Driving over rough or damaged surfaces, especially while traveling at a high rate of speed, is extremely dangerous for motorcyclists. Rocks, grass clipping, leaves, and other moveable objects on roadways can be fatal for motorcycle riders. Slippery surfaces can make it difficult for the tires of motorcycles to grip the roadways and present hazards of their own for those traveling over these surfaces.
5. Lane splitting
Riding a motorcycle between lanes to pass by traffic can seem like a good idea but lane splitting can put you at a higher risk of injury as a motorcyclist. In fact, lane splitting is illegal in most states due to the dangers that come with it. Not only does it frighten other drivers and create a reduced space for unexpected movement, lane splitting can also cause road rage from irritated drivers that see it as cutting in line.
6. Improper lane changes
Improper lane changes place drivers at risk of colliding with motorcyclists in parallel lanes. It is very common for motorcycles to be missed by drivers due to the small and compact size of their vehicles. Motorcycles are often caught in blind spots for drivers who change lanes without physically looking.
7. Inexperienced drivers
Just like driving a vehicle, inexperienced drivers that ride motorcycles can often contribute to accidents due to their lack of knowledge. Poor understanding of the traffic laws, risks, and basic operation of a motorcycle are all factors that can lead to a motorcycle collision. This is why it’s important to take a motorcycle safety course and ongoing education to stay up to date on the skills needed to safely drive a motorcycle.
8. Inclement weather
Weather conditions can often negatively affect drivers on the road and these conditions can be even more dangerous for motorcyclists. Rain can cause slippery surfaces making it harder to react and control your motorcycle. Wind can make it hard to have full control of your bike while fog can reduce your visibility and as a result impact your ability to drive safely. As a motorcyclist, it is important to always check the weather before taking your bike on the road.
9. Motorists opening doors after parking
There are many instances where drivers pull over to park alongside the road. While exiting their vehicles, drivers open their door rapidly into the roadway without looking. As a result, unexpecting motorcyclists can collide with the door and become injured from the impact.
Common motorcycle accident injuries
Unlike those occupying passenger cars and pickup trucks, motorcyclists are at an increased risk for sustaining injuries in collisions due to the exposed nature of their bodies. Even with the proper safety gear, motorcyclists can still be at substantial risk of being injured.
There are an array of injuries that motorcyclists involved in collisions are at an increased risk for. Some of the most common injuries these victims sustain are:
Motorcyclists involved in collisions are at an increased risk of being ejected. In these cases, riders are thrown off their bikes and slide along the roadway. Sliding along the rough surface of the road at a certain speed can cause road rash where exposed skin is torn off.
Head and neck injuries
It is extremely common for motorcyclists to sustain head injuries, especially in cases where they are riding without helmets. However, using a helmet does not completely eliminate the risk. Some common neck injuries from motorcycle accidents include dislocations, fractures, whiplash and damage to soft tissue.
The impact of a collision places motorcyclists at an increased risk of breaking bones. These breaks can range from simple fractures all the way to injuries as serious as severed limbs. Not to mention, recovering from broken bones is often a long and painful process.
Foot and leg injuries
A motorcyclist can sustain a variety of foot and leg injuries depending on the impact and intensity of the crash. There can be soft tissue damage, fractured bones, and ankle sprains. In more serious cases, a motorcycle accident can even result in an amputation.
Motorcyclists do not wear seatbelts while riding, which places them at very high risk of being ejected in an accident. In some cases, the ejection or the impact from the collision can cause spinal cord injuries that result in severe damage and paralysis.
The exposed nature of motorcyclists’ bodies leaves them at an increased risk for sustaining burn injuries. These injuries typically occur when the bike or another vehicle catches on fire and they are thrown into the area.
Abdominal and chest injuries
Abdominal and chest injuries are commonly seen in motorcycle accidents, especially from older riders. Some of these injuries include broken ribs, lung and heart lacerations, and other forms of vascular injuries that can cause lifelong side effects.
Victims involved in motorcycle accidents commonly sustain injuries to the face. These injuries come by way of foreign objects striking the face, the face being brushed along a roadway after ejection, or even having glass breaking into the face area.
Traumatic brain injuries
Motorcyclists who do not wear helmets are at an increased risk for sustaining traumatic brain injuries that are often life-threatening. TBIs can have a lifelong impact on a victim and can result in hearing or vision loss and even impaired motor skills.
Tips to avoid motorcycle accidents and improve driver safety
There are some factors on the road that are simply out of our control, but there are a few practices that motorcycle drivers can do to help prevent accidents and serious injury. By following these tips to improve driver safety, you can do your part to keep yourself and other drivers safe.
1. Wear a helmet and additional motorcycle safety gear
Motorcycle helmets are highly effective in protecting motorcycle riders’ heads in a collision. Research studies show that helmets reduce motorcycle fatalities by 22-42% and brain injuries by 41-69%. The NHTSA estimates that 40% of the 5,579 motorcyclists killed nationwide in 2020 were not wearing a helmet.
Motorcyclists are at high risk of injury in traffic accidents, particularly head and neck injuries. The most common injuries that can be prevented by wearing a helmet include traumatic brain injury, spinal injuries, facial injuries, and head trauma.
Motorcycle helmet laws by state
Helmet laws vary by state, but there are three main categories of helmet laws in the U.S..
- Universal helmet laws. Universal helmet laws require helmet use for anybody riding a motorcycle, regardless of age or if they are the operator or passenger. As of 2020, 19 states and the District of Columbia currently have universal helmet laws.
- Age requirements for helmet use. Over half of U.S. states require helmet use for persons under a certain age.
- No helmet laws. Currently, only three U.S. states have no helmet laws. Illinois requires riders to wear protective eye gear, such as glasses, goggles, or a transparent shield, but not a helmet. New Hampshire and Iowa currently have no helmet laws or other requirements.
Legal implications for not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle
Punishments for not wearing a helmet vary from state to state, but typically involve either a fine or imprisonment. In Oklahoma, the law requires only those motorcycle operators and passengers under the age of 18 to wear helmets. Operators of all ages must wear goggles or a face shield unless the bike is equipped with a windshield.
Even if you are an expert motorcyclist, that doesn’t mean you are protected from the mistakes of others. Not only does wearing a helmet greatly reduce the risk of a head injury, it also reduces the chance of motorcycle drivers being held liable for their injuries. Insurance companies and juries are notorious for blaming motorcyclists for an accident. If it is revealed that an injured motorcycle driver did not wear a helmet, they could be charged with carelessly operating a vehicle. This can seriously impact the settlement one could receive in order to pay for medical bills and other expenses incurred in a motorcycle accident.
2. Obey all traffic laws
Traffic laws are in place to keep you safe. Wearing a helmet can only help so much if you are speeding, splitting lanes, and driving under the influence. Aggressive driving and breaking traffic laws not only increases your risk of injury, but also endangers other drivers and passengers on the road.
By obeying the speed limit, signaling for lane changes, and driving in a sober state, you can minimize the risks of driving a motorcycle and avoid causing a motorcycle accident.
3. Pay special attention at intersections
Intersections prove to be especially hazardous for motorcycle drivers because a lot of the time other drivers can’t see them. This can cause low reaction times that lead to multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents.
When entering an intersection, always pay close attention to ongoing traffic and yield to other vehicles and pedestrians. To increase your visibility to other drivers, utilize reflective gear and material for your motorcycle. It is also important to keep your headlights on even during the day to make yourself extra visible on the road.
4. Avoid driving your motorcycle in bad weather
Driving during poor weather conditions can be challenging for even the most experienced motorcyclist. During heavy rain, snow, and fog, road conditions are extra slippery and vision can be easily impaired.
In some cases, adjusting your riding technique and driving slower isn’t enough to mitigate the chances of an accident when the weather is at its worst. The best course of action is to avoid the risk as a whole and only drive your motorcycle when the weather permits.
5. Limit driving at times when the roads are more dangerous for motorcycles
While motorcycle accidents can happen at any time of day, there are certain times where the risk of being involved in an accident increases dramatically. Being aware of the time you chose to ride can keep you safe and avoid potential injuries caused by a collision.
When do most motorcycle accidents happen?
According to statistics gathered by the NHTSA in 2020, roughly half of motorcycle accidents occur on weekends with 57% of crashes occurring during daylight. Of those motorcycle accidents resulting in fatalities, the majority of those accidents happened between 3pm and 6pm on weekdays and 6pm to 9pm on the weekends.
The reason this time period is the riskiest for motorcyclists is multi-faceted. Rush hour traffic typically hits between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., and more traffic means more risk. Night time hours are also more dangerous due to reduced visibility. Finally, weekends are when more motorcyclists are on the road, as well as when the likelihood of encountering an impaired driver is the highest. All of these factors make it more likely for a motorcyclist to be involved in an accident.
6. Take a motorcycle safety course
Riding on a motorcycle is a lot different than traveling by other means of transportation. For this reason, a lot of riders can benefit from taking a motorcycle training course.
Motorcycle safety classes are offered to teach riders necessary skills to safely ride and operate a motorcycle. Those who attend these courses will learn the basic rules of the road, become familiar with various state laws that govern motorcycle usage, and work on mastering skills for riding under the supervision of a licensed and experienced safety instructor.
No matter your skill level, those who utilize a motorcycle riding class can benefit greatly. Not only do these courses make you a better rider, but they also help you qualify for various discounts and services. Some insurance companies will even provide discounts on motorcyclists’ monthly premiums for attending courses.
What skills are taught in a motorcycle training course?
Individuals who attend these courses can learn new riding skills while improving their existing ones. A lot of courses focus on defensive driving to keep riders safe from careless and reckless drivers sharing the road. These courses teach riders what types of behaviors to look out for, signs of danger, and how to change lanes and maneuver along the roads safely.
Additionally, motorcycle riding classes teach proper maintenance techniques. Making sure the oil is good, the tire pressure is reliable, and the systems on the bike are all in good shape can have a big impact on the safety of a rider.
The roads continue to be an unpredictable place for motorcyclists and other drivers. As a result, accidents continue to happen. Learning different riding skills can help minimize the damages a motorcyclist sustains in the event of an accident.
For anyone injured in a motorcycle accident, it is crucial to contact a skilled motorcycle accident attorney to protect your legal rights.
7. Abide by state-specific motorcycle passenger restrictions
Knowing your state-specific laws in regards to motorcycle passenger restrictions is an important part of operating a motorcycle safely. Each state has its own standards from age, motorcycle type, seating positions and more. The best way to be sure of compliance is to look up the laws and requirements for your state.
Motorcycle passenger restrictions in Oklahoma
Before riding with a passenger on a motorcycle, it is imperative that you are familiar with laws surrounding this style of riding. For example, the state of Oklahoma has various restrictions in place to protect motorcyclists and their passengers. For a motorcycle operator to legally carry a passenger in Oklahoma, the following criteria must be met:
- The driver must be over the age of 16.
- Anyone under the age of 18-years is required to wear a helmet at all times during the ride.
- The motorcycle must have wheels with a diameter of 12-inches or greater.
- The motorcycle must be factory designed and equipped with a second seat that has a double footrest or the motorcycle must have a sidecar attached to it that can fully contain the body of a passenger.
Not only do these rules ensure you are able to maintain your bike appropriately, but they ensure riders are safe while on the road.
8. Ensure your passengers are prepared and knowledgeable
Even if you aren’t driving the motorcycle yourself, helmets, long pants, jackets, boots, and gloves should all be equipped prior to heading out on the road. It is crucial that your helmet fits properly as this piece of equipment can prevent severe brain injuries. With appropriate clothing, cyclists are adding a protective layer of clothing that can work wonders in collisions.
Another way you can avoid motorcycle passenger injuries is by speaking to the passenger ahead of time. Make sure they know accurate body positioning while riding and what to do to avoid interfering with the driver. Any movements and change in their position can have an impact on the driver’s ability to control the bike.
9. Perform routine maintenance and safety checks on your motorcycle
While it is important to learn the skills and rules to keep you safe on the road, none of this knowledge can combat a motorcycle that isn’t operating properly. Routine maintenance is a crucial part of safety when riding a motorcycle. If you’re a motorcyclists, you’ll want to add these to your safety checklist:
- Tire pressure
- Oil levels
- Brake functionality
- Headlights, blinkers, and horn
- Mechanical issues
- Stay up to date on recalls
The importance of contacting an attorney after a motorcycle accident
If you’re involved in a personal injury lawsuit over a motorcycle accident, there are several factors that can affect the value of your case. For example, the amount of compensation you receive will depend on whether you’re able to prove that the other party involved was directly responsible for your injuries.
The value of your case will also depend on the total amount of damages. While determining the cost of your medical bills or your loss of wages is relatively simple, other damages are harder to calculate. Costs like calculating future earning capacity is extremely difficult, and often requires hiring an expert to present to a jury.
For these reasons, it’s crucial to contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation to help alleviate some of the financial burdens incurred from your accident.