Motorcycle accidents are always serious. But when you look at the ones that cause the most deaths and severe injuries, you can usually narrow it down to a few common factors and causes. As a motorcyclist, being aware of what they are can help you avoid similar outcomes.
5 Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycles account for just three percent of registered vehicles on American roads. Yet motorcyclists make up 14 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States. In total, an average of 84,000 motorcyclists are injured in accidents each year.
On the surface, these shocking statistics make motorcycles sound like death traps. But if you dig in and look at how these accidents occur and which factors are involved, you’ll discover that there are a few common threads in most of them. The majority of serious motorcycle accidents can be tied back to common causes such as:
1. Poor Weather Conditions
Motorcycles are much more susceptible to bad weather conditions than motor vehicles (which are equipped with a variety of safety features that are able to neutralize the elements). Rain, sleet, ice, and snow can all make for hazardous driving conditions. Not only does it impact the motorcyclist, but it also limits other drivers’ abilities to slow down, brake, or see a motorcycle on the road. It basically compounds unsafe and negligent actions that can lead to devastating injuries (or worse).
Always check the weather before you ride so that you have an idea of what sort of weather conditions to expect. If inclement weather is approaching and you have the option to take a car or truck instead, this is your best choice. If you have no choice but to ride your bike, prepare with the proper safety equipment, drive slowly, and be extra cautious about using signal indicators.
2. Cars Making Left-Hand Turns
In nearly 40 percent of motorcycle accidents, another vehicle strikes the motorcycle when the motorcyclist is passing the vehicle, traveling straight through an intersection, or attempting to overtake a vehicle. Typically these accidents occur when the driver of the other vehicle isn’t looking for a small bike.
One of the biggest risk factors is a car making a left-hand turn at an intersection. When going through an intersection, never assume that turning vehicles see you. Always keep your eyes on their tires for any movement or indication that they’re about to turn (so that you can brake or swerve out of the way in a semi-controlled manner).
3. Motorcycle Lane Splitting
Lane splitting is a common practice where motorcyclists drive in between two lanes of slowly moving or stopped traffic (usually in a traffic jam or during rush hour). Other drivers don’t anticipate any vehicle being in this area and could cause an accident if they suddenly try to change lanes. Though it’s legal in some states, lane splitting is generally not recommended.
4. Distracted Drivers
Distracted driving is a huge problem on American roads. While drivers of motor vehicles should give their full, undivided attention to driving, many are multi-tasking by talking on the phone, texting, fidgeting with the radio dial, looking at GPS directions, eating, or interacting with people in the backseat. This often leads to serious and deadly accidents – particularly when motorcycles are involved.
5. Motorcyclist Riding Behaviors
Nearly half of all motorcycle accidents involve some sort of alcohol use and/or excessive speed. Sometimes it’s the motorcyclist and other times it’s the driver of the passenger vehicle. The problem is that alcohol and speed are more deadly for motorcycles. Crashes involving these two factors often lead to very serious outcomes.
Stay Safe on the Road
When it comes down to it, motorcyclists are more susceptible to serious injuries or death. In a collision or accident, the driver of the other motor vehicles involved is always going to be safer because of safety mechanisms like steel frames, airbags, and seatbelts. The individual on the motorcycle, however, is completely exposed to the elements. Other than a helmet and other basic safety gear – which absolutely saves lives – there isn’t much to help a rider. Accident prevention is the best method.
Whether you’re a motorcyclist, or you’re behind the wheel of a four-wheeled automobile, understanding the common causes of motorcycle accidents will lessen your chances of being involved in one. Motorcycles are inherently risky, but safe riding practices and smart road behaviors by everyone involved can significantly reduce the number of injuries and deaths. It’s up to each of us to do our own part!