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Understanding Fatal Motorcycle Accidents: Types, Causes, and Safety Practices

Only a very small percentage of vehicles on the road are motorcycles, but motorcycle crashes make up a large percentage of fatal accidents. Motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than other types of vehicles. They offer your body little protection, and they are often overlooked by other drivers.

Although you cannot eliminate all dangers inherent in riding a motorcycle, you can reduce the risks with some simple safety practices.

Motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than other types of vehicles, but you can reduce the danger of riding a motorcycle with some simple safety practices.

Six Common Types of Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

Riding a motorcycle is always high risk. Other types of vehicles are carefully designed to absorb the impact of a collision, but a motorcycle can’t offer you that kind of protection. Additionally, certain risky behaviors, by both motorcyclists and other drivers, can greatly increase the chance of a fatal motorcycle crash.

1. Lane-Splitting Motorcycle Crashes

Lane-splitting is when a rider drives their motorbike between lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic. While lane-splitting is legal in California, you should always perform the maneuver slowly and carefully.

When a motorcyclist squeezes through traffic in this way, the chance of an accident increases. You could clip a side mirror or other part of a vehicle, causing you to lose control of the motorcycle. Additionally, if the traffic is moving, any vehicles changing lanes may not spot your motorcycle in time to avoid a collision.

In general, other drivers simply may not expect a vehicle to be moving through the tight spaces between the rows of cars, and by driving in an unexpected way you increase the chance of an accident.

Lane-splitting, or driving between lanes of traffic on a motorcycle, is legal in California, but if done recklessly it can be very dangerous.

2. Left-Hand Turn Motorcycle Accidents

In 2020, 42% of motorcycle crashes when a vehicle driving in the opposite direction of a motorcycle made a left-hand turn and struck the motorcycle. Often, another driver either misjudges the speed of the motorcycle or completely fails to see the motorcycle. As a motorcyclist, you should always be on the lookout for vehicles that may be preparing to make a left turn across traffic.

3. Intoxicated Driver Motorcycle Collisions

In 2021, 19% of motorcycle riders who were killed in a crash with another vehicle were alcohol-impaired. Of the riders killed in single-vehicle crashes, 42% were alcohol-impaired. Driving any kind of vehicle while intoxicated is extremely dangerous, but your risk of death is especially high on a motorcycle.

4. Head-On Motorcycle Accidents

Head-on collisions are largely fatal for the motorcycle rider. More than half of all motorcycle fatalities involve a head-on collision. Often these wrecks involve one or both vehicles driving at high speeds, making defensive driving and collision avoidance much more difficult. As a motorcyclist, you must be particularly careful and observant to avoid head-on collisions.

5. Corner-Turning Motorcycle Collisions

Turning a corner on a motorcycle can easily become dangerous. Even a small amount of gravel, sand, or water can cause the tires to lose traction and can cause you to crash. As a well-prepared rider, you should learn to look carefully for any road hazards near turns and take turns slowly and with control.

6. High-Speed Motorcycle Crashes

High speeds reduce your level of control over a motorcycle and the time you have to react to road hazards, leading to a significantly higher likelihood of a fatal motorbike crash. Motorcycles are particularly difficult to control at high speeds compared to other types of vehicles because of how lightweight they are.

Why Are Motorcycle Crashes Often Fatal?

In the United States, only 3% of the vehicle on the road are motorcycles, but 14% of the fatalities in traffic accidents are motorcyclists. California has the most motorcycle registrations of any state, and in 2020, there were nearly double the number of fatal motorbike accidents in California compared to any other state.

The fact is, motorcycles are significantly more dangerous than other vehicles. A motorcycle simply can’t offer the same kind of protection to the rider’s body that other vehicles provide to the occupants. They do not have an exterior frame or paneling, and they can’t absorb the impact in the same way. In addition, you are virtually guaranteed to be thrown from the motorcycle during an accident, sustaining additional injuries from impacting the roadway or other objects.

Five Important Safety Practices For Motorcyclists

While riding a motorcycle has its inherent dangers, as a responsible motorcyclist, you can take some simple precautions to lessen those dangers significantly.

1. Take a Safety Course

To ride a motorcycle in California, you’re required to take a training course for a motorcycle license. However, a safety-conscious driver will do more than the bare minimum required. There are advanced safety courses available, and the techniques taught could save a rider’s life in the event of a crash. This includes braking, advanced turning, and collision avoidance techniques.

2. Check the Weather

Harsh weather conditions make driving a motorcycle significantly more dangerous. When the road is wet or icy, a motorcycle’s tires lose traction very easily. Simply braking or turning can become difficult and dangerous maneuvers. You should avoid riding in any questionable weather conditions.

3. Wear Appropriate Gear and Clothing

Motorcycle gear protects you against road rash, debris, and head injuries. This type of gear includes a specialty jacket, pants or chaps, non-slip gloves, boots, and most importantly, a helmet.

A large percentage of deaths and major injuries from motorcycle crashes are related to head injuries. It is believed that helmet use prevents at least 37% of motorcycle crashes from being fatal. Helmet use is extremely important in ensuring that an accident is not fatal.

4. Observe Traffic Rules

In 2020, 34% of fatal motorcycle crashes were caused (at least in part) by the rider speeding. Simply slowing down, using turn signals, and following traffic rules could easily mean the difference between life and death.

5. Drive Defensively

It is far too easy for other drivers on the road to fail to spot you and your bike. As a motorcyclist, you must always be observant and drive a safe distance from other vehicles, to make sure you can react when other drivers are erratic or simply fail to see your motorcycle.

In addition, motorcycle accidents are most likely to occur on weekends. You should never let your guard down just because you aren’t in rush hour traffic.

Ride Responsibly to Reduce Your Chance of a Fatal Motorcycle Crash

It’s not possible to completely guarantee your safety while riding a motorcycle. Even if you do everything you can, other drivers and road conditions can create hazards that are impossible to avoid. But by taking some simple precautions, you can reduce the chances of an accident and increase the likelihood of your survival in the case of a crash. For every other situation, Adamson Ahdoot can help.

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a motorcycle accident, the accident attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot LLP may be able to help. Contact us online or call (800) 310-1606 today!

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