Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents and How They Can Be Avoided

The insurance industry has long advanced the argument that motorcyclists are responsible for most motorcycle accidents. They make that argument to poison the minds of potential jurors who decide motorcycle accident claims. The insurance industry bases that claim on statistics that include single-vehicle accidents where no collision occurs. There is no doubt that many single-vehicle accidents, particularly those involving inexperienced riders, are caused by motorcyclists who lose control of their bikes.

Some single-vehicle motorcycle accidents are nevertheless caused by the driver of another vehicle. When a car changes lanes without noticing a motorcycle that occupies the lane, and when the motorcyclist swerves into a ditch to avoid being sideswiped, the insurance industry records that accident as “single-vehicle” and assumes that the rider was at fault. When a motorcycle collision occurs, statistics establish that the driver of a car or truck is usually at fault. Here are some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents.

Motorcycle Accidents Caused by a Driver’s Left Turn
The first comprehensive study of motorcycle accidents was completed in 1981. The study concluded that most collisions between a car and a motorcycle are caused by the driver of the car. 

A driver’s left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle was the most common cause of car versus motorcycle collisions. While the insurance industry has complained that the study is dated, a more recent study of Florida accidents arrived at the same conclusion. Unless a car has a left turn arrow, drivers have a duty to yield to oncoming vehicles, including motorcycles. Whether a car is turning left at an intersection or turning into a driveway, drivers are negligent when they fail to wait for oncoming motorcycles to pass.

The Florida study found that drivers misjudge the speed of oncoming motorcycles or simply fail to notice them entirely. Drivers tend to overestimate the speed of large vehicles and to underestimate the speed of motorcycles. Since motorcycles are smaller than cars, they are also less visible. In addition, the Florida study demonstrated that drivers who do not have a motorcycle license are often oblivious to the presence of motorcycles.

The best way to avoid crashing into a car that makes an unexpected left turn is to anticipate the risk that cars might turn left at intersections. Particularly if a car is signaling a left turn, a motorcyclist should expect the car to turn even if the motorcycle has the right of way.

Increasing visibility is another way to avoid left turn accidents. Bright clothing and motorcycle flags can help make drivers aware that a motorcycle is approaching.

Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Inadequate Observation
Since drivers tend to be unaware of motorcycles, a driver’s failure to observe the road carefully can cause collisions even when the driver is not turning left. Negligent drivers who fail to notice motorcycles cause collisions when they exit from a driveway, turn right on red, or rear-end a motorcycle at a stoplight.

In addition, drivers have a duty to make sure a lane is vacant before they enter that lane. Unfortunately, drivers who change lanes do not always check their blind spot. That act of negligence can cause a sideswipe accident. Anticipating the potential accident and improving visibility are, again, the best ways to avoid accidents. Everyone should drive defensively, but riding defensively is particularly important for motorcyclists. Staying out of a driver’s blind spot is particularly important.

Other Causes of Motorcycle Accidents 
Drivers who make a wide turn at a high speed sometimes encroach on a lane of oncoming traffic. Some drivers pass cars without looking for oncoming motorcycles. Being aware that cars might enter a traffic lane and being prepared to move to the far right is a motorcyclist’s best protection against those accidents.

Unfortunately, drunk driving is still a leading cause of accidents. Avoiding a drunk driver is again a matter of defensive riding. Of course, not riding after drinking is a motorcyclist’s best protection of becoming a victim of the rider’s own negligence.

Motorcycle accidents are more likely than car accidents to cause serious or fatal injuries. Any time a motorcycle accident is caused by a negligent driver, the injury victim or surviving family members should seek legal advice to protect their to receive compensation. Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer to begin creating your case today.