May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which means that the U.S. Department of Transportation, the CHP and the California Office of Traffic Safety are all taking this month to spread awareness about sharing the road with motorcyclists.
According to the California DMV, motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers. That being said, riding a motorcycle is much more difficult and dangerous than driving a car. As you can see from this graphic, it is more likely for a motorcyclist to die in a collision than a driver behind the wheel of a car.
Luckily, most of these collisions have causes that can be predicted and prevented if we as drivers and motorcyclists take the time to become aware of them. Which is why I’ve listed the five main causes for motorcycle collisions:
1. A car changing lanes runs into a motorcyclist in their blind spot.
Know where the blind spots in a car lie and spend as little time in them as possible. Also, beware of situations where lane changes become more possible. For example, if highway traffic is slowing and one lane is moving faster than the other, people are going to want to be in that lane. You can reduce your chances of getting hit by staying out of anyone’s blind spots between those two lanes.
For more information on lane splitting, click here.
Since motorcycles are so much smaller than cars, they can very easily hide in your blind spot. If you plan to change lanes, make sure you put your turn signal on beforehand, turn to check your blind spot quickly, and then move slowly into the lane. Give anyone in your blind spot plenty of time to get out of the way.
2. A car hits a motorcyclist from behind.
The most common car accident is a “fender bender.” Unfortunately, a fender bender can kill a motorcyclist. You can reduce your chances of this type of collision by flashing your brake lights before slowing down to make the drivers behind you fully aware that you are slowing down.
Never tail-gate a motorcyclist (never tail-gate anyone, but especially not a motorcyclist). Instead, allow a 4 second following distance. You will need this space to avoid hitting the motorcyclist if he or she brakes suddenly or falls off the motorcycle.
3. A car making a left turn hits a motorcyclist going straight through an intersection.
As an attorney who represents motorcyclists, I’ve seen this type of accident multiple times. Especially in unprotected left turn lanes, which are so common here in Southern California, drivers often feel rushed to make a left turn in the narrow time gap between when oncoming traffic stops coming and the light turns red. It’s easy for drivers in that left turn lane to be so focused on scanning oncoming traffic for cars that they misjudge a motorcyclist’s speed or just don’t see them coming.
You can avoid this type of accident by slowing down before a yellow light instead of speeding up. You’ll also want to flash your brake lights and come to a gradual stop as described in the tip above.
Make sure you are taking that extra moment before you turn left to check for motorcyclists after oncoming traffic slows. Always remember that making the light is not more important than avoiding an accident.
4. A parked car door opens.
Cyclists often call the lane between a line of parked cars and traffic “The Death Zone.” They call it that for good reason.
Even if the biggest gap of traffic is between a line of parked cars and a stationary line of active traffic, don’t ride in that gap. Even if a car door doesn’t swing open, a pedestrian can step into your way and cars can pull out without looking. It’s the worst place for you to speed around traffic.
Always look carefully for motorcyclists before opening car doors or pulling out into traffic.
5. Impaired riding/driving.
Motorcyclists and Drivers:
According to the NHTSA, 43% of motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2014 were alcohol-impaired. Alcohol and drugs, including some prescribed medications, impair your judgement, coordination, balance, throttle control, and ability to shift gears. They also impair your alertness. And at this point in the post, it should be clear: even when you’re fully alert, riding motorcycles and sharing the road with motorcyclists is not an easy task.
Don’t increase your odds of getting into a fatal crash by riding or driving drunk.
Motorcyclists are sometimes hard to see and are more vulnerable to collisions than other drivers. Be alert, share the road, and look twice for riders.
CHP Commisioner Joe Farrow
In general, many of these accidents are caused by the fact that motorcycles are smaller than most vehicles and therefore harder to see. A motorcycle’s outline (whether 2 or 3 wheels) is much smaller than even the smallest passenger vehicle’s outline. Plus, in the dark, most drivers are just used to seeing two headlights or two tail-lights.
All that being said, be aware of the potential accidents described above to reduce our odds of getting in an accident.
For more information on traffic collisions in Southern California, click here.
For the steps for what to do if you are in a car accident, click here.
Have a serious injury and need legal advice? Contact Howard Blau.
Please Be Sure to Read the Following References:
“California Driver Handbook – Sharing the Road.” Retrieved 26 April 2017 from https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/pubs/hdbk/shr_slow_veh
“Managing Blind Spots.” State Farm. 8 April 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2017 from http://teendriving.statefarm.com/road-to-safety/safe-driving/managing-blind-spots.
“Motorcycle Safety.” Governors Highway Safety Association. Retrieved 26 April 2017 from http://www.ghsa.org/issues/motorcycle-safety
“Motorcycles.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved 26 April 2017 from https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycles
“Roadway Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility.” California Highway Patrol. 25 April 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017 from https://www.chp.ca.gov/PressReleases/Pages/Roadway-Safety-is-Everyone’s-Responsibility.aspx.
“Share The Road.” United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved 28 April 2017 from https://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/get-materials/motorcycle-safety/share-road.
Siler, Wes. “10 Common Motorcycle Accidents and How To Avoid Them.” Ride Apart. 20 February 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017 from https://rideapart.com/articles/10-common-motorcycle-accidents-and-how-to-avoid-them