The Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

With the sun finally out after what felt like a lifetime of rain, you’re no doubt itching to jump on the back of your hog in search of some winding SoCal roads. We know we certainly are!

Howard Blau has been a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast. His keen knowledge of the dynamics of motorcycle operation and control, combined with his extensive litigation experience as a personal injury lawyer, provide him with a unique advantage — a track record of successfully representing clients injured in motorcycle accidents, thus obtaining the maximum possible recoveries.

It’s no secret that motorcycle accidents are more likely to end in injury or death. According to the IIHS, California saw 529 motorcyclists killed in 2017. The reduced stability of two wheels, smaller profile, and lack of external protection only compound the already inherent risks of the road. One of the ways to combat this is to ensure a layer of personal safety by always riding with a helmet and other protective gear. At even as little as 10 mph, human skin doesn’t stand a chance against pavement. It’s sandpaper no matter what. And while a fall is all but guaranteed, whether you’re a novice or an old hand on a Harley, a crash doesn’t have to be.

It’s safe to say that riding a motorcycle is as much a mental game as it is physical, necessitating a level of hyper-awareness far exceeding what’s needed while driving. This means it’s just as important to clad yourself in knowledge in addition to protective gear. Understanding what you’re up against on the road will keep you safe, and out of the sort of situations that lead to life-threatening accidents.

Here are 10 of the most common motorcycle accidents faced on our roads.

  1. Head-On Collisions. On the many lists of common causes of motorcycle accidents, this one is curiously absent from most — and that’s a huge problem. According to Nolo, 56% of motorcycle accidents are vs. a vehicle, and 78% of those are head-on collisions. It’s a terrifying truth, but this kind of accident is likely one that you will not go home from. Head-on collisions are nearly always fatal for a rider. Be vigilant.
  2. Left-Turn Incidents. As you cross into the intersection, a car starts to turn left in front of you. You are now in the most dangerous situation a motorcyclist can find themselves in; one comprising 42% of all motorcycle accidents. Left-turn accidents most often occur in one of three scenarios, with a driver hitting you while:  you’re going straight through an intersection, passing them, or trying to overtake them. Drivers won’t always see you, or might be poor at judging distance, so you should always have an exit route. Looking at a car’s wheels to see where they’re turning is an indicator the situation might be going south.
  3. Unsafe Lane Changes. Failing to signal, not checking your mirrors prior to changing lanes, or weaving in and out of traffic is not just bad riding behavior:  it’s against the law. On the highway especially, you cannot rely on other motorists to see you or keep your safety in mind. You must do that for yourself.
  4. Speeding. Going fast is fun. Much of the allure of motorcycles comes from the adrenaline rush you get while zipping down the highway, or taking a corner at speed. But speed also kills. Whether you’re in a car, or on a motorcycle, speed is the leading cause of accidents among all motorists. Slow down. Is getting to work two minutes earlier really worth an accident?
  5. Car Doors. It might be funny in movies, but in real life a sudden car door opening in front of you is a sure way to be thrown off your bike. Pancakes are delicious. Becoming one because you skirted around traffic and past a line of parked cars? Not the best way to start your morning.
  6. Sudden Stops. California law requires drivers to keep a four second following distance behind motorcyclists, but we riders quickly learn that that’s a pie in the sky ask. Few drivers actually conform to this rule, putting us at significant risk during sudden stops. In a situation where you’re forced to stop on a dime, awareness of who’s behind you (and what’s ahead) might mean the difference between limping away from your bike, getting rear-ended at a red light, or being hit because you locked your front brake and performed a flawless double front over the handlebars.
  7. Lane-Splitting. California is unique in that it’s the only state in the union with legalized lane-splitting for its motorcyclists. Given that motorcycle deaths have fallen here since the law was passed 2017, there’s a strong corollary benefit here. Even still, the act of lane-splitting is incredibly dangerous. When done improperly, you risk not only your life, but the lives of the drivers around you. Make sure to scan ahead to make sure you can navigate the situation safely.
  8. Dangerous Road Conditions. While we don’t have to deal with ice or snow around here (except for that one day back in February; that was weird), gravel, dirt, and even rain all present significant hazards to riders. In the first hours after a rain, oils that have seeped into the pavement are drawn upward, making highways extremely slick. If it just started to rain, take an hour or two and get a coffee. Your family will thank you for it when you make it home safely later.
  9. Inexperienced Riders. Whether you’re new to motorcycles, or your buddies are a bunch of idiots (it’s more common than you think), inexperienced riders present a unique hazard. No one wants to admit that their skills are shaky, but a green motorcyclist is more likely to wind up in a dangerous situation than their veteran counterparts. We were all there once. Know your limits and stay within them.
  10. Riding Under the Influence. Don’t. Just don’t. “But I hardly had a thimble’s worth,” you profess. Doesn’t matter. The answer is still no. Never. Nein. Nyet. Nunca. If you’re even the tiniest bit buzzed, you belong nowhere near a bike. Period.

Motorcycle crash liability claims are tricky. Though they might share elements with car collisions, they need to be handled differently. Howard Blau has been an avid motorcycle rider and enthusiast for the last 40 years. He began representing victims of motorcycle accidents more than 35 years ago after several riders he knew suffered injuries on their bikes. He quickly discovered that his own motorcycle experience was an asset and an advantage. With his insight, he was uniquely positioned to provide expert legal representation to those involved in motorcycle accidents.

Today, our motorcycle accident clients fully appreciate our ability and desire to be on the same page with them. We understand how accidents occur, and the degree and severity of injury suffered by our clients. We take all steps necessary to secure top quality medical care for our clients.

If you’re a rider who’s been seriously injured in an accident, let Howard Blau’s unique insight and motorcycle awareness be your asset, too.

Have a serious injury and need legal advice?
Contact Howard Blau.

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Check Out These References for Further Reading:

“Motorcycle Safety is a Two-way Street.” National Safety Council. Retrieved 9 April 2019.

“Motorcycle Accidents: Common Causes.” NOLO. Retrieved 9 April 2019.

“10 Common Motorcycle Crashes and How To Avoid Them.” Ride Apart. Retrieved 9 April 2019.

“Motorcycle Safety.” NHTSA. Retrieved 9 April 2019.