Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents and Fatalities

fallen motorcycle in road

What is a major cause of death in motorcycle accidents?

This year has brought an increase in the number of motorcycle related deaths in Washington state. Some think this is related to the roadways being so open due to the Stay at Home mandate issued by Governor Inslee due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Motorcyclists are taking advantage of the spring and summer weather, along with the fact that there are fewer vehicles out on the road, which is a rider’s dream. Statistics show that a motorcyclist is 28 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash compared to those traveling in other types of vehicles.

Why are riders more likely to have a fatality in an accident?

The fact is that when you ride a motorcycle you have a much greater risk of suffering serious injury or death. Here are just a few reasons this is the case:

  • There is less ability to brake on a motorcycle. When brakes are applied on a car or other type of automobile, they are stronger and work to stop the vehicle much more safely and efficiently. Motorcycle brakes are different. If you apply to brakes while riding a motorcycle, there are times that it could cause the bike to spin and/or lose control.
  • There is less to protect a rider in an accident. In other vehicles, you have the ability to wear seatbelts and are protected by the cage that surrounds the vehicle. Motorcyclists do not have these safety features to help protect them in the event of an accident. So, it is likely that the rider will sustain more physical injuries from hitting the ground or other objects surrounding them.
  • There is less ability to control a motorcycle. Two-wheel motorcycles are not as easy to steer as 4-wheel vehicles. This means that if a motorcycle rider hits any sort of debris or bumps on the road that they are more likely to fall or crash.

What is the most common cause of motorcycle accidents?

Washington statistics show a shocking truth, 75% of fatal motorcycle accidents are due to rider error or negligence. If you ride a sport bike the number rises to 86%. Speed was the main factor in over 50% of all fatal crashes and 30% of serious injuries.

Here are some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents and fatalities:

  • Cars Making Left Hand turns and Failing to Yield. 42% of all accidents that involve a motorcycle happen when another vehicle makes a left-hand turn. The turning vehicle typically hits the motorcycle as it is traveling straight through an intersection, passing the vehicle, or trying to overtake the vehicle. Another common cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of OTHER drivers to see riders in their blind spots. Lane changes or turning while the motorcyclist is in a blind spot is a leading cause of deaths among riders.
  • Lane splitting. Does lane splitting cause more accidents? Because of the close proximity of vehicles to the motorcycle, lane splitting can increase the odds of causing an accident. Motorcycle riders are often found at fault for accidents that happen while lane splitting. Each state has its own laws around lane splitting. Washington state currently prohibits lane splitting. The minimum penalty for lane splitting in Washington state is a $136 fine.
  • Speeding and Reckless Driving. This is one we have seen a lot of this year. How does speed affect crashes? Speeding plays a big role in many of the motorcycle accident fatalities that are reported. Other types of reckless driving that contribute to deaths are weaving back and forth between lanes, tailgating, and refusing to yield the right-of-way.
  • Riding While Intoxicated. It seems like common sense, but there are still a lot of people who make a bad decision and decide to ride after having too much to drink. Drinking alcohol slows down reaction times and can cause people to get tired, which increase the odds of getting in an accident. Do you know what percentage of motorcycle accidents involve alcohol? A 2017 study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2017 33% of motorcyclists were killed in an alcohol-impaired crash. The study also shows that there were a total of 5,316 motorcycle drivers in fatal crashes with blood alcohol concentration levels.
  • Distracted Driving. It is believed that distracted driving plays a role in approximately 40% of motorcycle accidents. If you are out on the road and need to send a text, pull over to the side of the road so that you can avoid a fatal crash.
  • Age. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) came out with a study that showed that around 54% of motorcyclists killed in accidents in 2015 were 40 years of age or older. While a higher percentage of all motorcycle riders are older, it is still important to pay attention to the fact that reaction times decrease as we get older.
  • Bad Road Conditions. Since it is harder to maneuver a two wheeler, dangerous road conditions are more likely to contribute to a fatal accident. Things like bad weather, potholes, bumpy roads and debris increase the likely hood of losing control of your bike.
  • Not Enough Protective Gear. It may not always save you in the event of an accident, but any kind of protective gear (helmets, chest protection, clothing) will increase your chances of making it out alive.
  • Bike Defects. Sometimes motorcycle accidents are caused simply because the motorcycle has defective parts. If this happens, look into filing a product liability claim against the manufacturer for compensation.

What time of day do most motorcycle accidents occur?

We all know that motorcycle accidents can happen at any time of the day, however it has been shown that the risk is much higher during certain times of the day. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has collected data and put together statistics that show the majority of fatal motorcycle accidents happen on weekend nights between the hours of 3 PM and midnight. The risk of being in a fatal motorcycle accident doubles between the hours of 3 PM and 9PM. It is during this time of day that 42% of all motorcycle fatalities occur.

How can we avoid bike accidents?

  • Wear bright colors. This helps you to be seen by other drivers.
  • Stay alert. Be ready to avoid hazards out on the road and keep alert for distracted drivers.
  • Wear a helmet. You are twice as likely to suffer from a traumatic brain injury in an accident if you do NOT wear a helmet.
  • Safety gear. Full body coverage is best. Along with a wearing a helmet be sure to also wear, gloves, long pants, boots and eye protection.
  • Watch out at intersections. Drivers turning left at intersections is one of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents, so keep watch and be alert.
  • No speeding or drinking. Speed plays a role in more than a third of fatal crashes. 40 % of riders who die in a crash are alcohol related. Obey the rules of the road and stay sober wile riding.
  • Take a safety course. There are classes offered both online and in person for motorcycle riders. Be sure to take a safety course so you are prepared to handle yourself out on the road.
  • Do not ride in bad weather. Rain, wind, snow and other inclement weather increases your changes of getting in a crash. Avoid riding in these conditions if possible.

Those who are injured in a motorcycle accident that was caused due to the reckless actions of another party deserve to be compensated. At MaxPower Law, we are motorcycle enthusiasts who understand the challenges riders face staying safe out on the road. We are advocates who fight for the rights of those who are injured in an accident through no fault of their own. Contact us today for a free consultation at 425-970-9300.

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