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Why Do Motorcyclists Have a Higher Risk of Accidents?

What are Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?

When you’re riding or driving in a car, you’re protected by a seat belt, airbags, two tons of steel, and a guarantee that your vehicle is designed to absorb the force of a potential impact. Motorcyclists are at significant risk of injury after an accident compared to drivers because they have limited safety equipment and are left exposed to the natural elements. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 80 percent of all motorcycle accidents lead to severe injuries or fatalities. Only 20 percent of those accidents resulted in serious injury to car and truck drivers.

Despite these alarming statistics, motorcyclists can increase their safety by taking proper steps to reduce the risks of being involved in a collision, which could mean anything from practicing caution when lane splitting, refraining from speed, and anticipating road hazards. Many factors contribute to an increased risk of a motorcycle accident. For this reason, a motorcyclist must keep their eyes on the road and pay attention to their surroundings at all times.

To learn more about common factors that cause a motorcycle accident, our expert team of motorcycle accident attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers have created a list of examples that motorcyclists should look out for while out on the road.

Speeding, Lane splitting, and Other Common Factors

One of the leading and most widely underestimated causes of motorcycle accidents is curving roads and sharp turns. If a motorcyclist takes a curve too quickly on their bike, their center of gravity will be lost. Losing their balance and traction will cause them to spin out of control, especially on rainy days that create icy, slick roads. A majority of weather-related accidents take place during rainfall. About 70 percent of collisions are caused by wet pavement, 18 percent are from snow or sleet, and 16 percent occur on slushy pavement. Traditional vehicles are heavier than motorcycles, allowing them to make trickier turns without fearing that their car will spin around. Despite this, motorcyclists can minimize their risks by thoroughly understanding what factors are often at play in a motorcycle accident.

Speeding or alcohol use causes half of all accidents involving motorcycles. While these factors play a significant role in the statistics for traditional motor vehicles, motorcycles don’t provide ample protection, which results in more deaths. A motorcyclist or driver’s ability to operate their vehicle becomes impaired when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In 2017, the NHTSA studied cases of motorcyclists who suffered fatal injuries. The study found that 28 percent of them had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than the legal limit of 0.08 percent. About 49 percent of these deaths occurred during nighttime hours.

Lane splitting happens when a motorcycle wedges between two lanes that are stopped or slowed, usually by traffic jams. It is a common cause of motorcycle crashes for several reasons. The proximity of the cars to the motorcycle creates a significant hazard. The reduced nature of the space makes it difficult for the motorcyclist to maneuver properly. Additionally, cars don’t often anticipate that a motorcycle will pass them in traffic. It is often complex to assign fault in accidents that occur because of lane splitting especially because it is a legal maneuver in California. Views given by the police officer(s) and the judge will be taken into consideration when determining fault. The amount of negligence contributed by the driver and motorcyclist will also be considered.

Motorcycles Have Lower Stability

Traditional motor vehicles have four tires that provide stability and traction. Motorcycles have lower stability and lack the exterior protection that a car offers. For these reasons, it is essential to get to know your bike before speeding towards the fast lane. You must understand:

  • How to use your motorcycle, especially when it comes to knowing the appropriate amount of pressure you must apply to the front and rear brakes.
  • Your motorcycle’s center of gravity and how smooth your clutch and throttle are.
  • The traction on your tires and the hydraulic fluid, which can also help in an emergency.

High-performance motorcycles fall into two categories: supersport motorcycles and sport motorcycles. These motorcycles comprise only a small percentage of the overall number of motorcycles on the road, yet they account for a disproportionate number of accidents. Supersport motorcycles are created and modified to use on the highway. These motorcycles are built on racing platforms, extremely lightweight, and have high-horsepower engines. They can read at incredible speeds of up to 160 mph.

A contributing factor to the high accident rate tends to be the overall age of riders. Drivers of sport motorcycles vs supersport motorcycles tend to be between the ages of 18 and 34 years old. Younger motorcyclists are often less cautious and take more risks than older riders. Sport motorcycles are similar to supersport motorcycles, but have a lower power to rate ratio. Riders of supersport motorcycles are at four times the risk of riders who own conventional motorcycles like cruisers, standards, and touring bikes. Motorcyclists who own these types of traditional bikes are often 40 years old and above.

Motorcycle Accidents Due to Poor Maintenance

Certain motorcycles may contain dangerous maintenance woes. The following are some of the most common concerns that lead to a motorcycle accident:

Debris Accumulation: The accumulation of sand, dirt, or road debris on the interior of your motorcycle can cause corrosion of specific essential components, which can result in your bike breaking down on the road. Motorcycle maintenance regimens include expensive cleaning of these components that are exposed.

Inadequate Chain Lubrication: Preventing your bike’s chain from snapping or locking means ensuring that they’re lubricated continuously and free of debris. Chain failure due to poor maintenance can cause your engine to fail in the middle of a busy road.

Fuel System Failure: If fuel hoses aren’t regularly replaced or maintained, this could cause fuel to leak from the gas tank, thus resulting in a sudden and severe accident. This may occur due to the fact that fire often results from exposed fuel.

While not all maintenance failures are the rider’s fault, doing your best to maintain your bike can significantly reduce your risk of a maintenance-related accident.

Road Hazards Facing Motorcyclists

Due to a motorcycle’s small size and less stable nature, it is more likely to get damaged from road hazards. Road hazards include potholes, debris, dead animals, and slick pavement conditions. A motorcyclist is not given proper barriers to protect themself from serious injuries. For this reason, motorcyclists are expected to keep their eyes on the road to avoid possible chances of getting into an accident caused by a road hazard.

Negligent Drivers Pose as a Threat to Motorcyclists

It is always recommended for drivers and motorcyclists to follow the rules of the road in order to create a safe driving and riding environment. However, negligent drivers tend to go against the law, which can threaten the safety of a motorcyclist.

Some examples of negligent driving that violates the rights of a motorcyclist are: 

  • Tailgating a motorcycle rider too closely.
  • Incorrectly estimating a motorcycle’s speed.
  • Failing to concede the right-of-way.
  • Failing to check blind spots before switching lanes.

Lane sharing or lane splitting is legal in California but is considered incredibly dangerous and exposes motorcyclists to an increased risk of being involved in an accident. Beware of drivers who divert their attention from the road or are hostile about sharing the road with motorcyclists. To decrease the occurrence of low or high-impact collisions, drivers should operate their vehicles responsibly and remember that they are sharing the road with all different types of vehicle operators. If a driver fails to follow these simple rules, they risk causing potentially devastating collisions.

Contact West Coast Trial Today

If you or a loved one were involved in a motorcycle accident, our skilled motorcycle accident attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers will help you get the compensation you deserve for the losses you have suffered, which include medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We do not charge any fees until your case has been settled. Contact us today at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our knowledgeable, caring, and compassionate legal team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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