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The Top 10 Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

When other vehicles collide with a motorcyclist, it is usually the other (non-motorcycle) driver who violates the motorcyclist’s right of way - according to the NHTSA. Thus, it is important to be informed of how most crashes occur to avoid being another statistic. Within this article, we outline the top ten causes of a motorcycle crash so you can do your best to avoid them:

Within this article, we outline the top ten causes of a motorcycle crash so you can do your best to avoid them:


1. Drivers Fail To See Motorcycles:

How many times have we heard a car make a left hand turn in front of a biker, violating the biker’s right of way – causing life-threatening injuries? Often, the bad driver tells the police: “I never saw the motorcycle!” or “The motorcycle was traveling too fast!”

Bikes are much smaller, and therefore harder to see and notice than cars. Drivers simply aren’t trained to look for motorcyclists in the same way they are trained to check for other drivers. Many drivers do not pay enough attention and they are terrible at judging speed. They do not anticipate a motorcycle’s movements, sometimes their view is obstructed; and frequently, they are distracted.

Psychologists cite the concept of “inattentional blindness” causing a large part in motorcycle crashes – defined as failing to see an object in real life.

Second, studies show driving a car is a “demanding task” citing drivers miss certain aspects of their surroundings and watching out for motorcycles is not included in their thoughts. Studies also show drivers rarely even think about motorcycles. See the studies documented on the National Safety Council's site, as well as this article from Psychological Science.

2. Cars making left turns at intersections:

Intersections are probably the single most dangerous situations for bikers – in 2016, 41% of crashes involving a motorcycle and different type of vehicle occurred as the other vehicle was turning left, while the motorcycles were either going straight, passing, or overtaking the other vehicle.

This type of crash happens commonly between two-car crashes as well, but tend to be much more fatal for bikers, since they are much smaller, more maneuverable, and more difficult to see.

When approaching intersections, you truly must watch your speed and be on high alert about other cars, whether they are turning left in front of you or simply pulling out and violating your right of way. When approaching an intersection, slow down, cover the brake and be on high alert.


3. Distracted Drivers:

Distracted driving is a frequent cause of motorcycle crashes. Drivers have their head down looking at their phones, engaged in navigation, text messaging, using music applications or sometimes they even use Facetime as they drive down the road. Other examples of distracted driving involve activities such as grooming, reaching for items, drinking and eating – and the list goes on. See the CDC's research on distracted driving.

4. Unsafe Lane Changes:

Vehicles sometimes unexpectedly change lanes. Their failure to signal their planned lane change, or to find you in their blind spot, could lead to a nasty accident. Take the initiative to stay out of the blind spots of vehicles around you, whether that means speeding up or slowing down in order to avoid it. Watch for signals that drivers around you might be preparing for a lane change - hopefully, they’ll use their blinkers, but if not, watch for the car’s wheels to turn, or the driver to swivel their head (a strong sign they are trying to cover their blind spots before making their move). Most importantly, always give yourself a safety cushion and don’t make the mistake of riding in someone’s blind spot.

5. Inexperience:

Before saddling up, make sure you have taken the MSF Safety Course, passed their testing and obtained your motorcycle endorsement. Clearly, every biker should take a motorcycle safety course – The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers classes nationwide at every skill level. This may seem even more obvious, but you also shouldn’t get on a bike without a license. In 2016, 27% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were riding without a valid motorcycle license.

The MSF Safety class has a great reputation, with great instruction both inside the classroom and outside with practice skills and cones in a closed parking lot. Their trained instructors have the checklists to make you a safe rider – to help you practice with maneuvers to making sure you do not follow another vehicle too closely, also to help you practice emergency swerve(s), engine braking (not panic braking), and other safety tips – to avoid a crash.

6. Speeding:

How many times have we seen motorcyclist(s) speeding or weaving through traffic? Speeding is a major contributing factor in many accidents. In 2016, 33% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to just 19% for passenger car drivers, according to the NHTSA Crash Stats report. Unlawful speeding occurs both day and night, in all types of weather conditions. In all conditions, you must obey the speed limits; you must have proper lighting; and if traffic conditions are moderate to severe, you need to slow down to offer yourself a safe “cushion” to take evasive maneuvers should a motorist make an improper lane change, or should a motorist in front of you make an unexpected sudden stop.

Speed is especially a factor in curves; and often, a new or unexperienced rider takes a turn too fast. Inexperienced bikers often try to keep up with their friends, or they have the “ego” factor or they are simply trying to prove to others how good they are – and fail in the process. For an instructional video on “Why Do So Many Riders CRASH In Corners” and for good riding tips to avoid such a crash, check out this YouTube video.

Enjoy your bike, follow the law, and be smart. For those who ride sport bikes, if you are craving some serious speed, find local speed parks to race your heart out on a closed course.

7. Lane Splitting:

Lane splitting (when a motorcycle drives between the lanes of two cars) is illegal in the state of Florida. If you are involved in an accident while lane splitting, there is a very good chance you will be involved in a crash and found at fault. Cars just don’t expect any motor vehicle to pass between their lane and the lane next to them, and they never will. You’ll also have much less space to maneuver your bike.

We see sport bikes do this all the time; and for those on a larger cruiser type motorcycle, lane splitting is even more dangerous: your bike is bigger, you simply do not have the room and the chances of a crash increase. For more info on this subject, check out this instructional YouTube video.

8. Driving Under The Influence:

Operating any motor vehicle requires your senses to be sharp – even more so on a motorcycle. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 26% of fatally injured motorcycle drivers in 2018 had a BAC at or above the legal limit. In single-bike accidents, that percentage rose to 39%. Such alarming statistics make it obvious that driving your bike while even slightly impaired plays a huge role in how quickly you can react and respond to events on the road.

Take the high road - Don’t drink and ride. If you are out on the town with friends, if you find yourself drinking, simply take advantage of the myriad of ride-sharing apps that will help get you home cheaply. You will have no regrets and you can easily pick up your bike the next day.

9. Inclement Weather & Road Conditions:

We are lucky to live in state where the weather is generally sunny and warm. The exception to this is during our daily summer rainstorms. Wet, rainy or foggy weather complicates riding in a few different ways: Remember roads can become slippery especially within the first hour of the rain starting, when the oils trapped in the road rise to the surface. Bad weather also limits visibility, both for you and for the drivers around you.

Remember, a “safe speed” won’t necessarily match the posted speed limit. Also, if it rained in the days before, be sure to look out for gravel on the road surface, especially in turns. Other bad road conditions include construction defects, grass clippings, potholes, tire snakes, unexpected debris falling off other vehicles or simply laying in the road and other defects. As bikers, we need to position ourselves in traffic to see the roadway ahead and be on alert to such dangerous conditions.

10. Wearing The Proper Gear

Sometimes, you can take every step necessary to stay safe on the road, and still find yourself involved in an accident. You can’t predict the future, and you can’t control other bad drivers – so wear a helmet and remember to wear bright colors. The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,859 motorcyclists in 2016. They estimate over 800 additional lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.

We’d rather you not end up as a statistic. Do yourself a favor, and wear a federally-approved helmet. In its Report to Congress: Benefits of Safety Belts and Motorcycle Helmets, the NHTSA found that motorcycle helmets are 67% effective in preventing brain injuries. It’s the absolute most important piece of gear you can own.

Likewise, remember to wear all the gear all the time. This includes the helmet, proper eye protection, leather jacket, safety vest, riding gloves, motorcycle pants and over the ankle boots. On the hottest of days, if you cannot wear a jacket, at a minimum, wear a fluorescent long sleeve shirt, so you are more visible, so you are less likely to be involved in a crash.

If you found this helpful, please feel free to share this Top Ten Causes of a Motorcycle Accident with a friend. They might find it helpful; and as a bonus, you end up riding with educated friends, increasing your own safety.

Recall the phrase: “There Is Safety In Numbers;” and, everyone is more likely to enjoy the experience … Arrive Alive!

Ride Safe, Brad



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