What Are the Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?

What Are the Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?

A motorcyclist on a sport bike, speeding on a dimly-lit highway at night.

Feeling the wind while cruising the open road with full panoramic views is reason enough for many motorcyclists to choose two wheels over four.

Motorcycles have long been considered a symbol of freedom, and riders often relate their bikes to their personality. Their rides are an extension of themselves.

However, operating a motorcycle requires skill and constant attention. The freedom of riding comes at the cost of increased danger and decreased safety features.

According to the National Safety Council, motorcyclists accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities while only making up 3% of all registered vehicles.

The most common causes of motorcycle accidents are as follows:

  • Low-visibility vehicles: Motorcycles have a much smaller profile than other vehicles and therefore are more challenging to see.

When drivers rely on quick mirror checks before changing lanes, they can easily miss the motorcycle in their blind spot or coming up behind them. This failure to see motorcycles is the purpose behind the Look Twice Save a Life campaign.

It is imperative that drivers are sure the road is clear before changing lanes or turning. Riders must also be aware that they may be invisible to the vehicles around them and avoid riding in blind spots or weaving through traffic.

  • Speeding: Many motorcycle riders are thrill seekers, riding for an adrenaline rush. This thrill becomes a problem when riders also overestimate their skill and underestimate the dangers of operating a motorcycle.

The temptation to speed past traffic is often overwhelming and is frequently achieved because of the primarily unobstructed view and the superior maneuverability of the bike.

A false sense of security pushes the rider to go faster and faster until the inevitable happens. Eventually, something that can go wrong will go wrong.

It could be a car pulling in front of the speeding motorcycle, an obstacle appearing in the road, or a light turning red quicker than anticipated that ends the speedy journey in disaster.

  • Distracted driving: Motorcycle riders need to pay attention to driving even more than drivers of cars, but everyone gets distracted sometimes.

Cell phones are the worst distraction for all motor vehicle operators. Reading a text message takes the driver’s eyes off the road for precious seconds that could have been used to prevent an accident.

Even without phones, distractions are everywhere. Billboards, bumper stickers, events occurring beside the road, and even daydreaming are all distracting both riders and drivers from operating their vehicles.

Alcohol dulls attention and slows reaction, which explains the frightening statistic. Unfortunately, it also builds confidence, compounding the issue discussed under speeding.

Couple this with the fact that motorcycles having two wheels also demands active attention from their riders, and you can see why driving under the influence of substances poses a much greater risk on a motorcycle than behind the wheel of a car.

  • Inexperience: Many people have a lifelong dream of riding a motorcycle. In addition, others do it for more practical reasons, such as the lower cost of the vehicle and significant savings in fuel.

Whatever the reason, everyone is susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect. According to Very Well Mind, this phenomenon causes people to overestimate their knowledge or skill.

This effect gives people a false sense of security that possesses them to take more risks than they have the skills to handle.

In 2020, 36% of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were riding without a valid motorcycle license, according to the NHTSA.

Without experience, or at least a good training program, riders are not equipped to operate their motorcycles through many of the hazards that they will inevitably face on the road.

What Hazards Might a Motorcyclist Encounter?

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous without the same standard safety features as other automobiles. Motorcyclists are at risk of many hazards that they need to be prepared to encounter.

  • Uneven pavement: Potholes and worn pavement can spell disaster for a motorcycle. They do not have the stability of four tires touching the road.

Riding a motorcycle requires good judgment combined with balance and coordination. With only two tires, riders have to look ahead to plan their route and concentrate on maintaining their balance.

Even road construction, such as resurfacing to repair these hazards, create treacherous terrain for these vehicles. 

  • Debris on the road: Anything on the road is potentially a cause of a motorcycle accident.

Gravel that cities spread on the streets to provide traction in winter is often still there after spring thaw and causes many early motorcycle enthusiasts to skid or slide, especially since they have not ridden in several months.

Bits of rubber from a blown tire or pieces of glass left behind from a previous collision are common hazards that motorcyclists often encounter. They even have to constantly scan for litter and roadkill to make sure their path is clear.

  • Drivers of automobiles opening their doors into the path of a motorcycle: Imagine driving past parked vehicles along the side of the road when suddenly a door opens right in front of you. You may not have the time or space to react and prevent a collision.

When this happens to cars, there can be substantial damage to the front end of the passing vehicle, but when this happens in front of a motorcycle, the end result is sometimes deadly.

According to the Missouri Revisor of Statutes, it is not legal to open a car door into traffic. Still, just as drivers do not always see motorcycles while driving, they do not always see them while getting out of their cars either.

  • Weather conditions: The early stages of rainstorms are the most dangerous for everyone on the road because the water brings any oil on the pavement to the surface, creating slippery conditions.

Cars can lose traction and slide into other vehicles, while motorcycles can slip onto their sides, leaving their riders sliding across the pavement through traffic.

Motorcyclists also experience decreased visibility as they often have small or no windshields to protect them from pelting raindrops, which also means they are not equipped with wipers.

They are exposed to temperature changes that can make them go from dizzying heat to becoming stiff and shivering in the cold. They also have to contend with wind shears and associated flying debris.

  • Wildlife, including insects and birds: Warning signs about wildlife potentially being on the roads are seen all across the continent.

Animals are completely unpredictable, and they typically panic when confronted with traffic. Run-ins with larger animals can total a family-sized sedan.

Motorcycle accidents are often devastating when only small animals are involved due to the deceased stability, no surrounding protection, and no seatbelts to keep the riders from being ejected from a sudden stop.

Motorcyclists are also subjected to all sizes and types of insects that can decrease or even remove the rider’s ability to see. These insects can also cause immense pain and possibly allergic reactions, all while the motorcycle travels at highway speeds.

Operating a Motorcycle Takes Skill

As we’ve mentioned, operating a motorcycle takes skill and concentration. New motorcyclists should practice the following crucial elements that can help them avoid the hazards they will inevitably face whenever they ride:

  • Braking: Being able to slow down and stop may seem very basic, but it takes practice to keep your balance while changing speeds on a motorcycle.

Traveling at slower speeds is especially challenging. Riders must be able to slow down quickly with other traffic to avoid rear-end collisions.

They may also have to slow down sooner than expected if they come upon an unexpected turn or if someone pulls out in front of them.

  • Turning: There are many aspects of a turn that motorcyclists need to be aware of to prevent a fall. For example, oversteering can shift weight to the front of the vehicle and cause the rear tire to drift sideways.

Bikers also often experience a loss of traction while going around sharp curves. When an unexpected problem occurs while turning, the motorcycle could topple over, or the rider could lose control and drive right off the road in an attempt to recover.

  • Swerving: Many motorcyclists rely on swerving to be able to avoid collisions.

Riders are able to lean their weight from side to side to veer in either direction. New riders may find this practice frightening and feel like they are falling.

This maneuver is much more challenging at slower speeds but is worth practicing because it can save lives. Other vehicles sharing the street need to watch out for these low-profile vehicles so as not to add any more dangers for them.

Call Goldblatt + Singer About Your Motorcycle Accident

If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, call Goldblatt + Singer at (314) 231-4100 for a free consultation. We will discuss your accident, and our motorcycle accident lawyers will be able to guide you in your next steps.

Everyone’s case is unique, and we listen to our clients to make sure our efforts are personalized to achieve your goals. We are here to help so you can focus on healing.

You can rest easy knowing that we are on your side and fighting for your best possible outcome.


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