Motorcycle AccidentsTop 10 Causes of Motorcycle Accidents and How to Avoid Them

June 11, 20240

Lots of people enjoy riding motorcycles. They make it quicker and easier to get around, and they’re fun to travel on. However, compared to drivers of cars and trucks, motorcycle riders are significantly more vulnerable on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that motorcyclists are about 22 times more likely to die in a crash per mile traveled compared to car occupants.

Understanding the common causes of motorcycle accidents can help riders stay safe on the road. This article will explore the top ten causes of motorcycle crashes and provide tips on how to avoid them.

1. Speeding

Excessive speed is one of the leading causes of fatal motorcycle crashes. According to NHTSA data, 34% of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes in 2019 were speeding. Some key factors lead to speeding:

  • Thrill-seeking – The excitement of acceleration can tempt some riders to speed.
  • Lack of experience – New riders may underestimate the risks of speeding.
  • Poor road conditions – Riders may speed inadvertently while leaning into curves on uneven pavement.

To avoid speeding, riders should:

  • Obey posted speed limits and resist the urge to accelerate rapidly.
  • Take a motorcycle safety course to gain experience and understand speed hazards.
  • Adjust speed downwards when road conditions are wet, icy, gravely, or curvy.

2. Impaired Riding

Riding a motorcycle while impaired by alcohol or drugs significantly increases accident risk. NHTSA estimates that in 2019, 29% of fatally injured motorcycle riders had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 g/dL or above.

To avoid impaired riding, motorcyclists should:

  • Never drink and ride – make alternate transportation plans if you intend to drink.
  • Avoid riding while fatigued or under the influence of medication that impairs reactions.
  • Educate peers on the risks of riding while impaired to prevent them from doing so.

3. Dangerous and Distracted Driving of Other Motorists

One of the biggest hazards to motorcyclists is other motorists driving dangerously or while distracted. Common dangerous behaviors include speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane changes, running red lights, and cutting off motorcyclists. Distracted drivers may fail to properly check their blind spots and notice an approaching motorcycle.

Riders should:

  • Maintain safe following distances and anticipate sudden movements from surrounding traffic.
  • Avoid remaining in other motorists’ blind spots.
  • Wear high-visibility and reflective gear to increase conspicuity.
  • Use horns and lights to alert distracted drivers of your presence.

4. Road Hazards and Obstacles

Road debris, potholes, uneven pavement, gravel, and other hazards on the road can prove deadly to motorcyclists. If a motorcycle hits an object or hazard, it can easily result in loss of control or crashing.

To avoid road hazards:

  • Scan ahead carefully and identify any debris, potholes, spills, or uneven surfaces.
  • Give yourself ample time to swerve around obstacles without losing control.
  • Report any roadway hazards you identify to the appropriate transportation authorities.

5. Inclement Weather

Rain, snow, hail, and high winds all impair traction and visibility for motorcycles. Weather-related hazards like hydroplaning, reduced braking power, and blown debris lead to increased crashes.

Riders should:

  • Avoid riding in heavy rain, snow, hail, or high winds if possible by postponing trips.
  • Reduce speed and leave ample following distance during lighter precipitation.
  • Equip your motorcycle with appropriate tires for wet weather riding.

6. Lane Splitting

Lane splitting refers to riding between lanes of traffic, often while vehicles are stopped. This common practice is illegal in Massachusetts and increases crash risks if done recklessly. Colliding with side mirrors, doors opening, vehicles changing lanes, and high-speed differential can all cause accidents.

If you visit a state like California where lane splitting is legal:

  • Keep your speed below 30mph and no more than 10mph faster than surrounding traffic.
  • Avoid splitting when traffic is flowing above 25mph.
  • Never split between vehicles in adjacent lanes moving in opposite directions.
  • Avoid splitting on curved roads with obstructed views.

Do not lane split at all in Boston.

7. Failure to Yield Right of Way

Drivers who fail to notice an oncoming motorcycle and yield the right of way is a common accident cause. Intersections, driveways, and merges are high-risk zones for drivers to inadvertently turn into the path of a motorcycle.

Riders should:

  • Make yourself conspicuous at intersections with lights and/or horns.
  • Apply the brakes or swerve away when a vehicle pulls in front unexpectedly.
  • Approach merges, turns, and intersections with extreme caution and reduced speed.

8. Overbraking and Improper Braking

Overbraking and improper braking techniques can cause motorcycles to lose traction and tip over. Excessively hard braking lifts the motorcycle’s center of gravity and weight off the front wheel, reducing steering control. Other issues like improperly adjusted brakes, worn pads, uneven braking, and braking while turning can induce skids.

To brake properly:

  • Apply both front and rear brakes progressively. Never grab at levers.
  • Shift your body weight rearward during hard braking.
  • Get your motorcycle properly serviced to keep brakes in top condition.
  • Avoid braking while leaned over in a turn.

9. Hazardous Road Engineering and Maintenance

Poor road quality and improper design can make roads unsafe for motorcycles. Hazards include inadequate shoulder room, lack of barriers along dropoffs, uneven road surfaces, poor visibility at curves, and grooves that can catch tires.

To avoid hazardous roads:

  • Learn to identify hazardous road conditions when riding a new route.
  • Bring hazardous sections to the attention of road maintenance crews or authorities.
  • Avoid known problem areas and plan alternative routes in advance.

10. Inexperience

Lack of training and experience riding is one of the most significant risk factors in motorcycle crashes. New riders may lack skills in hazard perception, controlling skids, proper turning techniques, and recovery from errors. Taking a motorcycle safety course can drastically reduce accident risk.

To gain experience safely:

  • Start with a motorcycle safety course to build fundamental skills.
  • Practice braking, turning, swerving, and low-traction riding away from traffic.
  • Don’t ride in hazardous conditions until you have sufficient road experience.
  • Consider ongoing courses to continue improving your technique over time.

While motorcycles provide fun and efficient transportation, they require additional skill and hazard awareness compared to driving a car. By understanding the top accident causes and following safety precautions, motorcyclists can manage risks and prevent many avoidable crashes. Learning protective riding strategies and constantly expanding skills are the keys to safe enjoyment.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident that was not your fault, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers today for a free case review. Our team is here to help you recover the maximum compensation so you can focus on healing and getting your life back on track after an accident.

Call now on (617) 263-0860 or visit our office at 15 Broad St #800 Boston, MA 02109 for a free consultation.

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