Articles Posted in Motorcycle Safety

The issue of lane splitting comes up in a number of Maryland motorcycle accident cases. Lane splitting refers to motorcycles driving on the lines between lanes, which allows motorcycles to go in between two vehicles to pass them. According to Maryland’s Code of Transportation, a person operating a motorcycle cannot drive “between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.” Thus, in Maryland, lane splitting is illegal. This means that on any roadway in Maryland that is divided into two or more lanes, anyone operating a motorcycle is required to travel to an adjacent lane before passing another vehicle. Motorcycles are entitled to the full use of a lane and other vehicles cannot deprive a motorcycle of the full use of a lane.

Why Do Motorcyclists Split Lanes?

Some people argue that lane splitting helps motorcyclists speed up the flow of traffic because there are fewer vehicles occupying a single lane. Supporters also argue that lane splitting does not increase the risk of injury to motorcyclists, that it may help remove the motorcycle from a dangerous situation, and that Maryland lane-splitting motorcycle accidents are less severe for motorcyclists than rear-end accidents. However, even where it is legal, lane splitting can be dangerous and motorcyclists have to exercise caution to do it safely.

If you’ve spent much time on a motorcycle, you know that one of the most dangerous traffic situations for riders involves left-hand turns. While there is no data indicating the number of Maryland motorcycle accidents that involve left turns, the number is significant. While riders injured in a motorcycle collision are entitled to bring a personal injury claim for damages after an accident, there are often complicated issues presented by left-turn motorcycle accidents.

Why Are Left-Hand Turns So Dangerous?

Left-hand turns are dangerous for all drivers, but especially motorcyclists. Not only that, but these turns present a hazard both when a motorcycle is making the left turn as well as when they are traveling straight through an intersection approaching another vehicle that is making a left.

When a motorist makes a left turn at an intersection, they must yield the right-of-way to the oncoming vehicle. This much is common knowledge. However, both riders and drivers of cars and trucks tend to get confused once the light turns yellow. For the motorist in the intersection waiting to make a left turn, there is certainly a sense of urgency to complete the turn and get out of the intersection. However, until the light turns red, the left-turning motorist must continue to yield to any vehicles traveling straight.

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From early childhood, people learn the importance of wearing helmets when riding a bicycle or motorcycle. While the risks of riding a motorcycle without a helmet are widely recognized, many people continue to ride motorcycles without an appropriate helmet. Although helmets cannot prevent a Maryland motorcycle accident, they can reduce the likelihood of serious injuries and death.

There are many reasons some motorcyclists choose not to wear protective gear, and the reasons may include vanity, overconfidence, and discomfort. A significant number of motorcycle accidents occur on shorter trips, thus making it even more critical that riders wear helmets on every trip. Wearing protective gear can significantly reduce the likelihood of severe and long-lasting injuries and death.

In addition to the health and safety benefit, motorcyclists should wear helmets to ensure that they do not receive a citation for violating Maryland’s helmet laws. Section 21-1306 of the Transportation Article of the Maryland Code (Code) gives the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MVACS) the authority to create helmet safety standards. Under the Code, motorcycle helmets must have a chin or neck strap that fastens when the motorcycle is moving MVACS has additional standards that motorcyclists must comply with. Moreover, the United States Department of Transportation advises that motorcycle helmets fit tightly and have a safety certification. While motorcyclists who violate these standards may receive a citation and fine, evidence of helmet use cannot be used as evidence of contributory negligence, which means that a motorcyclist’s helmet use will not impact their likelihood of recovery in a personal injury lawsuit.

Motorcyclists face the unfair stigma that they are reckless and aggressive drivers, which often leads to the conclusion that they are at fault after a Maryland motorcycle crash. In reality, most motorcyclists are generally safe drivers. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about one-half of all motorcycle crashes involve another motor vehicle. Almost 40 percent were caused by the other vehicle turning left in front of the motorcyclist. Further, according to the NHTSA, when motorcycles and other vehicles collide, it is usually the other (non-motorcycle) driver who violates the motorcyclist’s right-of-way. In fact, in two-vehicle crashes involving passenger cars and motorcycles, 35 percent of the driver-related factor was the failure to yield the right-of-way compared to only 4 percent of motorcyclists who failed to yield the right-of-way.

A non-motorcycle driver may violate a motorcyclist’s right-of-way for various reasons. For example, motorcycles are smaller and may be less noticeable and more easily obscured, such as in a larger vehicle’s blind spot. Non-motorcycle drivers also may not be accustomed to motorcyclists’ movements and driving with them in general. Yet, motorcyclists have the same rights and privileges as other vehicles on roadways. Motorcyclist advocates say that other drivers should look out for motorcyclists and educate themselves about motorcycles and how to drive safely with them in the roadway. To drive safely with motorcyclists, other drivers are supposed to allow motorcyclists a full lane width to allow motorcyclists to maneuver safely.

Unfortunately, motorcyclists are over-represented in traffic crashes and fatalities throughout the United States. According to the NHTSA, almost 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in 2018. Motorcyclists are about 28 times as likely as occupants in cars to die in a motor vehicle crash. In addition, seemingly minor crashes can result in serious injuries for a motorcyclist. But while insurance companies and juries may be quick to blame motorcyclists for causing the accidents, the stigma against motorcyclists can be overcome. For example, investigation after a crash, accident reconstruction, discovery tools, and litigation are some of the ways experienced legal advocates can build evidence in a party’s favor after a crash in order to hold the negligent party responsible. Injured motorcyclists should seek the compensation that they deserve if they are injured in a crash, despite any stigma they may face in the claims process and in court.

A college student recently made headlines for inventing a helmet that may reduce the number of serious injuries and deaths that result from motorcycle accidents. According to a local news report, a 21-year-old student was inspired to design the helmet—called ConTekt—when his friend got into a motorcycle accident. After the crash, his friend couldn’t move and thus couldn’t reach his phone to call for help. The motorcyclist’s position on the highway made him invisible to other motorists, and he lay there injured, unsure of what to do. ConTekt aims to solve this problem; the helmet uses technology to contact 911 the moment that the wearer hits the ground, giving accident victims “a lifeline without risking any injury by moving.”

Uehara is on his way to producing the helmet for retail. Earlier this year, the invention won first prize at the University of Hawaii’s Breakthrough Innovation Challenge. The prize money, $2,000, will help Uehara obtain a patent for the helmet and develop a prototype. A cost analysis led him to predict that the helmet will retail around $700, which is less than the average for a similar quality helmet.

The helmet, once finalized, can help address the dangers that motorcyclists face every day. Motorcyclists are overrepresented in traffic fatalities, and their lack of protection compared to cars and trucks makes them uniquely susceptible to serious injuries when accidents occur. Helmets in general, even without the ability to call 911, can play an important role in protecting motorcyclists’ skulls and brains from traumatic injuries. In fact, Maryland has recognized the importance of helmets, and state law requires helmet use.

Maryland motorcycle accidents occur in a split second, and most riders do not have time to react before an imminent collision. However, riders should always be prepared to lay the bike down if the need arises. Of course, laying down a motorcycle is a big decision that will result in the damage to the bike and may result in serious injury to the rider. Thus, riders only should ditch a motorcycle in the event of an immediate and unavoidable motorcycle accident.

As we have noted in previous posts, Maryland accident law is unique in that it precludes an accident victim who is partially at fault from pursuing a claim against any other driver involved in the accident. This concept is referred to as the doctrine of contributory negligence; if a plaintiff is found to be contributorily negligent by a judge or jury, then they can recover nothing for their injuries. While the doctrine of contributory negligence is outdated, and most other jurisdictions in the United States have shifted away from its use, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. still employ the doctrine.

Laying down a motorcycle is technically a choice. However, it is not a choice that any rider wants to make. The question arises, then, if a motorcyclist chooses to lie down their bike are they then foreclosed from pursuing a Maryland personal injury claim against another driver whose negligence forced them to make the decision. In reality, a rider’s decision to lie down their motorcycle should be viewed as the rider attempting to mitigate their own damages; however, courts do not preclude defendants from arguing that the plaintiff laid the bike down unnecessarily. As is often the case in the law, these are fact-specific determinations that will come down to the specific circumstances of each individual accident. So, unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to the question.

As a general rule, anyone who has been injured in a Maryland motorcycle accident can bring a claim for compensation against the party that they believe to be responsible for causing the crash. If the motorcycle accident victim is successful, they may be able to recover compensation for their past and future medical expenses and lost wages, as well as for any pain and suffering they endured as a result of the accident.

However, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. have some of the strictest laws when it comes to determining which motorcycle accident victims can obtain compensation for their injuries. Each of these jurisdictions applies a slightly different version of a doctrine called “contributory negligence.” Under a contributory negligence framework, an accident victim is not permitted to recover for their injuries if they share responsibility for the accident that resulted in their injuries.

This may sound like a harsh law, and it is. In fact, even if an accident victim is found to be just 5% at fault for causing a collision, they will be barred from recovering anything for their injuries. The doctrine of contributory negligence used to be common across the country, but over time most states have passed legislation abolishing the doctrine in favor of a more accident-victim-friendly alternative. In fact, aside from Maryland Virginia, and Washington, D.C, only two other states apply the contributory negligence rule.

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Under Maryland’s contributory negligence law, only those accident victims who are completely free of fault are able to recover for their injuries. This strict law, which is not applied by the majority of states, precludes many Maryland motorcycle accident victims from recovering for the injuries they’ve sustained. Thus, in a motorcycle accident case against an allegedly negligent driver, the focus is not just on the defendant’s conduct, but also on the plaintiff’s.

Of course, some motorcycle accidents cannot be avoided by even the most attentive and skilled riders. Thus, an accident victim cannot be faulted for failing to avoid an imminent collision caused by another’s negligence; otherwise, no Maryland motorcycle accident would ever be able to recover for their injuries. Courts will usually look to the plaintiff’s conduct leading up to the accident to determine whether the plaintiff bears any responsibility in bringing about the accident.

Courts may also consider a plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages. For example, if a plaintiff is injured in an accident and is told that she needs a certain surgery but does not get the surgery, the defendant may not be liable for the injuries caused by the plaintiff’s failure to get the required surgery. In other words, a plaintiff’s post-accident conduct can also be relevant to the availability of damages.

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A 19-year-old Connecticut woman was arrested last month after she collided with a man on a scooter while driving her car on a state highway near New London, Connecticut. The rider was ejected from his scooter, suffered serious injuries, and remains hospitalized in critical condition. According to a local news report, the driver of the car remained at the scene of the accident and appeared intoxicated when police and emergency officials arrived. Evidently, she was charged with DUI and released on a promise to appear. Although her current charges do not incorporate the serious injury that she caused to the motorcyclist, prosecutors may decide to press more serious charges, especially if new evidence is uncovered or the victim’s condition worsens.

Drunk Drivers Are a Danger to Everyone on the Road, Especially to Motorcyclists and Scooter Riders

Thousands of people are killed every year in alcohol-related road accidents. Although most drunk driving injuries are suffered by people in cars and trucks, motorcyclists are at a greater danger individually than people in other vehicles.

Any motorcycle or scooter enthusiast knows that other drivers sometimes fail to notice them or yield the right of way. Alcohol intoxication is described by the World Health Organization as causing symptoms that include loss of coordination, reduction in motor and visual abilities, delayed reaction time, and poor judgment. All of these effects of alcohol make the dangers motorcyclists face from cars even worse. A drunk driver with impaired judgment and delayed reaction time may decide not to check her mirrors before changing lanes or may drive at excessive speeds and without regard for others on the road. Motorcyclists and other two-wheeled vehicle riders must be vigilant to always look out for other drivers who are driving dangerously and may be drunk.

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While motorcyclists only account for a small number of the vehicles on the roads, the number of serious or fatal accidents involving motorcycles is fairly high. While some motorcycle accidents are caused by rider error, many of the fatal motorcycle accidents we see each year are caused by other motorists and their inexperience with sharing the road with motorcyclists. In fact, one of the major causes of serious and fatal motorcycle accidents is another motorist’s failure to see a motorcyclist.

Whether a motorist drives a car, truck, or motorcycle, they have a duty to those with whom they share the road. This duty requires that the motorist operate their vehicle in a manner that is safe and responsible. Of course, this also includes refraining from distracted or intoxicated driving. When a motorist violates this duty and creates a danger on the road, he or she can be held liable for the damages that result through a Maryland motorcycle accident lawsuit.

Injured motorcyclists should be prepared for a fight, however. Routinely, at-fault drivers and their insurance companies try and shift the blame onto the motorcyclist. For example, if a motorcyclist is injured while not wearing a helmet, an at-fault driver may attempt to use that fact against the motorcyclist. However, the fact remains that without the at-fault driver’s negligence, there would have been no accident in the first place.

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