Articles Posted in Motorcycle Safety

The phrase “intentional accident” does not make a lot of sense. Indeed, when most people think of an accident, they think of one party being negligent, such as by forgetting to stop at a stop sign, failing to see another oncoming motorist, or being ignorant of a traffic sign. However, some accidents are seemingly intentional in nature and require a second look.

Road rage is an increasingly common phenomenon across the United States. Studies have hypothesized regarding the causes and reasons why road rage is seen more today than in the past, with most theories coming back to the fact that we live a fairly high-stress lifestyle as Americans and that there are so many motorists on the road today. However, there is never an excuse to intentionally cause an accident or put other motorists at risk.

Road rage and other forms of aggressive driving are especially dangerous to the motorcyclists on the road. With little to protect them from a fall, motorcyclists often endure serious, life-threatening injuries after being involved in an accident. To think that another person intentionally puts someone at this level of risk is astonishing, but it does happen.

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Motorcycle accidents have a variety of causes, ranging from drunk or distracted drivers in cars or trucks to speeding motorcyclists and dangerous roadways. All too often, the motorcyclist himself is seen as the at-fault party, especially in single-vehicle motorcycle accidents. However, that is a gross oversimplification, and while there certainly are irresponsible motorcyclists who cause accidents that result in their injuries, most motorcycle accidents require a deeper look to determine what is going on.

One instance in which a single-vehicle motorcycle accident may not be the fault of the motorcyclist is when the accident is caused by poor road conditions. This may mean that a construction crew didn’t adequately clean up the road and left debris that is dangerous to motorcyclists. It could also be that the roadway was not repaired after a particularly harsh winter that caused cracks in the roadway to expand and become dangerous to riders. In any event, the city or county government that is in charge of maintaining the roadway may be held liable in some circumstances when an accident is caused by a failure to maintain the roadway.

These claims differ from those alleging that the road is dangerous due to a flawed design. Those claims are less often successful because the government’s immunity to tort lawsuits attaches as long as the government agency properly researched the design of the road.

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Earlier this month, researchers from the University of Arizona at Tucson released a study they conducted regarding helmet use and its effects on bicycle injuries. As the reader may expect, helmets do prevent injury if they are worn by a rider involved in an accident. However, this study looked a bit deeper.

The idea of the study was to determine if wearing a helmet somehow helped those who did suffer a traumatic brain injury. In other words, it is well known that a helmet can reduce the chance of getting severely injured in a bicycle accident, but of those who are severely injured, did the group of those who were wearing helmets fare any better than those who were not?

The Study

The study looked at 6,267 bicycle accidents that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. Of those, roughly 25% of the riders were wearing their helmets. The results of the study indicated that of those who were involved in a bicycle accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, those wearing a helmet at the time were 58% less likely to sustain a “serious” brain injury, and 59% less likely to die as a result of their brain injury.

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Some members of the Delaware House of Representatives recently made a move to prevent a mandatory helmet bill for motorcyclists from moving to the full House of Representatives. A report from one local news source stated that the maneuver puts the plan to require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet in “legislative purgatory,” and it will prevent the bill from becoming law until at least the next legislative session.

What Is the Law and What Are the Benefits?

The proposed law would require all riders to wear a helmet. The current law requires motorcyclists to have a helmet in their possession but not to wear it. When actually worn, helmets make motorcycle riding safer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and reduce the risk of head injury by 69%. The proposed change would have made Delaware a state with a universal helmet law, much like the law in Maryland, where helmets became mandatory in 1992.

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Earlier this month, the Maryland State Senate heard testimony from a motorcycle safety instructor in favor of a new bill that would potentially make failing to yield a criminal offense in some circumstances. According to one local Maryland news source, the woman who testified told the story of a 50-year-old woman who was riding her 2006 Harley Davidson to Bike Week along Route 50.

At some point, a Toyota Solara heading in the opposite direction attempted to make a left turn in front of the motorcyclist, cutting her off. As a result, the motorcyclist had no time to react and slammed into the side of the Toyota. The 50-year-old motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, and the driver of the Solara was named as the at-fault driver.

Another motorcycle and a minivan were also involved in the collision. Currently, the driver of the Solara, who is the son of the Mayor of Pokomoke City, is not facing any criminal charges, although prosecutors may file charges shortly after the conclusion of the investigation.

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In a recent study cited in a Bloomberg Business report, a group of researchers claims that the most common cause of motorcycle accidents is the driver’s loss of control over the bike. The article, which was released just a few weeks ago, claims that motorcyclists are 3.5 times as likely to get into a single-vehicle accident as they are to get into an accident involving one or more other cars or trucks.

Not surprisingly, the most common cause of single-vehicle accidents, the article claims, is speed. Another common occurrence of single-vehicle accidents is alcohol. The article advises that all motorcycle riders take motorcycle safety classes that are available through the State’s Motor Vehicle Association. However, no matter how cautious and educated a rider is, there is always the possibility for a freak accident to occur with another driver who may not see the motorcyclist.

Motorcycle Accident Victims Have an Uphill Battle

This article is good evidence of what the general public mistakenly believes to be the case in most motorcycle accidents:  that the riders themselves are at fault and should be prevented from any financial recovery. Indeed, it cannot be denied that there are cases where a negligent motorcyclist is driving while intoxicated and gets into a single-vehicle accident, severely injuring him or herself. However, this is not always—or even often—the case.

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Earlier last month in Alexandria, Virginia, a motorcyclist was killed after he was ejected from his bike and then hit by a passing car. According to a report by WUSA 9, the accident occurred at 11:30 in the evening on Interstate 495 just before the exit to Van Dorn Street.

The motorcyclist was traveling in an area of the highway that was under construction. The right three lanes were closed to through traffic, leaving motorists no choice but to use the left three lanes that had recently been milled. The freshly milled pavement had a 2-3 inch lip at the start and the end of the milled section.

Evidently, the motorcyclist lost control of his bike when he drove over the lip from the milled surface to the regular road surface. He was tossed from his bike and landed in the next lane, where another motorist hit him. Emergency responders pronounced the man dead at the scene.

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Earlier this week, in a tragic accident in Minneapolis, a motorcyclist died when his motorcycle hit a pothole and sent him flying from his bike. According to a report by a local CBS affiliate, the accident occurred on I-394 just before 10 p.m. Apparently, at the time of the accident, the motorcyclist was traveling at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour at the time of the accident.

The size of the pothole, or “crack” as some are calling it, is in dispute. Police claim that, no matter what the size of the crack or pothole was, given the speed at which the driver was traveling, a disaster was almost certain.

The report points out that this time of year, roads are even more hazardous to drivers than normal. This can be due to a number of reasons including the freeze-thaw cycle, excess rain water that can make roads especially slippery and also wash gravel and other debris onto Maryland highways.

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The Lynchburg Police Department recently began an attempt to encourage motorists to maintain an awareness of motorcyclists sharing the road. According to the department, there have been 21 motorcycle accidents so far this year in Lynchburg alone.

Cars and other full sized vehicles can be deadly to motorcyclists. One of the problems with drivers of cars and other vehicles is that many times they may be looking for another car when they check their surroundings or blind spots, and may not look more carefully for something smaller, such as a motorcycle.

The police reported that there are typically two main causes of motorcycle accidents. In single motorcycle collisions, typically excessive speeding, such as on a curve, causes the motorcyclist to lose control. When another vehicle is involved, however, the cause is typically a result of the driver of the car having not seen the motorcyclist, and cutting over into their lane.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) posted a page on its website regarding May being Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and reminding drivers of all other vehicles to not only look out for, but also share the road with, motorcycle riders.

Continued awareness of motorcyclists is critical, because although the fatality rates for other automobiles have generally been on a decline, motorcycle deaths have been increasing for 13 out of the past 14 years.

For example, in 2011 alone:

  • 2% more motorcyclists were killed in collisions than in 2010 (4,612 people)
  • 14% of total highway deaths were motorcycle riders, even though they only comprise roughly 3% of all vehicles throughout the country.
  • Due to these and other statistics, based upon a per vehicle mile basis, motorcycle riders are more than 30 times more likely to be killed in a crash than individuals riding in cars or other automobiles. They are also 5 times more likely to suffer injuries.

    The leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes is head injuries. As of 2011, 20 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico required helmet use by all motorcycle riders. According to statistics, helmets apparently prevent 37% of potentially fatal injuries to motorcycle riders involved in accidents. NHTSA estimates that helmet use may have saved some 1,600 motorcycle riders in 2011 alone.

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