Articles Posted in Motorcycle Safety

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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    If the last several years have been any indicator, it’s that there are more and more people choosing economical transportation over more expensive passenger cars. Whether that means chucking a larger sedan or sport utility vehicle for a gas-sipping hybrid or diesel hatchback, taking public transportation on the weekdays and saving the family vehicle for weekend outs only, people are trying to save money left and right.

    It’s no secret that one of the more economical modes of personal internal combustion-powered transport is the motorcycle. Unfortunately bikes and motor scooters can also pose significant physical dangers to their owners. It’s a major tradeoff that many people need to consider very seriously when looking to save money at the pump and to lower ownership costs. If you can, literally, live with the near-constant risk of physical injury or even death, then the two-wheeled solution might be an option.

    As a Maryland personal injury attorney, I understand the downside of being involved in a traffic accident while riding a Honda, Harley-Davidson, Suzuki or Ducati cycle. Obviously the emotional and financial payoff with these vehicles can be quite high, but riders need to fully understand and accept the dangers as well. Having represented victims of motorcycle, automobile and trucking-related collisions, I and my colleagues are all too aware of the potentially painful consequences — physical, financial and emotional — that a motorcycle-related traffic accident can present to a victim and his family.

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    Spring has arrived, and though it could be a little early for every motorcycle rider to dust off his mount, the warmer days are on their way. But from a public safety standpoint, we can’t help but wonder if we will be looking at some more passenger car-bike and truck-motorcycle accidents as the season progresses. Most anyone who follows the news here in Baltimore and other urban areas has heard for the potentially dangerous groups of dirt bike riders playing havoc with motorists and others in town.

    As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my legal staff have helped bikers injured in bad traffic collisions. A serious roadway collision can turn out to be a life-threatening event for almost anyone, but for motorcyclists the risks can be even greater. And, while most conscientious riders obey our traffic laws and respect other motorists’ rights as well, there are bad apples among them.

    As we write this, we are thinking specifically about the dangerous trend of urban dirt bike riding by mostly unlicensed and, some would say, reckless youth. While not involving the more thoughtful riders out there, this trend has continued much to local police departments’ dismay. Based on a news article published not long ago, we have to ask ourselves if Baltimore and other areas of the state are in for another round of dangerous dirt bike riding exploits.

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    We’ve already heard of several fatal accidents involving motorcycles this year, so it’s not too soon for everyone to prepare themselves for a new season of motorcycle riding here in Maryland. Whether one is riding on the expressways serving our major cities, out on some rural two-lane or creeping through dense urban traffic, the opportunities for a severe roadway accident anywhere throughout the state are much higher for bikers than most any other motorist.

    As Baltimore personal injury lawyers, I and my legal staff have seen the aftermath of many a tragic traffic collision; and certainly more than we would want anyone else to experience, especially not first-hand. Passenger car collisions, whether they involve a sedan, family minivan or larger sport utility vehicle, can result in serious and sometimes fatal injuries. The same can be said for roadway wrecks caused by commercial vehicles, such as city buses, 18-wheelers, large box trucks, and utility repair vehicles.

    But as bad as car and trucking-related collisions can be, accidents involving any one of these vehicles and a motorcycle can be much, much worse; usually the person who is hurt the most is the rider on the bike. Even while wearing all the proper safety equipment — such as a correctly sized and certified helmet, motorcycle boots and gloves, plus a specialized riding suit, or leather chaps and motorcycle jacket — injuries sustained by a motorcyclist can range from painful, yet minor to severe and life-threatening.

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    Mothers, fathers and siblings all worry about family members and friends who ride motorcycles. Why? The answer is simple: Motorcyclists are statistically more likely to be killed or injured in traffic collisions than drivers or passengers in cars, minivans, SUVs or pickup trucks that are caught up in serious roadway crashes. Of course, we are probably preaching to the choir when it comes to any biker who is reading this, but understanding as we do the downside to motorcycle accidents, we feel compelled to reiterate our message of caution.

    As Maryland personal injury attorneys, I and my staff of legal professionals have seen riders who have been mildly to severely hurt in car-bike wrecks, as well as bikers involved in collisions with commercial trucks. Although most every motorcycle enthusiast understands the risks involved with traveling in dense traffic or along a high-speed interstate, the fact remains fatal and near-fatal injuries can easily result when a bike is hit by a larger vehicle or, worse, if the rider collides with a stationary object.

    Traumatic brain injury is common, even for those who wear a certified helmet and other protective riding gear, as are broken bones and compound fractures, internal injuries and debilitating back and neck injuries. Never mind the potential for severe burns in crashes that ignite a gasoline-fueled fire. For anyone who chooses not to acknowledge the ever-present risk of injury or death while riding a motorcycle, consider the following news items.

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    Few but the die-hard riders out there will be plying the roadways after this week, what with the colder, nastier weather being ushered in by the likes of Hurricane Sandy. But there are still those dyed-in-the-wool bikers who will try to ride in almost any weather that nature throws at us. For those individuals, as well as the other drivers who encounter them on the road this fall and early winter, we are compelled to offer some warnings about fair-weather versus rough-weather riding.

    At the end of this week, we will also be switching over to daylight savings time, which means that it will be darker toward the evening hours as the days shorten as well. Not that all traffic accidents happen at night or in poor weather, but these conditions can certainly contribute to a bad motorcycle, car or trucking-related wreck, depending on the circumstances. As Maryland personal injury attorneys, we know that cold can affect a person’s cognitive abilities to the point that they may not be functioning at their best.

    For bikers and other individuals who are exposed to cold and damp weather conditions, it’s conceivable that a traffic threat or other potential accident condition may not be as readily noticed by a rider who is fighting off a severe chill induced by traveling in mid-40-degree ambient temperatures at 50-60mph for a time. The effective wind chill at those speeds can really take a toll on even a well-bundled motorcyclist. The main point we want to convey is that no matter one’s level of experience, take extra precautions when riding during this time of the year.

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