In 1981, a ground-breaking report on the causes of motorcycle accidents was published by the Traffic Safety Center, University of Southern California. The Hurt Study analyzed 3,600 motorcycle wrecks, and, while it is 30 years old, the study still offers riders valuable insight into motorcycle wrecks and tips on motorcycle safety.
It remains our experience in handling motorcycle wrecks that the majority of crashes are caused by a cage vehicle violating the motorcycle's right-of-way by making a left turn in front of an oncoming bike or entering the road from a side street or private drive. Intersections are the most likely place for a wreck.
From asking questions of the at-fault driver in depositions, we believe that the "I didn't see him" excuse is caused by three factors.
- Inattention to the road caused by driver distractions ranging from talking to passengers or children to the modern distractions of texting and using phones while driving
- The cage driver sees the motorcycle but feels that they can beat the rider through the intersection because they do not perceive a hazard from the motorcycle the way they would a larger vehicle
- The motorcycle's conspicuity is less than a car and causes cage drivers to misjudge the speed of the approaching motorcycle. The Hurt Study found that in these type of accidents, the rider had less than two seconds to complete all crash avoidance actions.
It will always be up to us as riders to protect ourselves and avoid crashes by riding defensively. The following steps can help us all avoid a crash with a cage driver.
- Make your motorcycle as conspicuous as possible with upgraded lighting, front, rear and side.
- Wear bright colored clothing to increase the visibility of you and your bike.
- Practice emergency braking and avoidance maneuvers.
- No matter your skill level or how long you have been riding, take a motorcycle safety class periodically, such as those offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
- Practice SEE every time you ride: Search for potential hazards and conflicts down the road; evaluate the potential for the hazard or conflict to become real and develop a plan to avoid it; execute your crash avoidance plan when you first perceive the danger.
- If you buy a new bike, spend the extra money on the anti-lock braking equipment. This will help you avoid wheel lock-up and maintain better control of your bike in an emergency.
- Leave extra room in front of you when stopping at signs and signals so you can get out of the way if the vehicle behind isn't going to stop.
- Check your rear view mirrors often at stop lights and signs and be prepared to take action if the approaching vehicle isn't going to stop.
- When possible, ride with other bikes in a staggered formation to maximize the visibility of the bikes to cage drivers.
- Do not ride in blind spots.
- When possible, ride to the left or right of the vehicle in front of you so the driver can see you in the rear view mirror and one side view mirror.
- Do not follow another vehicle too closely, especially near intersections. We have had numerous cases where the view of the motorcycle was blocked by the proceeding vehicle and the approaching driver turned left in front of or into the side of the following motorcycle. If riding alone, ride to the left side of the lane behind the vehicle you are following and leave 4-5 car lengths so the approaching vehicle is better able to see you.
- Make sure your bike is properly insured before a wreck. Please see our insurance tips.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle wreck, call us 24 hours a day to speak to one of our motorcycle lawyers.