10 Key Things Car and Truck Drivers Need to Know About Motorcycles
Every year, a growing number of motorcyclists are killed or injured because other vehicle drivers strike them due to negligence or recklessness. People often don’t notice motorcycles when they’re nearby. This leads to frequent accidents and, since most vehicles are much bigger than motorcycles, motorcyclists and their bikes usually bear the brunt of the damage.
Motorcyclists Are More Likely to Die Than Other Motorists
The NHTSA has reported that motorcyclists are roughly 30 times more likely to die than people in passenger cars in the event of an accident. According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation:
More Than Half of All Fatal Motorcycle Crashes Involve Another Vehicle
Usually, it’s the car or truck driver who’s at fault, not the motorcycle driver. Motorcyclists can and do get into accidents without other vehicle drivers being at fault but the statistics don’t lie. A motorcyclist is more likely to die from an accident with another car than they are to die in an accident on their own or with another motorcyclist.
Motorcycles Have Narrow Profiles
Motorcycles’ profiles are very narrow compared to the profiles of cars. They’re easily hidden by objects and by other vehicles’ blind spots. Many motorcycle accidents happen just because other vehicle drivers don’t see cyclists coming.
Motorcycles’ Small Size Makes Them Appear Further Away Then They Are
If someone is driving down the road and trying to gauge how far away a motorcyclist might be, it’s pretty tough. Motorcycles are very small, so they usually seem further away than they really are. This presents a risk, especially if a driver fails to calculate an adequate stopping distance.
Motorcycles Often Slow Down in Unique Ways
Motorcycles generally slow by means that don’t activate the brake light (like downshifting); cars and trucks need to allow additional following distance because of this. You should never assume that a motorcycle is maintaining or gaining speed just because you can’t see its brake lights on.
Motorcyclists Adjust Lanes for a Reason
As someone driving a standard vehicle, it can sometimes feel like motorcyclists switch lanes and move around on the road for no reason. Many drivers mistakenly stereotype motorcyclists as adjusting lanes to show off or act recklessly and may act differently towards them because of it. The truth is that nobody should ever be stereotyped for the vehicle they are driving; and when you don’t give motorcyclists respect, you endanger their lives.
Five More Important Facts About Motorcycles and Motorcyclists
- Motorcycles’ turn signals don’t usually self-cancel; their signals aren’t always for real.
- Motorcyclists can’t always evade something just because motorcycles are small and good for maneuvering.
- Sometimes, a motorcycle’s stopping distance increases due to slippery pavement.
- Motorcycles on the road need to be seen as more than just motorcycles—they’re the people under the helmet with family and friends.
- If drivers crash into motorcyclists and cause serious injury or death, they may never forgive themselves.
Motor Vehicle Drivers Are Responsible for Motorcycle Safety
How can drivers keep motorcyclists safe?
There are a lot of rules that motorcycle drivers and riders need to follow to stay safe. Different places have different laws, but there are lots of insurance, helmet, and other regulations designed to improve motorcycle safety.
It’s also every driver’s job to do their best to contribute to motorcycle safety while they’re on the road.
If you’re driving a car, you should always:
- Look twice for motorcyclists before you pull out of or into an area.
- Double-check for motorcycles when you turn and change lanes.
Even the NHTSA states that safe riding practices and cooperation from all road users help reduce motorcycle accident fatalities and injuries. Drivers need to understand:
- That motorcycles are smaller and less visible than cars.
- That some motorcycle riders use certain practices, like weaving and downshifting, that should be understood.
Drivers Put Motorcyclists at Risk
Here are some of the ways that cars pose a risk to motorcyclists.
Driving Aggressively, Displaying Signs of Road Rage
People in vehicles should never drive aggressively. It’s an extremely risky practice; and if there’s anyone around the aggressive driver who isn’t in a car, like pedestrians or motorcyclists, they’re at extra risk.
The AAA exchange defines aggressive driving as any unsafe driving behavior that is performed deliberately and with ill intent or disregard for safety.
Some examples of aggressive driving behaviors include:
- Speeding (especially in situations where it’s very dangerous, like in heavy traffic);
- Blocking cars when they attempt to change lanes or pass;
- Weaving in and out of traffic;
- Switching lanes without signaling;
- “Brake checking” or hitting their breaks to “punish” other drivers;
- Running red lights; and
Road rage usually involves aggressive driving, but also includes some other elements. Road rage is essentially escalated aggressive driving.
It may involve:
- Threatening other drivers;
- Cursing or making obscene gestures;
- Trying to run cars off the road;
- Throwing objects; and
Driving Under the Influence
Nobody should ever drive under the influence; if someone who’s operating a vehicle does drive drunk or under the influence of drugs, they might do even more damage to a motorcycle and its passengers than usual. Many accidents that occur when someone is under the influence are more severe than standard accidents. This is because speeding and reckless behavior usually correlate with drinking and drugs.
There are clear laws against driving under the influence. No driver should ever get behind the wheel while they are under the influence. It puts everyone around them at risk.
Distracted driving takes many forms. Someone can be visually distracted from the road when they look down at their phone or turn around to check on a child in the back seat. Very loud music or lots of chattering can also create auditory distractions. Sometimes, people are even cognitively distracted from driving because they eat behind the wheel or put on makeup while they’re in traffic.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries Are Usually Severe
Many motorcycle riders are hurt worse during accidents than other vehicle occupants.
Often, the injuries people sustain during motorcycle accidents are more severe than the ones they might receive if they were in a car at the time of the crash. The nature of motorcycles makes it riskier for riders and passengers when crashes occur.
There are a few reasons why:
- Motorcyclists aren’t protected by the body of a vehicle; they’re exposed to direct impact between their bodies and obstructions, pavement, and other vehicles.
- Motorcycles only have 2 wheels, whereas other vehicles have four (or more); this makes them less stable than the standard automobile.
- Motorcycles are small and light; during impact with heavier vehicles, motorcycles (and the people on them) are likely to bear most of the damage.
- Motorcycles are not as visible as other vehicles because they’re smaller and have less noticeable profiles.
- Motorcycles are especially susceptible to problems due to road defects or objects in the road.
It quickly becomes clear why many people on motorcycles suffer worse injuries than people in cars during the same accidents. You face much more risk and exposure on a motorcycle than you do in most vehicles.
Injuries Motorcyclists Suffer in Accidents
The injuries someone receives during a motorcycle accident depend on numerous factors. It’s impossible to predict how someone might be hurt in an accident, but some injuries are more common than others in motorcycle crash survivors.
Many people who live through motorcycle accidents receive:
- Cuts, burns, bruises, and lacerations;
- Internal organ damage and other internal injuries;
- Head and neck injuries;
- Spinal and back injuries; and/or
- Broken and fractured bones.
Some people’s lives change forever because of their motorcycle accident injuries. A motorcyclist who is struck and receives a traumatic brain injury, for example, may never be the same again. They might suffer a permanently altered earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
What Can a Biker Recover After a Motorcycle Accident?
If you’re a biker who was hurt in a motorcycle accident, you may pursue compensation for the damages you’ve experienced.
Motorcyclists can work with an attorney to recover the costs of:
- Medical bills: This might include past, present, and future medical bills necessitated by the accident, emergency transport, surgery, physical therapies, etc.
- Pain and suffering: If an accident has caused exceptional physical pain.
- Mental anguish: When an accident has a deep, negative emotional impact on a survivor, they may be eligible to recover additional compensation to account for mental anguish.
- Physical damage: Many motorcycle accident survivors face significant physical damage to their bikes and other possessions during a crash.
What to Do if You Are in a Motorcycle Accident
The most important thing to do after a motorcycle accident is to ensure that everyone involved is safe. Try to make sure that your own injuries aren’t too severe before you rush to help other people. If you were not the motorcyclist in the accident, try to find them first; they may be seriously injured after being thrown from their bikes or dragged along the road.
You should contact local authorities so that they can send emergency medical help if needed. They can also dispatch the police to the scene of your accident. This way, the police can complete an accident report for you right on the spot. You can also fill out accident reports after the fact online, but an officer’s experience makes it easy for them to fill it out for you.
Always Stay at the Scene of an Accident
One mistake that some people make after an accident (motorcycle or otherwise) is to try to leave the scene. Even if you aren’t trying to leave to evade consequences or hide away from the situation, it’s still a bad idea to leave a motorcycle accident until it’s been cleared.
- It’s impolite. You should wait to confirm that other people involved in the crash were okay; you should also wait to speak to the authorities.
- It can be illegal depending on the circumstances.
- You may need urgent medical care.
- You need to file a police report.
- You can document evidence while you wait for emergency responders.
What if I Think I Was Partially at Fault for the Motorcycle Accident?
You should still stay on-scene and you should still speak to an attorney, too. Some places only assign partial liability in accident cases, which means you may not be found 100 percent responsible for what happened. Leaving the scene of an accident if you were liable for it may put you at risk of criminal charges, so it’s best to stay put.
Vehicle Drivers Need to Look out for Motorcyclists
The facts don’t lie: people on motorcycles are up against unique risks on the road. Many vehicle drivers don’t take the steps that they should to promote road safety and help keep motorcyclists safe.
There are a lot of steps that drivers can take to decrease the risk they pose to motorcyclists. Luckily, many of them are good driving practices in all circumstances. Following basic rules of the road and safety practices like avoiding texting and driving, leaving adequate following space, and maintaining awareness all help keep motorcyclists and everyone else on the road safe.
A Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help if You Were in a Motorcycle Accident
If you were in a motorcycle accident, it’s a good idea to reach out to a motorcycle accident attorney. Talking to a motorcycle accident lawyer doesn’t mean you need to work with them or pay them thousands of dollars for legal services. In fact, most attorneys offer free initial consultations. Your meeting will help illuminate your legal rights and responsibilities. During an initial meeting, you can also ask a lawyer for more information about your specific circumstances.
More Questions About a Motorcycle Accident?
If you have questions about a motorcycle accident, a qualified motorcycle crash attorney may be able to help. Seasoned law firms employ motorcycle accident attorneys who have worked in their fields for years (if not decades). They are well-prepared to help you. Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer for a free consultation.