Thursday, December 12, 2013

Top 10 Most Common Reasons For Motorcycle Accidents

Riding a motorcycle on today’s highways, you have to ride in a very defensive manner. You have to be a good rider and you have to have both hands and both feet on the controls at all times. –Evel Knievel

Image source : Google images (license free)

Evel Knievel has probably ridden, and crashed, more motorcycles than many riders have ever even seen. As such, if you are going to take advice from anyone on safety, it mine as well be a guy who purposely goes against being “safe” for the pure sake of entertainment. Afterall… who could know better, before his death he had nearly broken every bone in his body, so many he himself had lost track. But his above advice, though minimal, states the most important principal behind being a motorcycle rider, that being to ride defensively.
The biggest hindrance to most riders safety is oddly confidence, and not a lack of it, but an abundance of it. Confidence in a way makes you feel more safe, and as such you will not be as aware of your surroundings, in a sense, you will let your guard down. And accidents only happen when a diligent eye is turned, and attention is elsewhere. So to help remind veteran riders out there, or to help warn the virgin rider, here are the 10 most common reasons for motorcycle accidents. If you know why they are the most common, hopefully you will keep a vigilant watch when these instances arise and will avoid being in a wreck yourself. So without further ado, let’s get into the meat of it.

Assuming Other Drivers Can See You

The biggest overall mistake a motorcyclist can make is assuming you are noticeable to other drivers on the road. You have to remember, a motorcycle has a significantly smaller profile than other vehicles and you are not always the first thing people are looking for when turning or lane switching. Imagine when you are driving a car and intend to switch lanes. You no doubt check your rearview mirrors, and perhaps give a quick glance over your shoulder. But a motorcycle is easily hidden in blind spots, even when they do look over their shoulder, generally it is so quick not too much care is taken to watch out for smaller vehicles. So when riding, just assume that NO ONE can see you and in that way you will always be on your guard.


Assuming you’re A Better Driver than You Really Are

Another common problem motorcyclists have is riding their bike harder than their skill can actually account for. Whether that Is in regards to driving at high speed, reaction time, awareness, or pure ability. There are any number of reasons any motorcycle driver is not as skilled as they believe themselves to be, and this over confidence can cause big problems. Even Evel Knievel kept both hands on the handles and remained alert at all times when highway driving… and he was a very skilled stuntman. If you think you’re more skilled than he was, than you can try to risk it. But if anyone took calculated risks better… it would have been him.  


Not Paying Attention

As mentioned before, you have to remain alert, aware, and always defensive when riding. Generally your attention and focus decrease the more skilled you believe yourself to be. Habitual use of anything causes it to feel repetitive, and anything repeated enough feels as though it becomes second nature. This is the biggest fallacy with riders, don’t assume your skill is a substitute for paying attention. This includes watching for every vehicle around you as well as the conditions you are riding in.


Lane Splitting

Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist rides the line between two lanes. This can either be from impatience while in traffic, or a daring maneuver to get the adrenaline pumping. Either way, it’s foolish and illegal. We have laws and rules for a reason, that being to keep yourself and everyone else driving around you safe. Don’t compromise your safety, or anyone else’s just to jump ahead in line or to get your thrills. It’s simply not worth the risk.


Colliding With Fixed Objects

The biggest difference between a motorcycle and car, beyond being awesome and cool, is that a motorcycle does not have a protective cage in case of a collision. If you hit anything solid on a motorbike, it will be you who is thrown as most things will not budge on account of you colliding with it. Even it was to move, you are still going to get tossed. This includes road cones, signs, curbs, light posts, essentially everything you would think to be obvious. However, many accidents occur because a biker thought their motorcycle to be tougher than some object, or they simply did not see it.


Road Hazards

Road hazards can come in many forms, and the only way to be aware of them is to remain alert and ready. Between potholes, cracks in the road, loose gravel, odd objects that lay strewn across the road from falling off other vehicles, road kill, even banana peels, anything and everything in your path is potentially dangerous. Don’t believe you can ride over anything that isn’t the ground, and always look ahead for what’s coming up. May seem simple, but recall how many times you fell off your bicycle as a child because something surprised you in your path and sent you flying. You may have been going 5-10 mph on your bike and probably scratched yourself up pretty well, on a motorcycle however, the accident can be potentially fatal.


Excessive Speeding

If there is one solid reason for owning a motorcycle, it may well be the simple need for speed. However, speeds are set in certain areas for reasons, and though you may feel it to be too slow, it’s set for your safety. Simply put, the faster you’re going the less time you will have to react to something. Speeding also makes it harder for other vehicles to determine where you’re going to be. They may look in their rearview mirror and actually see you numerous car lengths back, decide to switch lanes, and not realize you approaching so quickly and end up side swiping you. In the end, there is no doubt you want to go fast, just do it where it is acceptable. Which means taking your bike to a track, anywhere where the number of random factors which lead to an accident are reduced.


Drinking and Riding

Just as it is with driving a car, drinking a riding is perhaps the dumbest thing any person could do. It’s probably dumber than someone who drinks and drives because at least they have a metal cage protecting them from their stupid decision. For a drunk motorcyclist, the only protection you have is whatever gear you are wearing on your body. Being drunk, you reaction time is significantly reduced, your ability is hindered, and worst of all, you have the liquid courage. Which means you’ll probably be more brazen riding, and with the prior two factors in play, it’s only a recipe for disaster.


Cars Making Left Hand Turns

The most typical reason motorcycle accidents occur is when a car is making a left hand turn. They may not see a motorcyclist in the other lane approaching, they may try to speed through a yellow believing the motorcyclist will be stopping, or the motorcyclist may not be visible to oncoming traffic turning as they are behind a car in the right lane turning. Whatever the reason, more accidents occur in this fashion than in any other. So if you had to take one point away from this piece, it would be that when approaching any and all intersections, to be on the lookout for oncoming traffic taking a left hand turn.


Head-on Collisions

Finally, the second most typical reason for a motorcycle accident is a head on collision. Some 95% of motorcycle accidents occur in this way, where only 5% of the time is a motorcyclist rear ended. Head-on collisions can come from vehicles drifting through lanes on accident, the motorcyclist drifting through lanes on accident, the left hand turn scenarios, and even vehicles taking right hand turns too wide where a motorcyclist is in the oncoming lane. So though you may believe there is just as much of a threat from vehicles behind you, history has shown that statistically, you need to keep more focus ahead of you as that’s where all the real trouble lies. 
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The author of this piece is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this article you can follow me on Twitter @CustParadigm. When I’m not writing about how to be a safer motorcycle rider, I am generally doing research for a motorcycle accident attorney in Denver Colorado. 

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