Motorcycles are fun to ride. However many times motorcycle drivers fail to pay attention to motorcyclists and accidents occur. Unfortunately injuries sustained in in a motorcycle are many times devastating. One who is injured in a motorcycle collision may be able to obtain first-party benefits from the insurance company for the driver of the motorcycle involved in the collision. Thus motorcycle accident victims should contact an experienced lawyer immediately. See the our motorcycle accident practice section for a discussion about Michigan no-fault law. The motorcycle accident victim can bring suit against the at-fault driver. Every case is different. Contact our office for a free consultation. The statute of limitations for motorcycle accidents is similar to those applicable in automobile accident cases. See that practice section discussion for further details.
Motorcycle accidents, though not necessarily more frequent than other types of accidents, are more likely to result in serious injury or death. According to the federal government, per mile traveled in 2006, there were 35 times more deaths from motorcycle accidents than from car accidents. Because of these alarming statistics, it pays for motorcyclists to learn about the most frequent causes of accidents and then use this information to reduce their level of risk.
Motorcycles in Head-On Collisions
Crashes involving motorcycles and other vehicles account for 56% of motorcycle accident deaths. In the vast majority of these accidents, the car strikes the motorcycle from the front --78% of the time. (The car strikes the motorcycle from the rear only 5% of the time.) Head-on collisions between a car and motorcycle are often fatal to the motorcyclist.
Cars Making Left-Hand Turns
The single most dangerous situation for motorcyclists occurs when cars are making left-hand turns. These collisions account for 42% of all accidents involving a motorcycle and car. Usually, the turning car strikes the motorcycle when the motorcycle is:
going straight through an intersection
passing the car, or
trying to overtake the car.
These types of accidents are common between two cars as well, but the motorcycle's smaller size makes it even less visible to the turning vehicle. Motorcycles that pass cars within the same lane are even more vulnerable --cars don't expect, and are often surprised by, such motorcycle maneuvers.
Almost always, a vehicle that hits another vehicle while making a left-hand turn will be found at fault for the accident. However, if the motorcyclist was speeding or in the wrong lane, the motorcyclist may be partly at fault for the accident. In most states, this means the motorcyclist will get less compensation from the driver of the car for injuries and damages caused during an accident. In a few states, the motorcyclists behavior could bar recovery altogether.
Motorcycle Lane Splitting
Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle drives between two lanes of stopped or slowly moving cars, usually in traffic jams. Lane splitting is a common cause of motorcycle accidents due to several factors:
the close proximity of the cars to the motorcycle
the reduced space the motorcycle has to maneuver, and
the fact that the cars don't anticipate that any vehicle or motorcycle will be passing them in slowed or stopped traffic.
If an accident occurs while a motorcycle is lane splitting, whether the motorcycle or car is at fault depends on whether lane splitting is permissible in that state, the views of the police officer and judge on lane splitting, and the actions of both the driver of the car and motorcyclist prior to the accident.
Motorcyclist Speeding & Alcohol Use
About half of the accidents involving a single motorcycle are caused by speeding or alcohol use. This statistic is not surprising and these factors play a large role in accidents among cars and other vehicles as well. However, because motorcycles don't provide much protection to the rider, crashes involving speeding or alcohol are much more likely to result in death or serious injury.
Collisions Between Motorcycles and Fixed Objects
Motorcycles colliding with fixed objects accounts for 25% of motorcyclist deaths, but just 18% of car crash deaths. Again, because the motorcyclist is not surrounded by a box of metal and is likely to be thrown far and hard, such accidents are more deadly when riding a motorcycle.
Road Hazards Facing Motorcyclists
Motorcycles face higher dangers from road hazards than do cars and other vehicles. Due to the smaller size and less stable nature of the motorcycle, potholes, dead animals, slick pavement conditions, uneven heights between lanes, and other irregularities or unexpected objects in the road pose a serious safety threat to motorcycles.
High Performance Motorcycles
High performance motorcycles, although comprising a small portion of the overall number of motorcycles on the road, account for a disproportionate number of motorcycle accidents. These motorcycles fall into two categories: supersport motorcycles and sport motorcycles.
Supersport motorcycles are built on racing platforms that are modified for highway use. Because these motorcycles are lightweight and have high-horsepower engines, they can go extremely fast -- up to 160 mph. Most supersport motorcycle riders are under the age of 30, another contributing factor to the higher accident rate since younger motorcycle riders tend to be less cautious and take more risks than older riders.
Sport motorcycles are similar to supersport motorcycles, but have a lower power to weight ratio. Drivers of sport motorcycles tend to be under the age of 34.
The death rate among riders of supersport motorcycle accidents is four times that of riders of conventional motorcycles, like cruisers, standards, and touring motorcycles. The riders of the more conventional motorcycles are also older --usually age 40 and above. The death rate among riders of sport motorcycles is two times that of conventional motorcycle riders.
Motorcyclists are more at risk for fatal or serious accidents on the road than are drivers. Yet, motorcycle riders can increase safety by being aware of the common causes of accidents and taking steps to reduce or avoid the risk, whether it be taking extra care when lane splitting, anticipating road hazards, or resisting the temptation to speed.