Motorcycle safety is at the top of our minds now that summer is here, more folks will be pulling their motorcycles out of the garage and taking them on trips across Nova Scotia’s beautiful highways. While motorcycles are no doubt some of the most fun and most exhilarating vehicles to drive, they are also among the most dangerous. This is not just because motorcycle riders tend to throw caution to the wind. Motorcycles are hard for other drivers to see and many do not appreciate how their own driving can impact smaller vehicles around them. If you are planning to take your bike out of the garage this summer, there are a number of tricks that seasoned riders use to increase their safety.

Motorcycle Accident Statistics

The U.S. has far more motorcycles per capita than Canada. This is because they have a longer riding season resulting from longer summers. In 2017, there were 5,172 deaths attributed to motorcycle accidents. Motorcyclists continue to be overrepresented in traffic fatalities.

Here in Nova Scotia, motorcycles make up lower percentage of the number of the vehicles on the road and yet, they make up for a large percentage of the fatalities. A University of Toronto study found that motorcycle accidents cost six times what your typical traffic accident would cost. Even as the number of overall traffic fatalities is down, motorcycle riders remain particularly susceptible to severe injury and death.

Check Your Tires

Your tires have warranties for a certain amount of miles? That is great, but tires do not just lose their ability to grip the road because of wear and tear from use. Tires lose their elasticity the older they are. A tire may be unsafe after never having been driven at all simply because the rubber has gotten harder. This makes the tire more susceptible to blowouts, and if your tire blows out while you are on a motorcycle, you are in serious trouble. If you keep your motorcycle in the garage for the winter, then you will need to check your tires every summer to ensure that they still have the proper texture.

You should:

  • Check for cracks and bulges in the tires;
  • Check your tire pressure and ensure tires are properly inflated.

Avoid Semi Trucks and Tractor-Trailers

If you find yourself next to a tractor-trailer, you should know that you are in danger. Large trucks such as these have considerable blind spots, especially toward the back of the truck and on the passenger side. While modern technology affords for sensors that can alert the trucker that there is a vehicle in the blind spot, you do not want to count on this particular truck employing this technology at that time. Additionally, motorcycles are smaller, so the sensor technology may not pick up your vehicle. If you are next to semi, you should do your best to get out of that spot as quickly as possible.

Riding Defensively

You should not assume that another driver can or will see you. That driver does have a duty of care to ensure the safety of all other drivers on the road. However, you can and should ride your motorcycle as if you are the one who has the most to lose in an accident — because you are. Car drivers are safely nestled in the cabins of their vehicles. You are exposed to the elements. If a passenger vehicle hits you, it may require some minor bodywork for the larger vehicle. Your injuries are likely to be severe.

Types of Motorcycle Accidents and Statistics

Believe it or not, head-on collisions accounted for the majority of motorcycle fatalities. 56% of all motorcycle fatalities were caused by a car striking a motorcycle either from the front or the back. The vast majority of these (78%) were from the front.

The majority of overall motorcycle accidents, however, involved a car attempting to make a left-hand turn. These accounted for 42% of all motorcycle and passenger vehicle accidents. In these cases, the car typically strikes the motorcycle as the motorcycle is attempting to pass the car, going straight through the intersection, or trying to overtake the car. This is a common type of accident regardless of the vehicles involved. In almost every case, the or vehicle that was passing through the intersection is considered at fault for the accident.

Collisions between motorcycles and fixed objects account for 25% of all motorcycle fatalities but only 18% of all crash deaths.

Lane Splitting

As an injury lawyer who represents motorcycle accident victims, one of the most common defenses is to accuse a motorcyclist of lane splitting. Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist tries to drive between two lanes to pass cars on either side. This is illegal. Even though you are on a smaller vehicle, passing cars like this is dangerous. Not only do you have reduced room on either side of your vehicle, but the chances that you can become sandwiched between the cars is quite high. Cars will never anticipate that another vehicle will attempt to overtake them like this. Lane splitting should be avoided at all costs.

Road Hazards and Motorcycles 

Motorcycles are much more susceptible to road hazards than other types of vehicles. Worst-case scenario for a car involves a tire blowout. While these can be dangerous at high speeds, they are typically not dangerous at lower ones. They are just a major nuisance. That is not the case for motorcycle riders.

Road hazards are a common cause of motorcycle accidents. These include things like:

  • Road debris: While in most places, it is illegal for drivers to litter or discard things from their windows, that does not always mean they are going to. Additionally, sometimes treads separate on highways and the refuse can be left in the middle of the road. You want to avoid road debris while on your motorcycle at all costs.
  • Wet or slippery pavement: You want to be careful about riding your motorcycle in wet or slippery conditions. There is less tire to meet the surface of the road and, therefore, there is a greater risk to the rider on his bike.
  • Uneven road surfaces: Uneven road surfaces are not much of a big deal if you are in a car, but if you are traversing one on a bike, it can be slightly jarring. You want to be aware of uneven edge breaks.
  • Small objects and animals: Even the smallest objects and animals can wreak huge amounts of destruction in the path of a motorcycle.
  • Slick surfaces: Leaves, crosswalk edges, painted surfaces, and leaked antifreeze or oil present major hazards for motorcycles.
  • Rough roads: Roads that are in disrepair or under construction can present a serious problem for those on motorcycles.
  • Gravel: Gravel is a difficult surface for motorcyclists to navigate. If traversing gravel, you will need to slow your speed down considerably.
  • Puddles: Puddles can cause a motorcycle to hydroplane, even those that are not that deep.
  • Railroad tracks and crossings: Motorcycle tires can become lodged between the tracks and even those with metal or wood create an even surface can be slicker than normal pavement.

These hazards present a major problem for motorcyclists whereas they would not present any problem at all for most cars. The reasons are obvious. Firstly, cars are much more structurally stable than motorcycles. Not only do they have more and wider tires gripping the road, but they are flatter and distribute their weight more evenly. Motorcyclists should not assume that because a hazard produces no danger to a car that the same will hold true for a motorcycle.

High-Performance Motorcycles

 High-performance motorcycles make up a small fraction of all the motorcycles you will find on the road. They also make up a disproportionately large number of fatalities and accidents.

Sport motorcycles are built on racing platforms that have been modified for highway use. These motorcycles are typically lighter than normal motorcycles and high-performance engines that allow them to accelerate and travel faster. It is a good mix if you race motorcycles but a dangerous one if you are on the road.

Supersport motorcycles have an even higher HP to weight ratio.

Lawsuits Involving Motorcycle Accidents

In cases in which you can sue a negligent driver for injuring you on your motorcycle, you will be facing an uphill battle. There is a broad prejudice against motorcyclists in the courts. Motorcyclists are often characterized as adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers who drive their bikes recklessly and carelessly. This unfair prejudice must often be overcome in order to get a fair settlement in a lawsuit against an at-fault driver.

That being said, the majority of motorcycle accidents are caused by careless drivers in passenger vehicles and not motorcycle riders themselves. While motorcycle riders can be held partly liable in some accidents, unsafe lane changes and failure to yield the right away accounted for a large cross-section of all the motorcycle and car accidents that occurred.

This only underscores the point that, as the individual in the smaller vehicle, you must remain aware of your surroundings.

A Car Turns Left in Front of You

Motorcycles are smaller and more difficult to see than other vehicles on the road. This does not excuse drivers from operating their vehicles unsafely, but it does behoove the individual on the smaller vehicle to pay more attention.

One of the most common motorcycle accidents involves a car cutting off a motorcycle while trying to merge into a left-hand lane. Chances are, the driver was not paying attention to that lane and, in the process, have now created a dangerous situation for you. It remains true that distracted driving accounts for more accidents today than ever before. With the advent of cell phones and infotainment systems, it is unlikely that will change any time soon.

Motorcyclists need to be able to anticipate what other drivers are going to do. This is especially true when those drivers are not particularly good at driving. This means not attempting to overtake these vehicles in the hopes that the driver of the car is paying attention. If you do plan on overtaking the vehicle, do so slowly as opposed to speeding past. If the motorcyclist can be shown to have been speeding, the argument can be made that the motorcyclist contributed to the accident.

The motorcyclist who is able to see this coming will avoid this type of accident.

A Car Changes Lanes Directly Into You

 Sideswipe accidents are quite common when it comes to motorcycles. In some cases, you cannot avoid a crash because the driver of the vehicle never bothered to check before changing lanes. You can sometimes anticipate that a driver is driving erratically and attempt to get as far away from his or her vehicle as possible. An erratic driver may be drunk, texting, or on drugs. Whatever the reason, they are a serious threat to you.

Additionally, you should avoid driving in their blind spots. On a motorcycle, you do not have the luxury of assuming anything. In fact, you should always assume that the other driver is going to do the worst possible thing at any given moment.

Car Door Collisions 

Car doors are a big problem for motorcyclists and bicyclists alike. If a driver opens his or her car door and a cyclist or motorcyclist collides with it, it is always the driver’s fault. Your best bet, however, is not to blame the driver after being severely injured, but to avoid such a collision entirely. Drivers are not necessarily going to look before opening their doors, even though they should. When you are riding in residential areas, you should be aware of drivers who have just parked or are still in their vehicles.

Talk to a Nova Scotia Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Remember to stay safe out there on your motorcycle, but if you are hit by a careless driver, there may not be much you can do. In that case, Preszler Injury Lawyers can help you recover damages related to the accident. Give us a call or talk to us online to set up an appointment today.