It’s no secret that motorcyclists face unique risks on the road, compared to typical passenger vehicles. The open and exposed feeling of a motorcycle is what draws more than 8.5 million motorcyclists to it in the first place, but it can also be the reason for serious injuries or even death.
Nearly 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in accidents in 2012, up 7.1 percent from the year before, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Another 93,000 motorcyclists were injured in 2012, up approximately 12,000 from 2011. Motorcyclists are five times more likely to be injured in a car accident than the occupants of a passenger car, and they are 26 times more likely to be fatally injured.
Motorcyclists share a unique set of hazards on the road. Common causes of motorcycle accidents include:
- Failure to detect: Motorcycles are smaller targets than passenger cars, making it easy for them to be obscured by other vehicles, signs, or adverse weather. This problem is especially difficult at intersections, where nearly 70 percent of motorcycle crashes occur.
- Failure to yield: Failure to the yield right of way to a motorcyclist is a contributing factor in 35 percent of motorcycle accidents, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This goes hand in hand with failure to detect, as many motorists claim not to have seen the motorcycle when changing lanes, turning left at a stoplight, merging onto the highway, or making another maneuver.
- Failure to stay in one’s lane: Drifting into another lane, changing lanes without a turn signal, or changing lanes without looking contributed to nearly 10 percent of all motorcycle crashes. When a passenger car drifts in and out of a motorcyclist’s lane, it can cause the biker to swerve or change lanes to avoid a collision, which can be extremely dangerous with other vehicles on the road.
- Speed “wobble” accidents: At high speeds, the front of the motorcycle may begin to “wobble” or shake. Often, this is a sign of misalignment between the front and rear tires of the bike. As such, the manufacturer of the motorcycle might be on the hook if you are involved in an accident due to a high-speed wobble under the theory of product liability.
- Road hazards: A motorcycle driver must pay special attention to road hazards because certain road hazards, such as potholes, can be extremely dangerous for motorcyclists but only a minor nuisance to other drivers. This may include oil slicks, debris, loose gravel, ruts, uneven pavement, railroad tracks, puddles, or other objects in the roadway. WIth only two wheels on the ground, motorcycles have less stability and are less able to recover from rough spots in the road.
- Lane splitting: While lane splitting is not legal in New Jersey, it is still a common occurrence that can be hazardous for motorcyclists. “Lane splitting” means to drive in between two lanes of stopped or slowly moving cars, typically during a traffic jam. Lane splitting contributes to a large share of motorcycle accidents because the other vehicles are in very close proximity to the motorcycle; the rider has less space than usual to maneuver; and other vehicles are not expecting another vehicle or motorcycle to pass them in heavy traffic.