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Understanding the common causes of motorcycle wrecks is an important tool for staying safe on the road and a key component of any motorcycle accident injury claim. With a solid grasp of the top contributing factors in motorcycle crashes, you can identify what went wrong, who may be liable, and which types of evidence to collect. 

To that end, The Melonakos Law Firm has compiled the following guide to the most common causes of motorcycle accidents according to some of the latest available data. To learn more, continue reading – and don’t hesitate to contact our firm if you want a free consultation with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney.

How Dangerous Are Motorcycles?

Statistically, motorcycles are considerably more dangerous than passenger vehicles. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), more than 80 percent of all motorcycle accidents result in some type of injury or death to motorcyclists. Practically, some of this increased danger has more to do with the way other motorists behave around motorcycles than

That said, there are several reasons why motorcycles are potentially more dangerous than other vehicles, including:

  • Less stability – A motorcycle’s light, two-wheel design makes it more nimble and speedy than a traditional car but also makes it less stable and more difficult to control. Even relatively slight changes in pavement texture or weight distribution can have significant effects on a motorcycle’s balance and stability.
  • Smaller profiles – Even the largest motorcycle is smaller than the average passenger vehicle, and unfortunately, many motorcycle accidents happen because drivers simply aren’t paying attention. The relatively small profile of a motorcycle rider often goes unnoticed in the blind spots of larger vehicles, which can lead to devastating collisions when inattentive drivers turn or change lanes. Some drivers also have a hard time gauging a motorcycle’s distance and relative speed due to its smaller profile, which can cause them to make costly errors.
  • Less protection – Even when motorcyclists wear proper safety gear and high-quality helmets, they have far less protection than any passenger vehicle occupant in the event of a collision. Motorcyclists are also frequently ejected from their bikes upon impact, which can result in hard contact with the road or other hard surfaces.

What Is the Main Cause of Motorcycle Accidents?

Like any crash, a motorcycle accident is a complex event that involves multiple contributing factors, including some that are human-related, others that are vehicular, and still others that are environmental in nature. 

Recently, the FHWA released a Motorcycle Crash Causation Study (MCCS) that examined a representative sample of roughly 350 motorcycle crashes and 700 control cases from one recent year. This study revealed that certain factors were overrepresented among the crashes studied – specifically, those related to other drivers. The top two primary contributing factors were “Other Vehicle Driver Perception Failure,” which was a factor in 30 percent of motorcycle wrecks, and “Other Vehicle Driver Decision Failure,” which was a factor in 17 percent.

The following findings from the MCCS also suggest a strong correlation between the behavior of vehicle drivers and the prevalence of motorcycle accidents:

  • A significant majority (76.2 percent) of studied motorcycle accidents were multi-vehicle crashes, only one of which was a motorcycle-motorcycle collision.
  • Motorcyclists reportedly took “proper evasive action” in advance of imminent collisions twice as frequently as they took “improper evasive actions.”
  • On the other hand, a staggering 83 percent of other vehicle drivers took “no collision-avoidance” actions at all in advance of imminent crashes.
  • In 94 percent of the studied cases, the other vehicle driver’s view of the motorcyclist was “not obscured” in any way.
  • Attention failure, distraction, or stress on the part of the other vehicle driver was a contributing factor in 43 percent of studied motorcycle crashes.
  • Inadequate “traffic scans” on the part of the other vehicle driver were a contributing factor in 70 percent of studied motorcycle crashes.
  • “Faulty traffic strategies” on the part of the other vehicle driver were a contributing factor in 50 percent of studied motorcycle crashes.
  • “Potential hazard detection failure” on the part of the other vehicle driver was a contributing factor in 60 percent of studied motorcycle crashes.
  • “Unsafe acts” on the part of the other vehicle driver were a contributing factor in 63 percent of studied motorcycle crashes.

What Is a Major Cause of Death in Motorcycle Accidents?

While motor vehicle crash fatality rates have generally decreased over the past 20 years, even when accounting for a dramatic recent increase in fatal crashes, motorcycle crash fatalities are a glaring exception. The rate of fatal motorcycle accidents increased by nearly 23 percent over the course of one recent 10-year span, according to data assembled by the Insurance Information Institute.

Data from the MCCS show that the following contributing factors were overrepresented among fatal motorcycle crashes:

  • Head injuries to the motorcyclist
  • Crossing opposing traffic lanes
  • Negotiating curves or turns
  • Travel speeds above 50 miles per hour
  • Trips to “family, friends, and relatives”
  • Travel to “religious activities”
  • Short trips of two to five miles
  • “Drugs taken; type unknown”

Other Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Here are some examples of the other common causes of motorcycle accidents:

  • Following too closely – Motorists who tailgate or follow too closely behind motorcyclists have less room for error and are more likely to cause severe rear-end collisions.
  • Distracted driving – Motorists who are absorbed in text messages, phone calls, or other distractions are especially likely to overlook motorcyclists in the vicinity. 
  • Impaired driving – Motorists who are under the influence of alcohol, recreational drugs, or even certain legitimate medications can become dangerously impaired and are more likely to overlook or collide with motorcycles.
  • Speeding – Motorists who exceed posted speed limits or drive too fast for conditions have less time to react quickly enough to prevent motorcycle wrecks.
  • Aggressive driving – Aggressive drivers who intentionally tailgate, lane weave, or attempt to run others off the road frequently cause motorcycle accidents.
  • Violating traffic rules – Failure to yield the right of way and failure to signal before turning are two common violations that contribute to motorcycle crashes.
  • Dooring” incidents – A “dooring” accident occurs when a negligent vehicle occupant opens a car door directly into the path of an oncoming motorcyclist.
  • Mechanical defects – In some cases, defective vehicle components fail in transit and contribute to loss-of-control motorcycle accidents.
  • Poor road conditions – Poor road conditions like large potholes, inadequate drainage, or missing signs can also contribute to motorcycle accidents.

Contact a Compassionate Motorcycle Accident Attorney for Help with Your Claim

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, the compassionate legal team at The Melonakos Law Firm is here to help. Contact us today so we can answer your questions and evaluate your case for free in an initial strategy session.

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