Motorcycles offer an economical alternative to cars and other motor vehicles for the daily commute or simply taking off to enjoy cruising along a scenic highway. The ease and fun of riding a motorcycle cannot be denied, but neither can the crash data revealing the inherent dangers faced by riders and their passengers.
According to the National Safety Council, motorcycles comprise only 3% of vehicles registered in the United States but account for 14% of the nation’s traffic fatalities. The fact that 80% of riders and their passengers die or suffer serious injuries in an accident stands as a grim reminder of the lack of protection that motorcycles have in comparison to other types of motor vehicles.
That said, the purpose of this article is not to persuade you to give up riding, though it is something worth consideration. Instead, we want you to become a better and safer rider, so here are a few suggestions to help you prevent a motorcycle accident.
Common causes of accidents involving motorcycles
Most drivers of cars and other four-wheeled vehicles lack familiarity with the operation of a motorcycle and fail to appreciate the difficulties that riders have maintaining control during inclement weather or on rough, uneven, or sandy road surfaces. Their relatively small size in comparison to other vehicles encountered by motorists make it difficult for motorcycles to be seen.
According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, common causes of motorcycle accidents include the following:
- Use of alcohol or drugs.
- Distracted, tired, or drowsy drivers.
- Failure to yield.
- Vehicle mechanical failure, including brakes.
- Careless or reckless driving.
- Passing and lane-changing errors.
The accident data compiled by Oregon DOT attributes human error on the part of motorcycle riders and drivers of other types of vehicles as a leading factor in most of the motorcycle accidents occurring in the state.
How to prevent motorcycle accidents
You cannot control what other motorists do, so staying safe and preventing accidents when riding a motorcycle means developing good riding skills, adopting safe riding behaviors, and taking steps to reduce the risk of an injury in case of a crash. Ways to accomplish this include the following.
- Take a motorcycle safety course: Learning how to safely operate a motorcycle doesn’t need to be a trial-and-error endeavor. Several national organizations offer motorcycle safety courses geared toward riders of all skill levels. Novices can learn the basics of handling a motorcycle. Experienced riders who may have been away from motorcycles for a while can take advantage of having a certified instructor reintroduce them to the riding experience. Advanced courses enable riders to work on perfecting skills, such as accident avoidance, to make them better riders. Oregon makes it mandatory for anyone seeking a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license to complete a motorcycle safety course offered by a state-approved organization to receive the endorsement.
- Slow down: Speed, particularly when operating a motorcycle, really can kill. Speeding makes it difficult to react to other vehicles, roadway hazards, or even an upcoming turn. Hard, panicked braking when driving a car may cause you to lose control of the vehicle. For the average rider, hard braking or applying the front brake first on a motorcycle at high speed will cause it to crash.
- Do not ride between lanes: Lane splitting, which occurs when a motorcyclist rides between slow or stopped vehicles is not only dangerous but also illegal in many states, including Oregon. Consider the limited amount of space between vehicles in adjoining lanes. A motorcyclist riding between them has little chance of avoiding serious injury in the event that a driver decides to change lanes without looking.
- Do not ride while impaired: Drugs or alcohol can affect judgment and your ability to react to situations when necessary. The same caution should be exercised when you feel tired or drowsy.
- Regularly perform maintenance on your motorcycle: Ensuring that the brakes, lights, tires, engine, and other components of your motorcycle are in proper operating condition can prevent an accident or enable you to avoid one.
- Practice riding under different conditions: If all roads were smooth and straight and the weather was always dry and sunny, there would be far fewer motorcycle accidents. You may not be able to control the weather or road conditions, but you can improve your ability to avoid an accident by practicing in the rain, crossing bridges, and riding in other conditions that you may experience.
- Ride defensively: The best way to prevent an accident is by recognizing situations that may cause one. For example, when approaching an intersection with an oncoming car in the left-turn lane, an experienced motorcycle rider instinctively slows down in case the driver of the car attempts to turn instead of yielding the right-of-way.
- Wear a helmet: If you ride without a helmet, the only thing preventing your head and face from hitting the ground in a crash is nothing. It is the law in Oregon for motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, so be smart and obey the law.
Riding can be fun and enjoyable, but you need to be smart and alert and know what to do if things go wrong while you’re on a motorcycle.
Speak to a motorcycle accident lawyer
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident, speak to a Bend motorcycle accident attorney. A consultation with an attorney can give you advice and options to pursue a claim for compensation against a party who is at fault for causing the accident.