By design, a motorcycle’s two-wheeled platform faces stability and balance issues not common in traditional four-wheeled vehicles making operators more vulnerable to serious injuries. In addition, motorcycles lack the four door protection afforded to most other motorists with very little separating them from the road. For motorcyclists, just one miscalculation or ill-timed judgment could mean disaster or tragedy for the operator.
It is for these reasons and many others that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that when compared by miles traveled, the number of deaths from motorcycle accidents was 26 times higher than fatalities resulting from car accidents in 2013.
Motorcycle enthusiasts understand well that there are greater risks for injuries and fatalities over other passenger car occupants. By design, motorcycles provide less protection while being less stable, less visible and more vulnerable to bumps and uneven asphalt and pavement than passenger cars.
2013 Notable National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Motorcycle Statistics
- More than 8.4 million motorcycles were reportedly driven on U.S. roads.
- The National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), which is conducted by the NHTSA reports that just 60% of all motorcyclists consistently wore Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant helmets.
- There were 4,668 reported fatalities resulting from motorcycle accidents.
- Roughly 88,000 non-life threatening motorcycle accident injuries were also reported.
In 2013, the NHTSA also released a report juxtaposing motorcycle accidents in the United States with traffic accidents involving standard motor vehicles. The report indicates that while motorcycles made up only 3% of all registered vehicles, they accounted for 14% of all traffic related fatalities. In 2013, four thousand six hundred and sixty-eight motorcyclists were killed in an accident.
While motorcycle accidents rarely occur under identical circumstances, general categories may be made by grouping together similar injuries and damages. These categories are often good indicators of whether compensation may be sought.
- Motorcycle – Car Collisions: This is the most common type of motorcycle accident and involves direct collision with another car or cars on the road. Due to the motorcycle’s compact size, it is easy to see how one can be relegated to a car’s blind spot and often go unnoticed. A car’s otherwise simple lane change can turn tragic when a motorcycle goes unnoticed.
- Single Cycle Accidents: It may be surprising, but reports indicate that nearly half of all motorcycle accidents occur without the interference of another vehicle. By design, two wheels make motorcycles far more susceptible to loss of control on a variety of road surfaces as well as when speeding or lane shifting. Motorcycles are also more likely to collide with a fixed object such as a median, in attempts to avoid an accident with a larger vehicle.
- Open Door Accidents: A motorcycle’s compact profile and agility allow it to ride close to parked cars where an automobile driver may not notice a motorcycle causing an inadvertent accident by simply opening the driver side door. This type of impact is especially common in urban settings where motorcycles and motor bikes are more common and can easily eject a motorcyclist from the motorcycle.
- Wipeout Accidents: A wipeout refers to a motorcycle accident where the bike hits the ground rather than colliding with another vehicle or fixed object. This type of accident can be especially dangerous in high traffic conditions where there are busy or congested roadways.
- Motorcycle – Pedestrian Accidents: This type of accident occurs either because the pedestrian doesn’t notice the motorcycle, or the motorcyclist doesn’t notice the pedestrian and a collision ensues. These types of accidents are common at busy intersections as well as in urban settings where both vehicle and foot traffic is abundant.
Vigilance and safe driving practices can certainly thwart many types of motorcycle accidents, but even the most diligent motorcyclist faces unfavorable odds when it comes to being involved in an accident. Without complete control over other drivers’ actions, road conditions or in many cases, issues with personal motorcycle control, many motorcyclists will eventually be involved in an accident.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents are caused by a variety of factors, and it is the particular circumstances of the accident that will ultimately determine eligibility for filing a motorcycle accident personal injury claim in Pennsylvania.
- Speeding: Whether the responsibility lies with the motorcyclist or another driver, speeding is one of the leading causes of all traffic accidents. Due to a more acute force of impact, injuries sustained in speeding accidents are often serious and sometimes fatal.
- Aggressive Driving: Aggressive driving includes intentionally or unintentionally driving too close behind or alongside another vehicle, sudden slowing or stopping and veering your vehicle purposely towards another vehicle.
- Distracted Driving: Due to compact size, it’s already challenging to identify some motorcycles in traffic. Add a distracted motorcycle operator to the mix and accidents are bound to happen.
- Driving Under the Influence: Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol account for a large number of motorcycle accidents. NHTSA’s report indicates that 28% of fatal motorcycle accidents in 2013 were alcohol related. Furthermore, this report also indicates that motorcyclists involved in accidents are more likely to have alcohol present in the blood than any other type of vehicle operator.
- Blind Spots: There are certain areas in rear and side view vehicle mirrors that are unable to project accurate reflections of specific zones. These zones are known as a vehicle’s blind spots. Being unaware of another vehicle or motorcycle’s presence can prompt sudden and dangerous maneuvers such as switching into a lane that is already occupied by a motorcycle.
- Not Keeping Safe Driving Distance: In order to avoid rear-ending another vehicle or being rear-ended by another vehicle, motorcycles need to follow the same rules as all other drivers by maintaining safe driving distances between vehicles.
- Road Hazards: Loose gravel, bumps in the road, oil slicks and black ice are all examples of conditions that can cause a motorcyclist to suddenly lose control. Such road hazards can be particularly dangerous at night when visibility is limited.
- Road Construction: Construction zones are common to traffic accidents and motorcyclists need to exercise special caution when traveling through posted construction areas.
- Lane Splitting: Lane splitting refers to motorcyclists who drive in between lanes of traffic. This is an illegal and extremely dangerous practice that places the motorcyclist and other vehicles at increased risk for accidents.
- Turning: Entering the flow of traffic is dangerous for any vehicle, but is especially dangerous for motorcyclists. Compact size can make them easily overlooked and other drivers may under or overestimate the motorcycle’s speed making an accident more likely.
- Changing Lanes: Motorcyclists need to take special care when changing lanes to ensure visibility to other vehicles. There must also be a heightened awareness of surrounding cars and the possibility of sudden and unexpected lane changes.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Motorcycle accidents can cause a wide range of injuries. Some injuries are minor while others can be critical and even fatal. Injuries are largely dependent on the type of accident and the speed at which the vehicles involved were traveling. With no steel frame protecting the rider, the motorcyclist’s entire body is at risk for injury.
- Road Rash: Road rash results when the body slides across pavement causing cuts and abrasions to exposed skin. Though road rash injuries can be mild, deeps cuts prone to infections and other complications may develop.
- Broken Bones and Fractures: Exposure puts all bones at serious risk for fractures and breaks. Arms, ribs and other bones can also be broken when the operator tips over or is ejected from the motorcycle.
- Internal Organ Injury: All of the major organs can be bruised or ruptured during the impact of a motorcycle accident. In some cases, internal bleeding can lead to organ failure and death if not properly treated.
- Traumatic Brain Injury: Brain injuries range significantly in severity from a mild concussion to paralysis or even death. These types of injuries may require special medical attention for the duration of the injured party’s life.
- Spinal Cord Injury: The spinal cord serves as the pathway between the brain and the rest of the body. A spinal cord injury is often permanent and could render a victim paralyzed requiring full time permanent care.
- Disfigurement: Physical disfigurement may also result from a motorcycle accident injury. This type of injury not only sets potential limitations for the rest of the victim’s life, but it can also leave a lasting psychological imprint.
- Fatality: Statistics indicate that a large number of motorcycle accidents result in fatal injuries. Often, these injuries stem from blows to the head, spinal cord injuries or other internal injuries.
Motorcycle operators should take every precaution possible to avoid injury. This includes using reflective devices to make the bike more visible to other drivers, paying close attention to the road and other drivers and wearing protective gear including helmets, boots and durable clothing.
What to Do If You’ve Been in a Motorcycle Accident?
Anyone who has ever been involved in a motor vehicle accident understands how terrifying and confusing those initial moments can be. If you are a victim of a motorcycle accident, it is important to remain calm and remember the following steps. Keeping these steps in mind may prove helpful should you decide to contact a Pennsylvania motorcycle accident attorney and pursue legal action against the at-fault party.
Your safety should always be your first priority. If you are unable to move after a motorcycle accident, remain still until professional help arrives. In a case where you are able to move freely and don’t require immediate or emergency medical care, please keep the following steps in mind.
- Don’t Leave the Scene: It is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania to leave the scene of an accident. Even if no other vehicles are involved, you should still wait for the police so that you have documentation of the accident for your insurance company or for a potential personal injury case against the other party.
- Get to Safety: Remove yourself, and if possible, your motorcycle out of the way of any oncoming traffic. If time allows, snap a few photos of the position of your motorcycle, the other vehicle(s) and any skid marks using your cell phone prior to moving anything.
- Call the Police: No matter how small the accident may seem, you still need a police report to prove that an accident took place. Contact the local police department or call 911 if you are involved in a motorcycle accident.
- Avoid Speaking to the Other Driver: The only conversation you need to have with the other driver is to exchange insurance information. Don’t discuss the accident, how it happened or admit any fault when talking with the other party.
- Take Pictures: Get as many pictures as possible, including damage to the other vehicle, street signs and any road hazards that may have contributed to the accident.
- Obtain Contact Information from Witnesses: Ask anyone in the vicinity who witnessed the accident for their contact information. If you do pursue a personal injury lawsuit, a first-hand recollection of the events could prove invaluable.
- Seek Medical Attention: After a traumatic event like a motorcycle accident, the possibility exists that your body may go into shock to prevent feelings of pain. Even if you feel fine, seek medical care and make sure that the attending physician knows the details of the accident so a proper examination of potential injuries may be conducted.
- Hire a Motorcycle Accident Attorney: Injuries sustained from motorcycle accidents are not only painful, but can prove quite costly. Before you start fielding calls from any insurance companies, you should hire an experienced attorney who can help prove liability and negotiate settlements with insurance companies.