Riding a motorcycle is a favorite pastime of many Texans, but unlike most pastimes like relaxing, reading, or fishing, an afternoon ride in the sun can quickly turn into a disaster.
A motorcycle accident can happen in the blink of an eye, and even those who survive a crash may find themselves with devastating injuries.
When we look at the statistics, it’s not hard to see why.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that motorcyclists are four times more likely to be injured and 29 times more likely to die in a crash than those in a passenger vehicle like a car or truck.
But why do so many of these accidents happen?
We look at the leading causes of motorcycle accidents and the devastating impact they have.
Why Are Motorcycle Accidents so Dangerous?
While car accidents can be devastating, killing millions of people worldwide every year, passenger vehicles at least offer some protection and absorb some of the crash’s impact. In contrast, motorcycles offer almost no protection. A motorcyclist must rely primarily on thick clothing (jacket, trousers, boots, and gloves) to prevent skidding across the road and a helmet to minimize head trauma. Even then, these are only effective if a motorcyclist is wearing them.
This means riders are far more vulnerable to broken bones, spinal injuries, and head trauma.
Some of the other common motorcycle accident injuries include:
- Back injuries
- Road rash
- Dental injuries
- Facial injuries.
It can take months or longer for victims of these injuries to recover — if they ever do. When a limb has to be amputated, or a rider sustains burns or scarring, the impact is permanent and life-changing.
The Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
The top causes of motorcycle accidents often fall into one of three categories: driver error, vehicle error, and environmental factors.
Most motorcycle accidents are caused by driver error, with vehicle failure and the environment contributing to fewer accidents.
To illustrate this, three-quarters of all motorcycle accidents involve at least one other vehicle. The remaining quarter is single-vehicle accidents involving a collision with the road or an object in the environment (such as a pothole, tree, or other road defect). Most of these single-vehicle accidents are caused by an error by the rider, such as over-braking and sliding across the road or running wide due to speeding.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents Involving Driver Error
Distracted driving is a common cause of road accidents in general. If a driver eats, drinks, talks to other passengers, or checks their cell phone while driving, they risk missing a hazard and not reacting in time, causing a devastating accident.
Some Texas roads have speed limits of 85 mph — the highest across the country — so a crash can be deadly even at legal speeds. It’s not hard to imagine how dangerous a collision can be if drivers exceed those speeds. Whether it’s a driver or motorcyclist going too fast, one thing is clear: the brunt of the crash is usually absorbed by the rider.
Driving While Intoxicated
Drinking alcohol impairs concentration and slows the reflexes, which naturally affects how fast drivers can respond to hazards while driving. Unfortunately, driving while intoxicated is a common cause of motorcycle accidents, with 34% of all motorcyclist fatalities involving intoxication.
Left-hand turn crashes are a common cause of motorcyclist accidents, and they can be deadly. These accidents happen when a car makes a left turn and hits a motorcycle going straight through an intersection. While often a result of driver distraction, these accidents also occur due to low visibility and speeding.
Left-hand turn accidents happen in multi-passenger vehicle accidents, but they’re much less frequent, as the larger size of passenger cars makes them easier to spot.
According to the NHTSA, 42% of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents happen when a driver makes a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle.
Motorcycle Lane Splitting
Just one state in the US — California — allows lane splitting, where a motorcycle snakes between a line of stopped or slow-moving traffic. Despite it being illegal in Texas, it still happens, and it’s dangerous purely because there’s little room for motorcycles to maneuver, increasing the risk of a motorcyclist weaving into a car.
This is one of the few causes of motorcycle accidents where the fault lies clearly with the motorcyclist.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents from Vehicle Error
A study by the University of South Carolina, in partnership with the NHTSA, found that vehicle failure accounts for less than 3% of motorcycle accidents. That seems like a small number, but with around 84,000 riders injured every year, many motorcyclists are injured due to vehicle failure.
Tire performance is crucial for everyone on the road. When a tire bursts, whether on a car or motorcycle, the driver or rider loses control of their vehicle, which can cause a huge, multi-vehicle crash or send a motorcyclist straight into a guardrail, tree, fence, or another object.
It’s vital for road users to regularly check a tire’s tread, age, shape, pressure, and condition, but sometimes a tire may be faulty from the get-go. In this case, the tire manufacturer may be liable for a crash.
Brake failures are common causes of motorcycle accidents involving vehicle error. Even when driving at a low speed, if a brake fails to slow a vehicle, it can cause a catastrophic crash. If a motorcyclist cannot react in time, the head-on impact can be fatal. It’s equally dangerous when a motorcycle’s brakes fail — even if there are no other vehicles on the road — as the rider may collide with a fixed object on or off the road.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents Involving Environmental Factors
Potholes are hazardous for motorcyclists. The sudden bump can flip the motorcycle and throw the rider off it. In the best-case scenario, a rider may skid across the road and walk away. However, road rash can still be severe, leaving wounds that may become infected or exposing muscle and bone, resulting in permanent scars.
In the worst-case scenario, a pothole may flip a motorcyclist into oncoming traffic, resulting in a fatality.
Inclement weather like wind, snow, ice and heavy rain are not a common cause of motorcycle accidents, contributing to less than 2% of total motorcycle accidents. However, such weather can make the road hard to navigate and increase the risk of a dangerous crash.
As is the case with any auto accident, it’s not enough that you are careful on the road — many accidents happen because of the actions of others. If a driver is speeding in wet conditions, they may hydroplane or skid across the water and lose control, and a motorcyclist may not be able to avoid contact.
Head-on collisions are a common cause of motorcycle accidents that fit into all three categories.
If the driver of a passenger car is driving while intoxicated or distracted and suddenly brakes at an intersection, a motorcyclist may not be able to brake in time, which can lead to a head-on collision.
Likewise, if an auto defect or environmental factor causes a motorcycle accident, the rider will often hit the hazard or bear the brunt of any impact head-on.
It’s no surprise, then, that three-quarters of all motorcycle fatalities involving more than one vehicle were head-on collisions. Multi-vehicle collisions present the most considerable risk to a rider because of the difference in size and force between the two vehicles and the lack of safety features and protection a motorcycle offers.
What to Do if You’ve Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident
Whatever the cause of your motorcycle accident, the impact can be devastating. You will likely be in physical pain, and you’ll also have other mounting costs, from medical expenses and vehicle repair bills to lost wages from not being able to work.
These costs can quickly become overwhelming, but you shouldn’t be forced to bear the financial burden if your accident was caused — wholly or in part — by someone else.
Your priority should be to contact a personal injury lawyer to find out where you stand legally. You may be entitled to a significant payout, not just to cover your expenses but also to compensate you for your injuries.
If the unthinkable has happened and you’ve lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, you have a right to file a wrongful death claim. While a financial award pales compared to the loss of a loved one, it can relieve your financial burden, allowing you to focus on healing.
A successful motorcycle accident claim requires strong evidence that another party — such as another driver or a manufacturer — was negligent or reckless and that their behavior caused your accident.
To see how much compensation you could receive, contact our Texas motorcycle accident lawyers today by submitting the contact form or calling 855-LAW-NINJA. We offer a free, no-obligation case review to find out if you have a claim and make sure we’re the right firm for you.
Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501