Motorcycle riders often get a bad reputation for being careless vehicle operators, and that any accident that happens to them is mere good riddance for their recklessness. However, this is simply not true.
Yes, motorcycle accidents are common, but not all riders who get involved in them are at fault all the time. And just because a motorcycle accident involves only the motorcycle, it does not automatically mean that the rider was being irresponsible. Sometimes, the crash may be indirectly caused by another vehicle or a circumstance that is already out of the rider’s control.
Regardless of the cause, single-vehicle motorcycle accidents are just as dangerous as those involving multiple vehicles. And to avoid getting in one, you must know how often these scenarios happen, what causes them, and who to hold accountable if you get involved in one.
What are the common causes of single-vehicle motorcycle accidents?
Many motorists automatically assume that single-vehicle motorcycle accidents are caused by riders being irresponsible with their speed. However, there are several reasons why single-vehicle motorcycle accidents happen. These include:
- Being cut off or bumped by another vehicle
- Encountering road hazards like potholes, cracked pavement, rocks, tree branches, trash, or other vehicle parts from previous accidents in the area
- Swerving to avoid a pedestrian, animal, or any other road obstruction
- Poorly marked construction areas and road hazard signs
- Wet or slippery pavement
- Defective motorcycle components
Who is at fault in single-vehicle motorcycle accidents?
When a motorcycle is heading straight towards an intersection and another vehicle makes a sudden left-hand turn that results in the motorcycle colliding with the car, it is easy to identify that the fault lies in the driver of the other vehicle.
However, in scenarios where another vehicle forces a motorcycle to swerve and lose control thereby causing the rider to be thrown off the motorcycle, whose fault is it?
When a motorcycle rider gets into an accident because of poorly maintained roads, is the rider at fault for traveling on roads in a bad state, or is it the fault of the agency responsible for road maintenance?
What if the cause of the crash is an oil spill or a wet pavement, is the rider still at fault? In cases where the brake, clutch, or steering fails, can an injured rider hold someone else accountable for the accident?
A single-vehicle motorcycle accident will not always be the rider’s fault, but a motorcycle rider who sustains injuries from it might be responsible for all the expenses that will follow. This can provide an additional burden to the physical pain and emotional suffering the victim is already experiencing, so it is important to identify if someone else might be liable.
Several parties that may be responsible for a single-vehicle motorcycle accident include:
- Construction companies that fail to maintain the roadway at a construction site and provide adequate warning signs
- Government agencies that are in charge of road maintenance
- Motorcycle manufacturers
- Motorcycle dealers
- Manufacturers of motorcycle parts
However, an injured rider must first determine fault by establishing negligence on the part of either of these parties. The victim should also prove that the at-fault party’s actions or the lack thereof contributed to the accident and that the injuries sustained and damages incurred were a result of the motorcycle accident.
Motorcycle accidents vs. car accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 4,200 motorcycle riders were killed in motorcycle accidents in 2015. Of these fatalities, about 1,700, or around 40%, were single-vehicle motorcycle crashes.
However, many of these cases are not the rider’s fault. Most of the time, car and truck drivers are to blame. Despite this, many people still find it easier to be prejudiced towards motorcycle riders, especially since they are more capable to weave in and out of traffic more than any other type of vehicle.
Motorcycle riders, on the other hand, point their fingers at car and truck drivers who fail to acknowledge smaller vehicles on the road. This claim is supported by a Department of Transportation (DOT) study which found that car and truck drivers are often at fault because they fail to yield the right of way to motorcycles.
What do studies say?
Further corroborating the DOT study is an analysis from the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research which found that 60% of the time, other motorists on the road are at fault when they crash with motorcycles.
However, motorcycle riders are not faultless either. As far as single-vehicle crashes are concerned, motorcycle riders have a significantly higher rate of getting involved in them than other drivers.
According to the study, 34% of motorcycle accidents involve only the motorcycle. This is against the 19% of car accidents involving only the car. However, when it comes to fatal crashes, 50% of them are single-vehicle motorcycle accidents.
When do single-vehicle motorcycle accidents happen?
Single-vehicle motorcycle accidents typically occur when riders fail to slow down when navigating curves. Sometimes, these crashes may also involve other vehicles but will still be considered a single-vehicle motorcycle accident.
For instance, a car making a sudden left turn can cause a motorcycle accident, but if the motorcycle does not crash directly into it, the other vehicle is technically not involved, at least not directly. In this case, the abrupt manner by which the car turned is what caused the accident, and only the motorcycle rider was affected.
Another factor that can influence how other motorists deal with motorcycle riders is their perception that a vehicle’s speed is relative to its size. For example, motorists may find a car or a truck going at 45 mph more intimidating than a motorcycle going at the same speed, so they are more likely to give way to the car or truck driver than the motorcycle rider.
Sometimes, a motorcycle may also seem farther than it actually is, so by the time another motorist notices, it will be too late. The size of a motorcycle is of no help in this case either.
What else is there to know about single-vehicle motorcycle accidents?
Aside from the things that have been mentioned already, what other information do people need to know about single-vehicle motorcycle accidents?
According to the Hurt Report, riders crashing into stationary objects account for 25% of all motorcycle accidents in the United States. These objects include fixed roadway equipment like construction signs, direction signages, traffic cones, barriers, guardrails, light posts, electric power poles, and telephone poles.
These stationary objects, which are typically found on roads and along highways, can endanger the safety of motorcycle riders. When a rider crashes with objects like these, injuries and even death are likely.
Additionally, the number of single-vehicle motorcycle accidents involving stationary objects is significantly higher than the less than 3% of motorcycle accidents that are caused by mechanical failure.
The Hurt Report also found that poor road conditions play a role in motorcycle accidents. Of the 4,500 motorcycle accidents analyzed for this study, less than two% of them are caused by potholes, uneven pavement, construction damage, or rough road surfaces.
The rate may be lower than that of single-vehicle motorcycle accidents involving stationary objects, but it is still important that riders protect themselves with appropriate safety gear, be aware of their surroundings, and stay alert for potential road damage in case they travel on poorly maintained highways.
Speeding and drunk driving
Going above the speed limit is reckless behavior that any motorcycle rider should avoid. According to the NHTSA, about 40% of motorcycle accidents every year are caused by speeding.
Aside from speeding, driving under the influence is also another leading cause of single-vehicle motorcycle accidents. This is because riding while drunk dulls the senses, delays reaction time, and increases the risk of collision with a stationary object.
The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that 42% of all motorcycle accident fatalities involve an intoxicated rider, while about 48% is caused by a rider’s failure to obey speed limits while drunk.
Across the US, the motorcycle fatality rate is at 14.2% for those who get into a single-vehicle motorcycle accident and often attributed to the lack of mandatory helmet laws in many states that require riders of all ages to wear helmets in every ride.
But even though some states already have motorcycle helmet laws in place, some riders still see it as an option rather than a requirement. Given their proven efficacy, it should be no question that helmets do save lives and should be worn regardless if it is mandatory or not.