According to Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors, a study commissioned by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) (a division of the United States Department of Commerce), roughly 75% of all motorcycle accidents involve collisions with another vehicle, and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the other vehicle is a passenger car. And in nearly two thirds of those collisions involving motorcycles and passengers cars, the accident is caused by the passenger vehicle driver violating the motorcyclist’s right-of-way.
Unfortunately, too many motorists still remain conscientious only about other passenger vehicles or large commercial vehicles on the road, and do not pay enough attention to other users of the roadways, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and, in particular, motorcyclists. This is especially dangerous because, unlike pedestrians or even bicyclists, motorcycles use the same lanes and roads as passenger cars.
The NTIS study shows that, in a significant number of these cases, the cause of the accident is that passenger vehicle drivers either did not see the motorcycle, or saw them too late to avoid the collision. The NTIS study further determined that the most frequent type of collision between a motorcycle and a passenger vehicle involves a passenger vehicle making a left turn directly into the pathway of an oncoming motorcycle. In fact, it is estimated that these types of collisions account for 42% of all the accidents that involve both a motorcycle and a passenger car.
For obvious reasons, these types of accidents usually happen at intersections. A car turning left into a side street does not see the motorcyclist, who is coming from the opposite direction and intending to go straight through the intersection. And while these types of accidents are also not uncommon where the vehicles involved are two passenger cars, they are disproportionately more frequent with motorcycles because of the significantly smaller visual profile offered by motorcycles. Often, the passenger car’s view of the motorcycle is impeded by glare, or is obstructed by another vehicle that is either ahead of the motorcycle or ahead of the turning vehicle. Under these circumstances, it is usually the turning vehicle that is at fault, violating the motorcyclist’s right-of- way, or ignoring a traffic symbol such as a red light or stop sign.
Even though the speed involved in these types of accidents is moderate—usually less than 30 miles per hour—the injuries that result from this type of accident can be very severe. Over 90% of these accidents result in injury to the motorcyclist, and about 45% of the injuries suffered by motorcyclists are serious. The risk of a serious injury is exacerbated by the fact that, as statistics reveal, the majority of motorcyclists involved in such accidents have less than five years of riding experience and no formal motorcycle driver training. As a result, these riders have less experience at crash avoidance.
When a motorcyclist sees an impending collision in left-turn accidents, he (or she) has about two seconds to take an evasive measure, and the most common reaction is simply to apply the brakes. The problem often comes about when the brakes are not applied evenly. By applying the front brakes too hard, the motorcyclist risks a “high-side” accident, in which they are thrown over the top of the motorcycle. Conversely, by applying the rear brakes too hard, the motorcyclist can “low-side,” forcing his motorcycle to lie down and skid across the pavement. Even when braking is applied correctly, the incident usually leads to a straight-on collision, since the motorcyclist does not have sufficient time or distance to come to a full stop before colliding with the passenger vehicle. Further problems can develop is when the downed motorcycle leaks gas, which can lead to fire and burn injuries.
Because one of the significant contributing factors to these accidents is the visibility of the motorcyclist, motorcyclists should be particularly careful in navigating city traffic. In addition, by making themselves more conspicuous, motorcyclists can help cars to see them. In these types of accidents, the line-of-sight angle is more or less head-on; consequently, a brightly-painted motorcycle makes little difference. However, there are other factors that can help a motorcyclist to be seen, including: having headlamps on at all times, wearing high-visibility colors such as yellow or orange, and operating motorcycles with fairings and windshields, which expand the head-on profile of the motorcycle.
In addition to increasing visibility, motorcyclists can take other steps to minimize the risk of injury: wearing DOT-approved helmets with visors, wearing leathers with reinforced protection for knees, elbows, and spine; and wearing motorcycle boots and gloves. Visors are particularly critical in helping motorcyclists to avoid or anticipate problems, since they prevent wind from impairing their vision. Appropriate protective gear significantly reduces the risk of broken bones and head trauma—a leading cause of motorcycle accident fatalities—and also reduces the likelihood that accident victims suffer from abrasions and lacerations from contact with the road, vehicles, or other obstacles. While superficial injuries such as these are usually not as life-threatening, they are extremely painful, and can be permanently disfiguring.
The Chicago Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C., Can Help Motorcycle Accident Victims in Crashes Involving Vehicles Making a Left-Turn into Your Lane
If you have been involved in a motorcycle--passenger vehicle collision that echoes the left-turn accident scenario above, contact the motorcycle accident attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. Our Chicago personal injury law firm has extensive experience helping motorcyclists recover damages from negligent parties who cause accidents. If you or a loved one have experienced significant injuries, or a loved one has been killed in a left-turn motorcycle accident, and you need assistance in obtaining recovery either through an insurance claim or a lawsuit, contact Abels & Annes, P.C. at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442), locally at (312) 924-7575, or contact us online for a consultation.
Remember, your consultation is free, and there is no obligation to pursue a lawsuit. You pay no fees unless and until damages are recovered on your behalf.