Drivers must safely share the road with motorcyclists. Just because one is driving a larger vehicle does not mean that they have greater rights on the road. These rules extend to situations in which drivers are passing motorcyclists.
Drivers must be careful and conscious when getting around motorcycles on the road, considering the danger for bikers. If they do not use reasonable care, drivers can cause serious injury and be legally responsible for all the damages that they cause.
Passing a Motorcycle Is a Risky Maneuver for Them
However, cars may want to pass a motorcyclist for whatever reason. Even though bikers travel at the same speed as everyone else, a motorist may perceive that the biker will be slower and want to get around them. The execution of a lane change upsets the status quo, putting bikers at risk. Passing a motorcycle is not illegal, but it is against the law if the driver does it carelessly or recklessly.
Drivers Are Often Speeding When Trying to Pass
Passing motorcyclists calls several principal risks and causes of motorcycle accidents into play. First, drivers will speed up to make the pass. Then, they may take risks to get around the motorcycle. Motorists can either endanger the biker or the cars around them on the road when they leave their lane to pass a bike. They will have to leave the lane because it is illegal to pass a biker in the same lane.
Drivers may unintentionally attempt to pass a motorcycle because they do not see the bike in their blind spot when trying to change lanes. Motorcycles are not always on eye level with a car, and a motorist must make a special effort to see the bike. Anytime a driver changes lanes or tries to pass another vehicle, they must exercise particular care.
Motorists Must Act Reasonably When Trying to Pass Motorcyclists
Drivers do not always exercise the due care expected of them in the circumstances. Both motorcyclists and drivers owe a duty of care to each other, just by being in the same general area of the road. Motorists have a legal obligation to act reasonably under the circumstances, just like the average driver. However, they do not always see motorcyclists properly, even when trying to pass them.
The biggest obstacle to safe passage is reckless driving. The motorist may be in a hurry to pass or is driving recklessly. Accordingly, they may be thinking more of getting where they want to go more quickly than the motorcyclist’s safety. The driver can be speeding when they try to make the pass or not have perfect control of their car. They may also misjudge the distance between them and the motorcyclist because bikers are not always easy to see and judge on the road.
How Drivers Can Safely Pass Motorcycles
Accordingly, here are some common-sense road tips for drivers to use when passing motorcyclists. Even if drivers follow these best practices, they can still be liable if they injure a motorcyclist when passing because of the biker’s legal right to their lane.
Drivers Should Understand the Dangers that Motorcycles Face
The first thing that drivers must do when passing a motorcyclist is use care, and plenty of it. Many motorists fail to appreciate and anticipate that riding a motorcycle is far more complicated than driving a car.
Motorcyclists have their unique set of dangers, many of them coming from the bikes being in very close proximity to the road. Motorcyclists are far more likely to be injured by poor road conditions, such as potholes. If a car cuts off some of the motorcycle’s room to maneuver, they can force the motorcyclist into a riskier situation.
Signal to Ensure that the Motorcyclists Knows What Is Happening
The driver must let the motorcyclist know their intentions. The motorcyclist can be startled by a sudden move from the driver. Perhaps the most important instrument that a driver has is their turn signal to let the motorcyclist know what the driver is doing.
The biker can then slightly slow down or do something on their part to make the lane change safer (even though it is the driver’s legal obligation to exercise due care on their own).
Leave Space Between the Car and the Motorcycle
Next, the driver must leave plenty of room between them and the motorcycle. Getting too close to a motorcycle can cause the biker to lose control. The motorcyclist can be thrown from their bike to the pavement in that event. Any contact with the motorcycle may be enough to cause a severe accident because gravity will cause the bike to tip over. Drivers should always leave at least a few car lengths between them and the motorcycle.
Do Not Speed When Passing
When passing a motorcycle, drivers should still maintain a reasonable rate of speed. If they have to go far above the speed limit to pass the bike, they should not do it. If drivers are speeding, there is a far greater chance that they will either lose control of their car or make a mistake that puts them too close to the motorcycle.
Only Pass in the Left Lane
Drivers should pass motorcycles in the left lane. Using the right lane to pass increases the risks for motorcyclists. If the driver can only use the right lane to make the pass, they should not do it. Instead, they should wait until they have a left lane to use. In turn, the motorcyclist should not linger in the left lane at a slower rate of speed.
Do Not Split Lanes
Finally, drivers should never split lanes when trying to pass a motorcycle. It is illegal for motorcyclists to split lanes in traffic (even with a recent law change, it still forbids it). Drivers should not leave their lane until they know that they can safely complete the pass. They cannot travel between lanes until they can safely pass.
Drivers Should Only Pass Under Certain Circumstances
The hope is that the motorcyclist sees the driver trying to pass them and cooperates by allowing the driver to pass. Nonetheless, it is up to the driver to ensure safe passing.
Drivers need the following to pass a motorcycle:
- Adequate visibility to ensure a safe pass
- Enough room to get around the motorcycle
- Proper weather conditions to allow them to accelerate and change lanes
- Two lanes where the car can pass the bike in the left lane
Motorists Are Legally Responsible When They Injure Bikers When Passing
The driver is the one who will be liable for any accident that occurs when they are changing lanes or trying to pass another vehicle. Rules of liability usually state that the car that has already established itself in traffic is the one who has the right to be where they are.
If someone else hits them, the vehicle that has not established itself in traffic will be liable for the accident. When a motorist begins to pass another car, they are the ones who have not established themselves in traffic. In a lane change, the driver changing lanes has the legal obligation to exercise due care.
When in doubt, the driver should not try to pass a motorcyclist unless they are certain that they can do it safely. It is always better for the driver to protect the motorcyclist and themselves by taking fewer chances. Suppose the driver takes a few extra minutes to reach their destination. In that case, it is far better than risking a severe accident that will injure a motorcyclist and lead to sizable legal liability.
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Motorcyclists can suffer the severe injuries if they fall from their bike in a lane change accident:
- Road rash from falling against the pavement and skidding along the road
- Crush injuries if their bike lands on top of them
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Severe lacerations
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal injuries and organ damage
These injuries can be severe and leave a motorcyclist facing difficulties for the rest of their lives, all because a driver was either not patient or careful when changing lanes.
The Insurance Company May Try to Blame the Motorcyclist
Never underestimate the ability of the insurance company to try to blame the accident victim, even when the facts and law are clearly on the motorcyclist’s side. It is a frequently used tactic and one that can complicate life for an accident victim who needs the money. Even if a driver has left their lane and begun to execute the pass, an insurance company can still argue that the motorcyclist shares the blame.
Insurance companies take full advantage of the fact that motorcyclists are perceived as risky merely because they ride a bike. They will always try to use that to their advantage when the motorcyclist attempts to file a claim.
You Must Still Prove Liability in the Crash
Do not take it for granted that you will have to prove what happened in your accident. Even if you knew what occurred, you must have the evidence and proof that shows that the driver was responsible for your accident. Many steps must be followed between the accident and proving liability. You must still gather the evidence necessary to demonstrate liability, even when the driver tried to pass during the accident.
However, it is not easy for injured motorcyclists to prove their cases. There is little that they can do at the accident scene, and their activities are limited in the days and months after the crash. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney knows what to do to help you compile the facts and evidence necessary to be in a position to receive financial compensation.
What if the Insurance Company Blames You?
Many people think that riding a motorcycle is inherently reckless, which is not true. However, insurance companies regularly try to blame crashes on the motorcyclist’s conduct – not the other driver’s negligence.
These companies try to save money at the expense of injured motorcyclists by assigning them some – or all – of the fault for the accident. Never accept blame for an accident you did not cause. Your lawyer can determine how to best challenge such assertions by insurance adjusters to ensure they do not reduce your compensation for this reason.
Injured Motorcyclists Need Legal Help When Filing a Claim or Lawsuit
Every injured motorcyclist needs a lawyer to look after their legal interests and fight for them when necessary. While you can pursue your case independently, it is seldom a good idea. The insurance companies practice methods to pay accident victims as little as possible. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney will recognize these tactics and know the best way to proceed on the victim’s behalf.
Motorcycle accident damages are usually more significant than those in car accidents because of the severity of the traumatic injuries. Insurance companies take these claims seriously because they require more extensive checks to settle, and there is an even greater chance that they may use some of their usual tricks to reduce the amount of money they will need to pay.
An experienced motorcycle accident attorney will work to protect their client’s legal rights and fight for them to receive every dollar that they deserve in damages.