Thursday, August 19, 2010

Watch Out!

Motorcycle Safety

“Only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.

~Author Unknown

Whether you ride or not, we all need to be more aware of motorcycle safety. Harleys and other brands have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Higher gas prices also encourage cycling. Many more bikes are on the road. This interaction can be deadly for our friends on bikes.

Clearly, some bike accidents are the fault of daredevils kicking up wheelies on the interstate. These folks will probably kill themselves before a car ever gets involved. About 25% of the crashes in one study involved a single motorcycle that either struck a fixed object and/or ran-off the road. This behavior is especially troubling in Arkansas where no helmet is required. They would do well to recall this famous quote:

“What do you call a cyclist who doesn't wear a helmet?”

“Organ donor. “ ~David Perry

However, it has been my experience in a decade and half of handling injury and death cases that cars (we non-riders) are actually the culprit in most crashes! This might surprise you. Nearly 75% of the crashes in that same study were motorcycles involved in a collision with another vehicle, which was mostly a passenger car.

We see it so often in my injury law practice that we call them a “standard motorcycle wreck.” Here is what it looks like:

The most frequent impact configuration is the motorcycle proceeding straight ahead and the car making a left turn in front of the oncoming motorcycle at an intersection. Usually, the driver of the other vehicle violated the motorcycle’s right of way and caused the crash. The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic was the predominating cause of motorcycle-car accidents. The driver of the other vehicle did not see the cycle before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid the collision.

“I just didn’t see him!”

~Most at fault drivers

Not noticing the motorcycle is a critical factor in multiple vehicle accidents. Thus, motorcycle headlamps (on even in daylight) and the wearing of high visibility yellow, orange or bright red jackets reduces accident involvement.

One study concluded that the typical motorcycle accident allows the motorcyclist just less than 2 seconds to complete all collision avoidance action. Motorcycle riders in these accidents showed significant collision avoidance problems. Most riders would over brake and skid the rear wheel, and under brake the front when greatly reducing collision avoidance deceleration. The ability to counter steer and swerve was essentially absent.

The likelihood of injury is extremely high is these motorcycle accidents-98% of the multiple vehicle collisions and 96% of the single vehicle accidents resulted in some kind of injury to the motorcycle rider; 45% resulted in more than a minor injury.

“Everyone crashes. Some get back on. Some don't. Some can't.”

~Author Unknown

Bottom line, watch your left turns more carefully. Some folks actually plan their route to avoid them where possible. Let’s all be more careful, because your riding neighbor’s very life may depend on your glance.