Look Out For Motorcyclists (How To Avoid Motorcycle Accidents)

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It seems like every time we turn on the local news there is another tragic story of a horrific motorcycle crash that leaves a rider severely injured or worse. This is not something unique to Arizona. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 38,000 motorcyclists have been killed and over 1,222,000 riders were injured in motorcycle accidents between 2001 and 2008 (the most recent research available). The National Highway Safety Administration states that nearly half of all fatal accidents occur when a bike and a vehicle collide, and over a third of those fatal crashes were caused by a vehicle making a left turn into an intersection where an oncoming motorcyclist is going straight.

Driver awareness of motorcyclists can help prevent accidents and save lives. Here are some of the bad habits drivers demonstrate that pose deadly risks to bikers on the road from the motorcycle accident attorneys at SGP Law:

Following Distance

Many drivers follow a motorcycle as closely as they follow other cars. This can be highly hazardous since stopping conditions vary with weather, traffic and the type of bike. Cars are typically rear-ended when the person following behind is not leaving enough of a distance to react when the car in front slows or stops suddenly, usually due to an obstacle the rear driver cannot see. This concept applies to motorcycles too, only they do not have the protection of a vehicle when you rear-end them.

Motorcycles Are Unpredictable

In a previous post, we discussed why motorcyclists should pretend that they are invisible on the road. Unfortunately, this is the case a lot of the time because many drivers simply do not see motorcyclists, much less respond appropriately. For example, when traffic needs to slow down, many motorcyclists shift down and allow the bike to slow naturally rather than use their brakes, which means that you may not see their brake lights in use. This is why it is crucial to pay careful attention to bikers and give them a wide berth so that they can safely get to their destination.

Motorcyclists Split Lanes

Though illegal in Arizona, lane splitting (when a rider is driving between cars to pass them, splitting the line between lanes) still occurs because it is legal to do so in other states. Bikers traveling from states like California, where the practice is allowed, may not realize that the law is different in other states. Other motorcyclists may be aware that it is illegal and yet do it regardless. While a biker who is in an accident while lane splitting may be legally responsible in Arizona, if it can be proven that the driver of the vehicle was changing lanes or not paying attention when they hit the biker who was splitting the lane, liability can also be attached to the driver.

Intersections Are Deadly

While intersections are dangerous in every state, Arizona is notorious for having many intersections where the left turn-lane runs parallel to the through-lanes instead of being offset away from them (see image below).

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When the left hand lanes for opposite directions are directly across from one another instead of being offset, cars turning left often cannot see any drivers coming the opposite direction, due to their line of sight being blocked by cars in the opposite left-hand turn lane. When it comes to making turns, a good rule of thumb is to look once for other vehicles and twice for motorcyclists and only turn when you are certain that no traffic is coming in the opposite direction. The same is true when changing lanes since a motorcyclist is much less visible than other cars. Check your blind spot twice and make sure that there are no bikers moving forward quickly in the lane you want to merge into.

Motorcyclists Need Space

Unlike cars, motorcyclists have to constantly maneuver around obstacles on the road. Something small and insignificant for your car, such as a small pothole, can eject a motorcyclist from their bike and cause a serious accident. For this reason, bikers are constantly adjusting to an environment that changes around them. Drive more cautiously when sharing the road with motorcycles and give them a large amount of space. Always signal your intentions in advance so that motorcyclists and the other vehicles around you know what you will be doing and can plan accordingly.

Even if you take every precaution as a biker, motorcycle accidents do happen. If you are involved in an accident, it is always in your best interest to seek the professional advice of a motorcycle accident attorney. Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience PI and accident lawyers can help you today!