As a California Motorcycle Accident Attorney and Biker Lawyer, I regularly deal with all sorts of different motorcycle accident cases that are caused by all sorts of different scenarios. As an actual rider of motorcycles, something that sets me apart from other lawyers who handle motorcycle accident cases, I know firsthand the risks and dangers of riding motorcycles.
I am always asked what do you have to watch out for the most while riding your motorcycle. I could write an entire book on this subject, however, I will do my best to answer the question in this short essay.
There really is no simple answer to this question. Motorcycle accidents are caused by other negligent motorists, lack of riding experience or knowledge, road conditions, loose debris, mechanical failure, excessive speed, tire failure, weather, animals, drugs and alcohol, even medical conditions of a rider.
All of these topics warrant a lengthy discussion.
However, in my practice and in my opinion, the single largest cause of motorcycle accidents is other motorists in 4 wheel or greater vehicles, we bikers and motorcyclist call these persons “cagers.”
The largest threats to a biker and motorcyclist from a 4 wheel motorist on his or her motorcycle are; (1) A motorist turning left in front of you, (2) A motorist cutting you off or hitting you while exiting a driveway or an ally, (3) A motorist cutting you off or hitting you while coming from a side street, (4) a motorist merging into you from the side while driving next to you or near you, (5) a motorist pulling out from the curb, and (6) getting rear ended.
Among all of the motorcycle accident cases that I handle, the threats articulated above are the main causes of motorcycle accident and motorcycle accident death cases that I handle.
There are some basic preventative measures you can take to minimize the chances of you becoming the next victim of a negligent motorist while out on your motorcycle.
Beyond taking a certified motorcycle safety course, and advanced course on your own motorcycle, not driving while intoxicated, wearing proper riding attire including a DOT certified full face or modular helmet, and making sure you have a proper motorcycle endorsement, there are a few tricks I have learned throughout the years that I will share with you.
(1) Don’t ride too fast for the conditions you are in.
Most motorcycle accident happen on city streets, and within a 5 mile radius from your home. If you are on let’s say a 4 lane street (2 in each direction), there are risks everywhere. Make sure you keep your speed down so that if you have to stop or slow down quickly, you can. Remember, the faster you ride, the longer distance it takes for you to slow down or stop.
(2) Cover your brakes at intersections or when you see a risk.
Covering your brake means to put your hand over the front brake lever to prepare to use your brake. You should cover your brake anytime you enter an intersection where you see a car stopped on either side of you, or a car waiting to make a left turn in the opposite direction. Why, because already having your hand on the brake lever will give you an extra second or two to hit the brakes and to potentially avoid and accident if one of the cars drives or turns in front of you.
I know it sounds like a hassle, but if you do it everytime, it will become engrained into your muscle memory and you won’t even have to think about it in time.
Under certain circumstances, you may even want to hit your brakes while covering, to heat the them up so that you can stop faster, and to signal the car behind you that you are slowing down. The car behind you cannot see you if you let off of the throttle and use your engine to slow you down.
(3) Look at the tops of the wheels of a threatening car.
When you see a car stopped as you approach a driveway, a side street, or in the oncoming left turn lane, look at its wheels, especially the tops of its wheels if you can see them. If you cannot see the tops, look at the tire rims or hubcaps. The tops of the wheels actually move much faster than the actual car does, and it will give you an indication of whether the car is moving towards you or not. Your eyes will be able to perceive the wheels moving way before your eyes will be able to perceive the entire car moving forward. Don’t ask me why, it is just the way we perceive things.
Obviously if you are riding along and you see a car stopped at a driveway or a side street, and you see its tires moving, you better assume that they do not see you, and take evasive action. The best evasive action is to brake or stop and to not swerve because when you swerve you have less motorcycle tire contact than if your tires are straight up and down. The less tire contact you have, the more likely that you will not be able to stop in time, and/or lose control of your motorcycle and lay it down.
If you see an oncoming car in the left hand turn lane, and its tires start to turn in your direction, assume that they are going to turn in front of you, and take evasive action.
(4) Assume that other motorist cannot see you when you ride.
No matter how bright your clothing, how many lights you have on your motorcycle, how visible you think you are, no matter what you do, for some inexplicable reason, we motorcycle riders seem to be invisible to motorist in cars, trucks, or other motor vehicles. I am not telling you to try do anything you can to be more visible to other motorist, on the contrary, you should do everything you can to try to be more conspicuous to other motorist.
There have actually been studies done to understand how we human beings perceive things, and it has been found that we humans actually and not consciously selectively filter out certain things that we see for various reasons.
It seems that many people riding in cars, trucks, and other vehicles for some reason, filter us motorcycle riders out. After an accident these people swear that they did not see us, when they should have. Whether it is unintentional or not, some motorist flat out do not see us.
When you ride you have to assume that other motorist do not see you and you need to ride accordingly. If you ride as though you are invisible to other motorist, you will actually be a much more cautious and better rider.
Assume that the car in the oncoming left hand turn lane is going to turn left in front of you Assume that if you are on a two lane road with cars parked on the side that a car will pop out from the parked position. Assume that the car you see waiting to turn out of a gas station or waiting to make a right turn at the intersection will turn in front of you.
I know it’s not fair, but as a motorcycle rider, we have to be much more diligent about our own safety when we ride our motorcycles. Yes you may have the right of way, but that is not going to stop the negligent cager from hitting you and doing some major damage to you.
Exercising caution and some restraint, will make your motorcycle riding experience much more pleasurable, and above all, will allow you to make it home after your ride instead of in the hospital.
Keep both wheels on the road!
By California Motorcycle Accident Attorney, and Biker Lawyer, Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq., © August 28, 2011