How to Avoid the Top 10 Most Common Motorcycle Accidents: A Rider’s Guide
Why do people love motorcycles? The rush of the wind that blasts through your hair as you speed down an open roadway is one of the most exhilarating experiences a person can have. Riding a motorcycle gives you much more freedom than driving in a car. You are closer to the outdoors and all the elements that nature has to offer.
Despite the wonderful rush that accompanies riding a bike, however, there is an extra concern for safety. Being closer to nature at high speeds comes with its set of concerns and consequences. What if you got in an accident? How will it affect the people that are closest to you? Do you have an emergency plan in place to deal with this sort of thing?
The prospect of a motorcycle accident is very real, especially if you ride on the regular. Chances are that you know someone who has already been in an accident. You should consider setting a plan in place if an accident happens to you.
But even more important than a plan AFTER an accident, take the time now to educate yourself about how to avoid a motorcycle accident in the first place. There are plenty of things you can do to educate yourself on how to avoid motorcycle accidents.
Motorcycle Safety - Avoiding Common Accidents
Before you even think about riding, it is important to consider motorcycle safety and treat it as a serious matter. If something happened to you, it would affect members of your family and could change the rest of your life.
Check out these courses from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation designed for people who have decided to include riding in their lives. There are excellent courses for beginners and people who have already been riding for awhile, including instruction for how to ride in groups! You may think it’s silly to take an online course for riding, but some of the things you learn could end up saving your life.
Other important aspects to consider include the type of gear you wear. You have to think beyond fashion statements and look at the practical purpose of the gear - personal protection. There is a host of online sources about helmets, armored jackets, and leg protection.
Don’t ride without proper protection. Bare skin is a bad idea. Choose items that have a high safety rating.
I’d like to share a personal story of someone I knew who got in a terrible accident. Someone close to me endured a freak accident where their motorcycle tire suddenly blew while riding at 60 MPH. A semi-truck was directly in front of them.
When the tire blew, he slid on his side headed straight for the semi-truck’s tire which would have surely killed him. With a level head, he used his weight to slide toward the bank full of heavy, large rocks instead.
The training that he had gotten before he rode taught him how to think in an emergency. He survived that accident, but not without being flown to the hospital in a helicopter first. He had his jaw surgically placed back together and endured weeks without being able to open his mouth wider than a straw would fit through.
His story has a happy ending. But that is only because he prepared well beforehand with proper safety gear and thinking of proper reactions in the event of an emergency.
Reading through these common situations motorcyclists face can help you do the same.
Common Crash #1: A Car Turns in Front of You
The most common accident for motorcyclists is a car turning or appearing in front of you because they didn’t see you. Maybe they weren’t paying attention or didn’t bother to check their blind spot. Whatever the case may be, a car suddenly turning in front of you creates a huge roadblock that you may have no other choice but to drive into.
How to Avoid this:
Practice defensive driving. You do this by learning to anticipate driving patterns and preparing for what might occur. For example, people often turn without using their blinker. Stay out of people’s blind spots and avoid zooming by them if they are going too slow.
If cars all around you have slowed down, do the same. Gaps in traffic can indicate that someone else (that you can’t see) will be driving through. If you’re impatient and zoom by everyone who has stopped, you may find a giant piece of metal (another car) in front of you that you can’t avoid.
Common Crash #2: Slick Roads
When it’s raining heavily outside, drive your car for that day if that is an option. Don’t assume that you will be fine because there are many variables to getting in an accident besides your skill. For one, water on the road can mask potholes. Hit one of those, and you may lose control of your bike.
How to Avoid this:
Check your tires to make sure the threads still give good traction. There is no worse idea than to ride down slippery roads with bare tires on your motorcycle.
Watch out for oil spots on the road (they look like rainbow puddles) that, combined with rain or snow, can become extra slippery.
Again, practice defensive driving. Inclement weather can make it hard for people to see you. Always assume they can’t and use extra precaution when going by other vehicles. Spend as little time in their blind spots as you can.
The first hour of rain is the time for the roads to be at their slickest. Let some time go by for the slippery stuff to wash away before hopping on your motorcycle.
Common Crash #3: You’re Surprised by an Unseen Obstacle Around a Blind Corner
You are riding down a winding road and take a corner where you can not see what is behind it. Suddenly there is a patch of gravel, a huge pothole, or some other obstacle that you did not foresee being there. Your front tire connects with the obstacle, leaving you flying off your bike or worse.
How to Avoid this:
SLOW DOWN when you are taking corners! The best way not to get in an accident is not allowing it to happen in the first place. You are in full control of how fast you go so when you have the option, err on the safe side.
Only ride as fast as you can see. Taking a corner fast doesn’t give you any room for surprises or time to brake.
Also take corners wide, so you have a chance to survey what is in front of you before moving forward. You can increase your speed once you can see (no one is telling you to ride like a granny).
Common Crash #4: A Car Opens Its Door In Your Path
What is one of the best things about being on a motorcycle during stationary traffic? The fact that your size still allows you to go past it all! While you are zooming past all the stationary traffic, someone in a parked car opens their door without looking at what might have been coming, right in front of you.
Before you know it, you have crashed into their door and flown off of it. Even worse, you may have even crashed into the person getting out of the car.
How to Avoid this:
NEVER drive past an active traffic lane next to a row of parked cars. Not only will people fail to look behind them for a motorcycle, but a person may also step out right in front of you. Wait patiently for traffic like everyone else. No one likes a cutter anyway.
If you ever find yourself with an obstacle like a sudden open car door, brake as hard as you can. Reducing any amount of speed will lessen the impact and make a difference in your collision.
Common Crash #5: You Are Rear Ended
You’re stuck behind a car waiting to turn left, so you pull into the right lane to go around them. The stoplight turns yellow, so you pull up to the line and wait. The car behind you was trying to run the red light and crashes into you from behind. In a car, getting rear ended might cause whiplash but isn’t fatal. For a motorcyclist, small accidents can kill them.
How to Avoid this:
Be aware of stopping in places that distracted drivers might not see (like crosswalks, stoplights that just turned yellow, etc.). Be especially careful during night time when visibility is low.
Also, use extra precaution at night in an area full of bars. You are more likely to encounter a driver who has had a few drinks and their reaction times and attention are impaired.
When you stop, stay to the side of the lane, so cars have a chance to swerve away from you.
At stop lights, pull in front of any car that has already stopped (give them a nod to say thank you!) or between two cars that are already there. You can use these as a safety crumple zone for yourself. This way, you protect yourself from any unexpected impact from behind.
Common Crash #6: Interference From Other Riders
Who you ride with might be who you die with.
Whoah - sounds harsh. But it’s important to remember when your friends who ride are a big part of your life and it is fun to go riding together. But you know which ones like to do stupid things from time to time. Say you are riding together and one of them swerves a bit into the other as a joke, causing them to overreact, and things get out of hand. Oops, not so funny anymore.
How to Avoid this:
Choose the people that you ride with carefully. Make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to safety. Pranks, when you are not on a motorcycle can be great (and sometimes even hilarious). But they are not something to toss around lightly when riding.
It doesn’t make you less of a man (or woman) to be concerned about safety; it makes you smart. Don’t be afraid to speak up! Everyone’s safety in the group depends on it.
Common Crash #7: Watch Out! Your Front Brakes Lock Up
A raccoon jumps out in front of you, and you brake to keep from killing it. Suddenly your front brakes have locked up, and you find yourself thrown into the brush, watching your beautifully polished bike scraping down the pavement.
How to Avoid this:
Locking your brakes is something that will happen. Emergency situations pop up, and you need to stop, what else can you do? You can get to know your brakes better.
What does braking hard feel like? How hard is too hard? At what point will braking end up tossing you right off the bike?
These are important questions for you to answer BEFORE you find yourself in a situation that needs a hard brake. Find a large parking lot or area and get acquainted with your brakes. Thorough practice takes time but will help you get there.
Keep practicing until you know your motorcycle and where to draw the line.
Common Crash #8: A Car is Swerving Into You
You are riding along on your bike minding your own business when a car starts to swerve into your lane. You realize you are in this car’s blind spot and they are going to hit you!
How to Avoid this:
Again, back to defensive driving. Be aware when you are in another car’s blind spot. Always assume that they can not or will not see you. If you have to go past them, spend as little time in the blind spot as possible.
Use extra precaution when there is a section in the road where lanes merge. Be aware of situations where cars will want to be in your lane - like when traffic is stopped in one lane, but the neighboring lane is moving.
Don’t zip on by assuming that someone will not pull out in front of you. Remember that you have a horn to notify other drivers when you see them swerving into you!
Common Crash #9: You Take a Corner Much Too Quickly
A corner appears, and you think you can take it at the speed you are going. Once you start turning, it starts closing awfully fast, and you know you are not going to make it.
How to Avoid this:
Slow down when you turn (OBVIOUSLY)! Don’t assume you can take a corner going high speeds and only ride as fast as you can see. Sometimes tight corners can deceive you - they look wider than they are.
Pay attention to the road signs that may indicate a road’s direction.
If you do find yourself taking a corner too fast, lean into it. Try not to overreact by squeezing your brakes too hard or opening the throttle. Don’t freak out if a pedal or your knee touches the ground a bit - let the bike do its thing. As long as there is traction, you can still ride it out.
Common Crash #10: Accidents Involving Alcohol
You have thrown back a couple of beers knowing that you still have to ride home on your motorcycle. Before you know it, time has flown by and you have had a few more. You think you can make it home if you are just careful. Before you know it, you have gotten into an accident.
I once knew a person who did exactly this. He showed up at the bar for a football game in the early afternoon to have lunch and a few beers. By the time the game was over, he was 3 sheets to the wind and insisted he was fine to head home.
His course on the way home involved going on a highway that had many twists and turns. The road hugged the side of a mountain and overlooked the Pacific Ocean. With liquid courage running through his body, he got too cocky thinking he could take those corners fast. He ended up driving too close to a car going the opposite direction because his judgment was impaired.
The car clipped his tire and he went flying off the road. Luckily, he didn’t go over the edge. But his accident could have resulted in a fatality. Multiple surgeries and months of physical therapy later, he is still alive but it was nothing short of a miracle.
To heal, he had to rely completely on those closest to him because he couldn’t walk himself to the bathroom, dress himself, or do any of the daily tasks we take for granted.
After an experience like that, hopefully this is something he will never do again. As for other motorcyclists out there, take this tale as a precaution and make sure that it doesn’t happen to you.
Drinking and driving is a serious issue, especially for bikers. Small accidents that are normally considered only fender benders can easily result in a fatality if you are not careful. Minimize the chances of this and especially don’t mix riding with alcohol!
How to Avoid this:
This one is obvious. Just don’t do it. Drinking and driving has been a factor in countless unnecessary accidents. Don’t become a part of that statistic. Make alternate accommodations to get home and come back in the morning for your bike instead. In fact, if you know you will be drinking, leave your bike at home.
Part of being responsible for safety is planning ahead. Find a designated driver and let yourself have fun without running into terrible consequences.
What Else Can You Do to Avoid Motorcycle Accidents?
Now that you’ve read through the most common motorcycle accidents, take the time to visualize what you would do if each of these situations were to pop up. Try imagining what you would do if a deer jumped out right in front of you. What would you do? How would you react?
Would it be better to drive straight into it or right off the road? Do you have enough time to brake or is a collision inevitable? If you know your bike well enough, you may be able to answer these questions.
Remember that you will have adrenaline pumping through you at this point and it won’t be as easy to think. If you have visualized these situations beforehand, you’ll have an easier time during an emergency situation because you have already thought about it.
Reading through short descriptions isn’t going to make you an expert because nothing good happens overnight.
What Other Ways Can You Prepare?
As mentioned, consider taking a motorcycle safety course. Sign up for one locally with an actual instructor who will give you more hands-on tasks and get you accountable for your safety.
According to the US Department of Transportation, helmets prevents fatalities in 1630 motorcycle accidents in 2013. Research the safety gear that you are going to wear. Beyond style and looks, it needs to be rated high for safety. Don’t stinge out by getting cheap stuff because nothing is as valuable as the head you are putting that helmet on.
Also set an emergency plan in place in the event that an accident does occur. Carry emergency contact information on you while you ride and make sure you have any health insurance readily available. If you have a blood donor’s card, carry that with you as well so that emergency responders have immediate information about your blood type. These types of thoughts are not always comfortable to have but can make a difference if an accident happens.
If you are well prepared and informed about various situations that may arise, you and those closest to you will feel more at ease. Riding responsibly is an important part of being on the road. Set yourself up for success and you won’t regret it.
Above all, enjoy yourself and have fun! Not everyone gets the chance to experience the freedom of being on the open road with just you, your bike, and the wind whipping by!