How Likely Are You to Crash While Riding a Motorcycle?

January 14, 2020 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
How Likely Are You to Crash While Riding a Motorcycle? Motorcycle Accident Attorney, Matt Dolman

The Probability of Motorcycle Accident Involvement

Country-level and state-level data on the likelihood of getting in a motorcycle crash aren't readily available. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), more than 1.27 million Florida residents have motorcycle endorsement; however, that doesn't mean each person is on the road at the same time. It also doesn't include those who might be riding without the proper endorsement required by Florida law. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that motorcycle riders are 28 times more likely to die in a fatal accident than those in passenger vehicles. Crashing on a motorcycle can be highly dependent on one or more factors, making it difficult to quantify and explaining why statistics aren't readily available. It's even more difficult to determine an exact percentage because some risk factors are worse than others. Below we discuss factors that can influence whether you get into an accident on your bike, how each specifically impacts your odds of a crash, and some ways you might control some of the factors to reduce your chance of a motorcycle accident. Read on to learn from the experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA.

Types of Road Influence Accident Probability

The roads you regularly travel on with your motorcycle can impact your odds of getting in a crash. Narrow, winding, curvy, and hilly roads might be fun to navigate and offer access to incredible places and panoramic views, especially in Florida, where you can joyride along the ocean, through orange groves, or exploring the Everglades. Yet, these roads also present more danger. Although it might be obvious, straight and flat roads are less dangerous than those that aren't. They require less maneuvering of the bike, creating less critical moments that might lead to an accident. Whether you are riding on roads in urban areas or rural areas also factor into the likelihood of a crash. The most recent NHTSA data reveal 60 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes occur in urban areas. Many factors work together, but urban crashes are likely related to higher traffic density. The NHTSA also reports that only 9 percent of motorcycle accidents occur on interstates, making them the safest type of road for motorcycles.

 Hazardous Road Conditions

Poor Road Motorcycle AccidentsFortunately, Florida roads are generally in pretty good condition because they don't have to withstand the cooling and heating of harsh winters. Yet, times do exist where road conditions can lead to an accident. Bikers who travel on gravel roads or roads that haven't been properly maintained by the State of Florida, the county, or the city risk getting in an accident. Additionally, torrential rains during storms and hurricanes can wash away portions of a road. In these situations, bikers might encounter sinkholes, potholes, and rough patches that can cause an accident if they lose control of their bike. Motorcycles are also less stable on gravel roads and sand. Roads with fallen trees and debris, especially common immediately after heavy storms, also pose an accident risk for motorcycle riders, as well as oil spills or any other spills.

Presence of Animals Can Increase Accident Chance

Another factor that can increase the odds of a motorcycle crash is the presence of wildlife, sometimes making some areas dangerous for riding. Florida's rich flora and fauna can lead to many types of roadkill or wildlife encounters on the road. In fact, Florida has some of the most unique animal crossing signs in the United States. For example, bikers might see crossing signs for crocodiles, land crabs, Key deer, panthers, cranes, and much more. When a live or dead animal is on the road, bikers must try to avoid it, which can mean swerving into the ditch or the lane of oncoming traffic or quickly applying brakes. All of these maneuvers can lead to an accident, especially when other vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists are nearby. In some cases, when an animal runs out in the middle of the road, it might be too late for a biker to avoid colliding with it. Riding in areas of the state where wildlife has easy access to a road or highway will increase the chances of getting involved in a motorcycle crash.

Traffic Density and Motorcycle Accidents

In areas with heavy traffic, the chances of being involved in a motorcycle crash are much higher than when the traffic density is low. This often occurs near Florida's largest cities and large urban areas, yet less populated areas can also have high traffic. Sometimes certain parts of the day have higher traffic than others or an accident can cause a slow down or bottleneck. Whenever traffic is dense, impatient motorists are usually present. Drivers jut in and out of traffic or make poor choices because they are in a rush. These drivers, who often make erratic maneuvers, put motorcycle riders at risk for serious, potentially fatal accidents. Heavy traffic also creates the perfect storm for multi-vehicle pileups. Impatient drivers tailgate other vehicles and all it takes is one rear-end accident to start a chain reaction, putting bikers at a greater risk for accident and injury.

Weather Conditions Affect Accident Probability

The NHTSA reports that the vast majority of motorcycle accidents happen when it's clear or cloudy out, with less than three percent of motorcycle accidents occurring during rain or fog. This is most likely a result of the fact that most bikers don't head out during bad weather conditions. Yet, you might expect that more accidents would occur during rainy weather. Regardless, when you ride during high winds, rain, and fog, you might find your bike doesn't handle as easily and your visibility might be lower than normal. For these reasons, take extra care or avoid riding your motorcycle during inclement weather.

Visibility and Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle Visibility AccidentVisibility is a factor of motorcycle crashes that isn't easily quantified because visibility issues typically correlate with other factors of motorcycle accidents. The most common things to block a biker's line of sight is fog, heavy rain, sun. When bikers don't have good visibility they cannot see other vehicles. road hazards, turns, traffic control devices, and a host of other things. When bikers and other motorists struggle to see, it prevents them from appropriately reacting to the information being directed at them, which can cause a severe motorcycle crash. Simple things like goggles or sunglasses can do wonders for bikers, as well as wearing a full-face helmet.

Level of Alertness

Bikers who aren't alert while riding have a higher risk of being involved in a crash. Distractions, drowsiness, and fatigue are the biggest culprits that can detract from a biker's alertness. Multitasking on a motorcycle is much more difficult than doing so in a car, so distractions aren't typically caused by cell phones, eating, or drinking. Yet, bikers can get distracted by outside events or daydreaming. Bikers who haven't had enough sleep or are fatigued because of a demanding schedule can also nod off while driving and have trouble staying alert. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has done research on how lack of sleep impacts driving, and found that drivers who have gone 18 hours without sleep experience the same level of impairment as a driver who has a 0.08 blood alcohol level.

Proper Maintenance Helps Avoid Motorcycle Accidents

Drivers need to perform proper maintenance on their vehicles to avoid failures that might cause an accident, but it's even more important for motorcyclists to maintain their bikes. Brake failure, a tire blowout, problems with the throttle, or any other type of mechanical failure caused by poor maintenance can lead to a serious, possibly fatal motorcycle crash. These failures typically cause a biker to lose control of their motorcycle. Fixing problems immediately as they occur and performing regular preventative maintenance can reduce your chances of being involved in a motorcycle crash.

Use of Controlled Substances Can Cause Accidents

Consuming alcohol and using drugs can be one of the most dangerous things a motorcyclist can do, drastically increasing the likelihood of being involved in a severe or deadly motorcycle crash. Bikers have the same legal limit—0.08 breath alcohol level—as other motorists, but lack the protection a passenger vehicle provides if they get in an accident. If you are on the road at night, you also need to look out for other bikers who might be drinking. The NHTSA reports that bikers who suffered fatalities during a motorcycle crash at night are three times more likely to be alcohol-impaired than those killed in crashes that occur during the day. Drugs also slow reaction times and impair bikers, but they don't have to be illegal drugs. Prescription drugs can also cause driver impairment. Both are especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol. When bikers remain sober while operating their motorcycles, they can reduce their chances of being in an accident.

Tendency to Follow Traffic Laws

The federal government and state governments create and implement traffic regulations to protect everyone who uses streets, roads, highways, and interstates. Bikers who don't follow traffic regulations increase their risk of being involved in an accident. Speeding, ignoring traffic control devices, weaving in and out of traffic, and following too closely are examples of common traffic violations that can lead to an accident.

Experience Handling a Motorcycle Decreases Accident Chance

Age is a risk factor for motorcycle accidents, primarily because the younger a biker is the less experience he or she has handling a motorcycle. Florida, like other states, requires bikers to have a special motorcycle endorsement on their drivers' license. Getting this endorsement requires attending a Basic Rider course approved by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), where students learn how to handle a bike and basic safety skills over a weekend-long class. While this course certainly helps young bikers and new bikers, there is no substitute for experience. Bikers who have been riding for years have maybe had an accident or had encounters with road hazards, causing them to learn valuable lessons along the way.

Other Driver Behavior Can Cause a Collision

Other drivers cause the most uncertainty for the likelihood of you getting in a motorcycle crash. You can have perfect weather, perfect road conditions, and ride sober on straight and flat roads, but you have no idea what those with whom you share the road might be doing. Distracted, drunk, and drowsy drivers can cause an accident. Inexperienced drivers who don't check their blind spots and don't watch for motorcycles can cause an accident. Additionally, reckless drivers who think they own the road and aggressive drivers who disregard traffic regulations, speed, and follow too closely can also cause an accident. The only way you can help avoid an accident caused by another driver is to drive defensively and keep your distance.

Motorcycle Defects Cause Accidents

Motorcycle manufacturers and motorcycle dealers sometimes sell defective products. In many cases, manufacturing and design defects in motorcycles and motorcycle parts remain unknown until bikers have some sort of mechanical failure on the road. Although these defects are rare, they can and do occur. Simple errors can go through the entire chain of distribution without quality control or any other party catching the defect. You cannot control whether or not you buy a defective motorcycle or part for your bike, but you can keep an eye out on your bike manufacturer's website to check for recalls. If your bike is recalled for a defect, you need to arrange for repairs as soon as possible. Riding a defective motorcycle, or riding a motorcycle with defective parts, will increase your chances of a motorcycle crash. If you have sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident because of another party's actions, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation for damages related to your crash and injuries. An experienced Florida motorcycle accident attorney can help determine the best path forward for your individual circumstances. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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