Vehicle Accident

The 3 Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents & How to Avoid Them

intersection with wrecked motorcycle next to a red pickup truck

You live for the thrill of the open road, but your family lives in fear of the day they get a phone call that you’ve been in an accident. It’s more common than you think—there were 3,092 motorcycle accidents in Michigan in 2020, or roughly 258 accidents every month. And when you’re in a motorcycle, an accident that a motorist could brush off could easily prove fatal.

Here are some of the most common motorcycle crashes and what you can do to stay safe on the road.

1. Lane Splitting

a full-color, illustrated image showing a motorcycle riding in between one red and one blue automobile on the highway with the words "Share the road" underneath.

Lane splitting is a practice many motorcyclists are guilty of—and one that puts you at serious risk.

Picture this.

You’re commuting to work on your bike. As usual, your morning route is clogged with traffic, and you’re going to be late if you have to stop and go for much longer.

Since you’re on a bike that can fit into small spaces, you decide to use it to your advantage. You zip between cars, sometimes riding straight down the lane line. The drivers around you are annoyed, but you’re finally making good time.

This is lane splitting, and it’s illegal in every state except California. Supporters say that allows motorcycles to alleviate some traffic by moving through congestion faster, and that it keeps motorcyclists out of potential rear-end accidents that can occur in stop-and-go traffic. Opponents say that it puts motorcyclists in even greater danger.

When you engage in lane splitting, you’re not paying as much attention to the cars around you. And the cars around you aren’t expecting a motorcycle to zip up next to them, either. That puts you at risk of serious injury if a car changes lanes and doesn’t see you.

How to Avoid Them

Avoiding lane splitting accidents is simple: don’t engage in this practice. 

It can be tempting, especially when you know you could move through traffic faster by taking advantage of your bike’s size. But remember, lane splitting is illegal under Michigan’s existing traffic safety laws. If you’re injured in an accident due to lane splitting, the other driver (and their insurance company) will absolutely leverage that against you.

2. Left-Turning Cars

A woman looking into the side view mirror of her car before making a left turn

Left-turning cars are by far the most common cause of motorcycle crash accidents.

It’s also one of the most dangerous situations for a motorcyclist. When a moving car strikes a motorcycle, the motorcycle will always lose. 

This type of crash usually happens when:

  1. A motorcycle is passing a car and the driver doesn’t see them.
  2. A motorcyclist is attempting to drive straight through an intersection and a car collides with them when turning.
  3. A motorcycle is trying to overtake a car.

This type of accident is common among cars as well, but it’s even more dangerous for motorcycles. Unlike a car, you don’t have layers of metal to lessen the impact, and there’s nothing holding you in place. Even if you aren’t flung off your bike, any car will have a size advantage over a motorcycle, even a small sedan.

How to Avoid Them

The best way to avoid this type of accident is to drive defensively. If you can anticipate the other driver’s next move, you can prevent a possibly dangerous situation.

Ride in a safe manner, and always be cautious of cars, especially when they are making left turns. Intersections are a common culprit, but you should also keep your eyes peeled if there’s a gap in traffic in front of you that’s large enough for a car. 

When all else fails, look at the driver—most people check their mirrors or turn to look behind them before merging. If you see or suspect that a car is about to turn in front of you, slow down. Move as far back from the car as you can, and be ready to brake or evade if necessary.

Remember: most car drivers aren’t looking for motorcyclists. The vast majority of people drive cars, so most drivers are conditioned to look for cars. You can’t account for other people, but you can manage your own driving.

Head-On Collisions

A photo of a motorcycle that has just crashed into a vehicle

A head-on collision is a nightmare for any driver. But for a motorcyclist, it can easily be fatal.

Few factors are on the motorcyclist’s side in a head-on collision. A car has a significant size and weight advantage, and the motorcycle ride has no protection to hold them in place if the motorcycle comes to an abrupt stop.

Depending on the speed of the crash, one of two things will happen:

  • The motorcyclist is crushed on impact
  • The motorcyclist is catapulted through the air, either through the car’s windshield, into a hard surface, or into oncoming traffic

Either way, the odds are not in the motorcyclist’s favor. They could be facing any number of serious injuries, from a traumatic brain injury to broken bones to spinal cord injuries or worse.

How to Avoid Them

Head-on collisions usually happen when a vehicle is going down the centerline of a road or at intersections when someone tries to turn and collides with oncoming traffic. They’re also more common in construction zones (when vehicles are going the wrong way in lanes), as well as two-lane rural roads and highway ramps.

To avoid head-on collisions, always make sure to drive defensively. Ride your bike as though every other vehicle could do something dangerous and act accordingly. Most of the time, this won’t happen, but you’ll be prepared on the rare occasion that it does.

It’s also helpful to drive to the right when possible. This will keep you as far as possible from traffic coming in the opposite direction. If needed, you can ride on the shoulder or off the road in grass to dodge an oncoming car.

To that end, if you think a car may be driving dangerously, make sure to reduce your own speed as quickly as possible. The faster your bike is going when you collide, the greater probability that you’ll be flung off the bike.

If You’ve Been in an Accident, You Need a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Motorcycle crashes aren’t like car crashes. Not only do you have to recover from the physical and emotional trauma of a major accident, but you also have to deal with negative preconceptions from law enforcement, insurance companies, and even your own peers.

That’s why you need a motorcycle accident lawyer that will fight for your rights.

Our attorneys at Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys know the discrimination you face as a motorcyclist. That’s why we’re proud to defend our clients the same way we would defend our own family members.

If you’ve been involved in an accident, there’s no time to waste. Click here to get started with your free consultation.

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Evan Pappas

Evan Pappas's Bio

Evan Pappas is passionate about helping people that may have been injured in an accident; auto, trucking, motorcycle, medical negligence, police brutality, sex abuse and assault and others.