What hazards might a motorcyclist encounter? There are about ten million registered private and commercial motorcycles in the United States, and roughly ten times as many registered automobiles on the road. Riding a motorcycle can be a dangerous endeavor on its own, yet when considering the bigger volume of larger vehicles, the presence of drunk or distracted drivers, some of the day-to-day road hazards that motorcyclists might encounter on any given trip, and the risk of injury or death when riding a motorcycle skyrockets.
A car can be a major hazard in its own right: you’re commandeering upwards of two tons of steel, rubber, and plastic, sometimes at speeds exceeding the legal limit. Yet motorcycles have it much worse, with a smaller frame, less traction on the road, and a higher propensity to be missed by other motorists.
However, a motorcycle rider’s access to the road is as important as that of any other motorist, and just as the motorcyclist must take every reasonable precaution to protect their life and limb and limit the dangers around them, so too must the other participants on the road maintain constant vigilance over their fellow motorists and adjust their driving behaviors accordingly.
Spatial and situational awareness is key for drivers and pedestrians alike, and it’s especially important for motorcyclists. Knowing how uniquely dangerous certain road hazards can be can make you a better and safer driver.
Potholes and Uneven Surfaces
Most cars can drive over an uneven or old road with ease. Potholes are a different story, but unless it’s a seriously severe case, the worst that can happen is a scratch on the bumper and some serious damage to the suspension.
Motorcycles, on the other hand, need to be especially wary of unmaintained or old roads, uneven surfaces, and deep potholes. These can easily destabilize a motorcycle, and cause harm to the rider.
Gravel and Loose Surfaces
Gravel, dirt, sand, and other fine debris on the road are much more dangerous for a motorcycle than a bike or a car. While cars can and do slide, they often retain traction to a higher degree than motorcycles.
A motorcycle can easily begin to skid if there’s too much debris on the road, conditions become especially dangerous when it starts to drizzle or rain, and the road becomes coated in a fine and nearly imperceivable film of mud or slush. Fluid spills are another serious road hazard for motorcyclists, especially in industrial areas or rural towns, for the same reasons. Diesel fuel is even more dangerous, as it is often invisible to the rider.
Railroad tracks can be hazardous for motorcyclists, especially if they run parallel to the direction of travel. Unlike the wider tires of a car, a motorcycle’s narrow tires can get caught in the tracks, which can bring the bike off-balance at an incredibly dangerous junction. Motorcyclists need to take extra care when navigating intersections and crossings of any kind, including railroad crossings.
Wet or Slippery Roads
A slick road is dangerous for any vehicle, causing tires to lose traction and send vehicles sliding off their lane, or worse, off the road entirely. But where cars have the benefit of being considerably heavier, with much wider tires, motorcycles are both much narrower and far lighter.
Rain, wet roads, or other slippery conditions can significantly reduce traction for motorcycles, making braking, accelerating, and cornering more challenging and increasing the likelihood of accidents and significant injuries.
Animals Crossing the Road
Wild animals, such as deer or coyotes, as well as stray pets, can unexpectedly run onto the road, posing a significant risk to motorcyclists. A collision with an animal is often fatal for a motorcyclist, at lower speeds than it would be for a car driver. At other times, the sudden swerve made to avoid an oncoming animal can save a motorcyclist’s life, but at the risk of significant injury due to losing control of the vehicle.
Distracted or Negligent Drivers
Like pedestrians and other members of the road, motorcyclists are at an increased risk when sharing the road with drivers who are distracted, intoxicated, or engaging in reckless behavior. Drivers who fail to yield, change lanes without checking blind spots, or speed can easily miss an oncoming motorcyclist or one that is lane splitting. This is especially true in larger cities, where tight corners, sudden stops, turning vehicles, and aggressive or frequent lane changes are the norm.
In areas where lane splitting is legal – like California – motorcyclists ride between lanes of slower-moving or stopped traffic. Lane splitting can help reduce the congestion of traffic by allowing motorcyclists and bicyclists to occupy the spaces between cars.
It can also be safer for motorcyclists in heavily congested areas because they’re much less likely to be rear-ended by a car that’s following too closely in traffic. However, lane splitting poses unique risks as well: motorcyclists are often forced to ride in a car’s blind spot and may be enticed or encouraged to weave between vehicles too quickly.
When drivers make left turns, they may not see an oncoming motorcycle or misjudge its speed, resulting in collisions. Many drivers also don’t sufficiently check their blind spots or fail to look over their shoulders before making a tight turn. Furthermore, a significant number of drivers don’t use turn signals properly.
Lack of Protective Barriers
Being much smaller, motorcycles lack the structural protection provided by cars, making riders more vulnerable to injuries in accidents. What might result in a fractured arm or nose from an airbag in a car can be fatal for a motorcyclist.
Not wearing appropriate protective gear, such as helmets, gloves, jackets, and boots, increases the risk of serious injuries in the event of an accident. As many as 30 percent of motorcyclists don’t wear DOT-compliant helmets, or any helmets at all – let alone other protective gear.
If you’re a frequent motorcyclist, it’s important to be aware of the various dangers and hazards that you might encounter.
Still, accidents happen. If you have recently been in an accident as a motorcyclist, especially in cases where other motorists were involved, then strongly consider talking to a lawyer. Still looking to determine what hazards might a motorcyclist encounter? We at OPO can help you navigate the circumstances of your case, and potentially help you recuperate some of your emotional and financial losses. Learn more about our motorcycle accident attorney services, and contact us today to request a free legal consultation.
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