A factor that weighs heavily on the type of injuries that may be sustained in either a high speed or low speed collision is the type of vehicle involved in the accident. A person traveling in a small passenger car, motorcycle or bicycle that is hit by a semi-tractor trailer is likely to fare far worse than a person involved in a collision with a similar-sized vehicle.
A personal injury law firm represents victims injured in accidents, including automobiles, motorcycles, bicycle riders and pedestrians struck by vehicles in serious injury cases. All drivers must be held accountable if they drive negligently and violate the rights of other drivers and/or pedestrians. Motorcycles and bicycles are two types of vehicles that are particularly vulnerable in collisions. Over the past 10 years, the number of motorcycle fatalities has continued to rise in California. 2008 saw the highest number of fatalities since 1990 with 517 motorcycle riders being killed on the state’s roadways.
The reason motorcycle riders are more vulnerable to crashes with other motor vehicles is obvious: motorcycle riders are exposed and have limited safety equipment available to them as compared with most vehicles, which have seatbelts, airbags and other safety features. Even the safety equipment available to motorcyclists is not fail-proof – according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmets only are effective in preventing a fatality in 39 percent of crashes.
To increase the dangers to motorcycle riders, most motorists do not pay attention to motorcyclists on the road. Other driver behaviors that threaten motorcycle rider safety include:
- Failing to check blind spots before changing lanes
- Tailgating, or following motorcycle riders too closely
- Incorrectly estimating a motorcycle’s speed
- Failing to concede the right-of-way
When an accident happens, whether it is the motorcyclist’s fault or the driver’s, the bike rider is going to suffer more painful injuries than the auto driver every time. It is estimated that 80 percent of all motorcycle accidents result in serious injury or death to the motorcycle rider.
Just as motorists have a legal duty to operate their vehicles in a safe manner, motorcycle riders and cyclists have the same duty to exercise ordinary care and operate their bikes safely. Motorcycle riders also have a heightened duty to lookout for other motorists and potentially dangerous conditions. However, even if motorcycle riders faithfully follow all of the rules of the road, it does no good if motorists do not do the same. In California, lane sharing or lane splitting is legal and permitted but exposes the motorcyclist to an increased risk of being in an accident.
Bicyclists are also more vulnerable to injury in an accident with a motor vehicle. Most drivers do not know that California law permits bicyclists to use any road that is not expressly prohibited by law. This means that bike riders have as much a right to use the state’s highways, city roads and other roadways as motorists. Bike riders are not required to ride on bike trails, bike lanes, sidewalks or road shoulders. They are required to follow the same traffic rules as cars, including keeping slower traffic to the far right lane of the road.
As with motorcycle riders, many motorists do not pay attention to the location of bike riders on the road and may even be hostile about sharing the road with them. Consequently, bike riders are more susceptible to be involved in a collision with a car, where the likelihood of the rider sustaining serious injury is substantial.
Accidents are more likely to happen when someone is speeding or breaking another traffic law, like making an illegal lane change or tailgating. In order to decrease the occurrence of low or high impact collisions, everyone using the state’s roadways should operate their vehicles responsibly and learn to share the road with all types of vehicle operators – including motorcycle and bike riders. When drivers fail to heed these simple rules, accidents can happen with devastating consequences.