All too frequently motorcyclists are blamed for accidents with other vehicles even if the rider is the one seriously injured. Yet so-called “common knowledge” still contends that motorcycle riders are usually at fault for accidents even though this has been disproved by studies, including the Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures report, commonly referred to as The Hurt Report (named for its primary author, USC Prof. Harry Hurt). This comprehensive US-based study was published in 1981, and among its significant findings revealed that two-thirds of accidents involving an automobile and a motorcycle resulted from a car driver failing to see the motorcycle approaching, and violating the motorcyclist’s right-of-way.
Still, if you are involved in an accident with a car, you will likely face accusations of carelessness, recklessness, or negligence coming from the automobile driver’s attorney. To mitigate these – and even better, to help you avoid an accident in the first place – you need to know your responsibilities as a motorcycle rider and adhere to them whenever you go out for a ride.
Your responsibilities as a safe motorcyclist
To be clear, you can follow every single one of the following guidelines and still wind up being injured in a motorcycle accident. So many factors come into play – bad weather, roadway conditions, and the mistakes of those driving larger motor vehicles among them. However, by knowing and taking seriously these responsibilities, you can at least control your personal actions, so you reduce the likelihood of causing or contributing to a collision.
The key is to assume that other drivers might not see you, and even if they do, they still might not yield right-of-way. Observe the following when riding your motorcycle, especially in traffic:
- Make yourself clearly visible to other drivers, especially at night. Your gear should be bright and/or reflective, and your bike should have a working headlight (and ideally running lights). For added visibility, consider using reflective tape on the back of your jacket and on your helmet, and adding reflectors to the heels of your boots.
- Choose the best lane position for maximum visibility. You want to ride where you can see other vehicles easily and be seen clearly in return.
- Communicate your intentions every time. Make use of your turn signals and telegraph any changes in lane position. Always confirm your brake light is functioning properly before you go out for a ride. Avoid last-minute lane shifts and sudden turns as much as possible.
- Maintain a reasonable space between yourself and other vehicles. This should be observed at all times as traffic allows. A good tip is to keep at least a car length between yourself and the vehicle you are following or that is following you. Also make sure you maintain space between yourself and other vehicles when lane splitting, and when passing or being passed by an automobile.
- Remain alert while riding. Keep checking your mirrors and be aware of the positions of other vehicles all around you. Maintain an “escape route” just in case another driver decides to suddenly change lanes or make another unexpected move. Staying alert includes anticipating what might be coming down the road – the recommendation from the California Motorcycle Handbook is to always look 10 to 15 seconds ahead.
- Anticipate all potential hazards and prepare for the worst. This might include a tailgating car, debris being blown around by wind, and freeway construction sites. Make sure you learn techniques for avoiding collisions and mentally prepare yourself to take evasive actions.
An attorney can help you prevail following a Los Angeles motorcycle accident
Knowing and obeying best practices for riding a motorcycle safely can help you avoid accidents entirely, or if you are injured in a motorcycle crash, demonstrate that you were not at fault. If you are involved in a motorcycle accident with another vehicle, please contact Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyer Scott J. Corwin for assistance at 866-477-1011.