For as long as motorcycles have existed, the relative dangers facing motorcyclists have been apparent. Lack of an outer frame to act as protection. Harder to see than cars. No technological safety mechanisms, such as rear-view cameras.
More susceptible to harsh weather conditions. All these dangers add up: ‘Think!’ estimates that motorcyclists are 38 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than regular car drivers. This raises the question – just how common are motorcycle accidents?
Accident Rates and Statistics
The statistics surrounding accidents in the United States highlight the practical dangers facing motorcyclists. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 5,172 motorcycle fatalities in 2017 – and, on top of that, there were 89,000 injuries as a result of motorcycle accidents in 2017.
Whilst the number of injuries that motorcyclists were involved in reduced from the previous year – the injury rate per 100,000 registered motorcycles was 1,203 in 2016 and 1,018 in 2017 – the numbers are disconcerting. By way of context, approximately six times more motorcyclists were involved in fatalities than passenger cars per 100,000 vehicles in 2017. Moreover, motorcyclists are disproportionately involved in more accidents than just about all other vehicles on the road.
Driver Fatality Rates By Vehicle Type, 2008 and 2017
There are two particular issues that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration highlight as increasing accident rates for motorcyclists. As with all road users, alcohol consumption drastically increases the likelihood of accidents for motorcyclists.
Alcohol reduces reaction times, hazard perceptions, and can make motorcyclists feel over-confident: 29% of fatalities in motorcycle accidents occurred in ‘alcohol-impaired crashes’ in 2017. Moreover, the statistics show how the time of day can impact on the likelihood of motorcycle accidents.
Over 40% of motorcyclist fatalities in 2017 occurred between 3PM and 9PM: suggesting that there is a direct link between busier roads, diminishing light visibility and motorcycle accidents.
On the contrary, there are measures that undeniably reduce the risks for motorcyclists. If a motorcyclist is well rested, has not consumed substances that slow reaction times, and is driving with caution then the chances of a fatality are drastically reduced. Moreover, the importance of wearing a helmet cannot be overstated: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate that just 71% of motorcyclists wore a suitable helmet when riding in 2018. Motorcyclists that were not wearing a helmet at the time of a serious accident seldom survive without life changing injuries or, in extreme cases, without dying.
That is not to say that simply wearing helmet grants motorcyclists immunity from being killed in accident. Unfortunately, many riders that take the proper precautions and wear adequate gear are killed in accidents every year. This is because of the fact that many accidents are not caused by motorcyclists themselves, but by other road users.
The motorcycle accident cases in Southern California
Southern California has proven to be a particularly problematic location for motorcyclists. Steve Scauzillo of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune has described the problem in Southern California as a ‘silent epidemic’. The author notes that motorcycle fatalities have ‘more than doubled since 1997’, with most fatalities typically occurring in the ‘month of July’. Moreover, California has unfortunately been accredited with a position in the top fifteen worst states for motorcycle fatalities.
Whilst there are a number of variables contributing to this increase, the author emphasizes the impact of the legalization of lane-splitting. California’s decision to introduce legal lane-splitting was in the attempt to minimize the horrendous congestion across California. Unfortunately, as a by-product of this, motorcyclists have suffered overall. This legalization allows motorcyclists to share the same lane to pass cars on the freeway – giving the riders less space and creating more risk of an accident.
It is clear that measures need to be taken to reduce the impact the legalization has had on motorcycle accidents. Whilst you may be at home thinking that California should amply ‘just make lane splitting illegal again’, the solution to the problem is not that simple. Legislators argue that congested traffic poses a worse threat to riders than lane-sharing. One particular type of accident that congestion gives rise to is rear-end accidents because of stationary traffic. It follows, therefore, that legislators certainly have a difficult task on their hands.
In The Event of a Motorcycle Accident in Los Angeles or anywhere else
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, there are a number of basic steps that you should take following the accident:
— If you are hurt, immediately seek medical attention. If you have escaped the accident without injuries, attempt to determine whether anyone around you requires medical help. If they do, try to get them medical attention.
— Gather your medical insurance information and gather insurance information from any other parties involved.
— Take pictures of your motorcycle and any other wreckage.
— Write down details of the accident as soon as possible, whilst the details are still fresh in your memory.
Following these steps, you should call a Los Angeles motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. California Code of Civil Procedures § 335.1 stipulates that you only have 2 years, following an accident, to file a claim. An attorney with a strong knowledge of motorcycle accidents and personal injuries will be able to evaluate your accident and look at the strength of the claim.
Where the accident has occurred by the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to damages to compensate for your medical bills, loss of income, punitive damages and/or pain and suffering.