Reducing Motorcycle Accident Injury Risk

Motorcycle Group Touring Through the Scenic Redwood Highway in Northern California
Posted: June 2, 2023

In 2020, the United States was home to a record 8.3 million registered motorcycles.  

Riding is popular because of the sense of freedom it affords.  The tradeoff may be safety. In 2020, motorcyclists were about 24 times more likely to die in a crash than were motor-vehicle occupants and four times more likely to be injured, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.  

The greatest danger of riding a motorcycle is that it’s, well — a motorcycle. It doesn’t cocoon the operator in a protective steel shell but, rather, exposes the rider to sometimes unforgiving surfaces, weather, and other hazards. A motorcycle accident injury can be devastating. 


How do motorcycle accidents happen? 

Motorcyclists crash for many reasons. One of the graver risks motorcyclists face is the oblivious or careless motorist — for example, the driver who overlooks a motorcycle and turns left in front of it or into it. A 2018 study found that many car-on-motorcycle run-ins come down to how humans process information; sometimes they just don’t. The study found participants less likely to detect a motorcycle (65 percent) than a larger motor vehicle, like a taxi (31 percent). New York law provides that motorists have a duty of reasonable care that requires them to see that which is there to be seen.  


Many of the factors that commonly figure into motorcycle accidents are the very same ones that endanger motorists, such as reckless driving — quick, un-signaled lane changes, speeding, tailgating — and bad weather. Unsafe driving behaviors put motorcyclists in danger.  


Head-on collision 

A common cause of fatal motorcycle accidents is head-on collisions with cars and trucks. Data collected by the NHTSA establishes that 76 percent of motorcycles involved in two-vehicle crashes in 2020 were impacted in the front, while only 7 percent were impacted in the rear. Both types of collisions can result in serious injuries or death to the motorcycle rider. 


Car or truck turning left 

Per the NHSTA, 42% of two-vehicle fatal accidents in 2020 involved the other motor vehicle making a left-hand turn while the motorcycle was going straight or passing other vehicles. Since motorcyclists are more exposed to roadway hazards than sedan-occupying motorists, operators of other vehicles on the road should drive with extra caution when in their presence.  



When a motorcycle cuts between two lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic, this is known as lane splitting. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the term means: “Passing between lanes of stopped or slower-moving vehicles on a motorcycle. Not permitted in most of the U.S., it is allowed in many other countries and may provide a safety benefit. Also called ‘lane sharing.’” According to the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law, lane splitting is unlawful on New York roads. The law does grant motorcyclists certain privileges, however, such as the right to ride two-abreast in a single lane. Lane-splitting can be a cause of serious injury or even death in motorcycle accidents.  



Speed was a contributing factor in 34 percent of all fatal motorcycle accidents in 2020, according to NHTSA data. While speeding can negatively impact all motorists, motorcyclists are at additional risk for a fatal accident due to the relative lack of protection a motorcycle offers compared to a car. 


Impaired riding 

Operating a motorcycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in serious accident injuries or death to all parties involved. In 2020, 27% of motorcyclists killed in a motorcycle accident were alcohol impaired. Alcohol and drugs can impair a motorcyclist’s reaction time, alertness, and judgment, making it difficult for the rider to control the bike and make swift lifesaving decisions. 



Rider errors and inexperience factor into a lot of crashes, experts say. Safe motorcycling “takes balance, coordination, and good judgment,” according to the NHTSA. Under these circumstances, riding experience and safety courses can be vitally important.  


Fixed object 

Motorcyclists colliding with a fixed object, such as a light pole or sign, are likely to suffer severe motorcycle accident injuries or death. According to the NHTSA, motorcycles were more frequently involved in fatal accidents with fixed objects than other motor vehicles, and in 2020, 25 percent of motorcyclists were involved in fatal accidents with fixed objects. Because motorcycle riders do not have the protection of a steel and aluminum car body, they can be thrown far and hard from the motorcycle in these types of collisions. 


Road hazards 

Potholes, construction zones, slick pavement, and dead animals on the road all pose a potential danger to motorcyclists. Any irregularity on the road can lead to a dangerous situation and becomes a serious threat to motorcycle riders. 


How can grass clippings affect a motorcyclist? 

Motorcycles generally only have two tires, and in order to stay upright, both tires need to maintain contact with the pavement at all times, especially when navigating curves. When debris, such as grass clippings, appear on a roadway, they can come between the motorcycle’s tire and the road, reducing traction and causing the driver to lose control of the motorcycle. 


If a motorcyclist is unable to avoid the clippings by slowing down or switching lanes, it could lead to a motorcycle accident. 


Homeowners and landscapers can work to make sure grass and other lawn clippings are not ending up in the street. According to New York state law, it is illegal to place any injurious substance on roadways that can interfere with traffic or lead to an accident. If grass clippings do end up in the street in this manner, homeowners may be required to remove them as soon as possible. 


Many people are not aware of the danger the clippings from their lawn can cause and are often surprised when they find out about the risk it can pose to motorcyclists. One of the ways homeowners and landscapers can avoid placing clippings in the street is by ensuring the lawn mower chute is facing away from the road. This helps reduce the possibility that grass clippings will end up on the street and pose a risk for motorcyclists and others. 


There are many uses for grass clippings. They can be used for animal feed, composting, recycling, and raised garden beds. Leaving the clippings on the lawn is also a good way to add a natural, nutrient-rich fertilizer to your lawn. 


Awareness is key, as few people know of the danger grass clippings can pose to motorcyclists. Dangers on the road can be pronounced for motorcyclists, who lack a car body to separate themselves from the road. From people texting and not paying attention, to reckless and/or speeding drivers and grass clippings on the road, motorcyclists must always keep a lookout for potential roadway dangers. 



High-performance motorcycles 

According to 2020 data, of all motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes in 2020, over one-third had engine sizes of 501 to 1,0000 cubic centimeters (cc). One in four fatalities involved motorcycles with engine sizes of 1,501 cc or higher, an increase of 22 percent (from 1,162 to 1,416). 


Motorcycle safety 

Noting that motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to die in a crash than people in passenger cars, the New York State Department of Health offers tips for safe motorcycle riding. They include participating in a New York State Department of Motor Vehicles-approved-rider education program, wearing brightly colored or reflective riding gear, obeying the speed limit, and maintaining the most visible lane position. 


One key to motorcycle safety is round, made of hard fiberglass, Kevlar, and/or plastic, and comes in your choice of colors and designs. That’s right. Wearing a good helmet is one of the best ways to stay safe on a motorcycle.  


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helmet use saves thousands of lives each year. Over 700 lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets in 2017, according to the CDC. 


Under New York Law it is “unlawful for any person to operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he wears a protective helmet of a type which meets the requirements set forth in section 571.218 of the federal motor vehicle safety standards.” 


Those federal standards establish minimum performance requirements for helmets designed for use by motorcyclists and other motor vehicle users, with a purpose of: “reduc[ing] deaths and injuries to motorcyclists and other motor vehicle users resulting from head impacts.” 


Other kinds of motorcycle protective gear  

Protective gear is essential for motorcyclists. So is knowing what’s effective. Motorcyclists should carefully research their options and make sure what they choose is well-regarded by users and complies with applicable laws.  


Here’s a list of other safety gear to go along with a helmet. 



Humans instinctively put their hands down to break a fall. Good gloves can not only improve grip on handlebars, but can protect a rider’s hands from asphalt, concrete, gravel, and other road surfaces. Quality gloves are tough and durable but also comfortable. 



Motorcycle jackets can protect riders from harsh weather, and potentially reduce the extent of injuries in the event of a collision. Pay attention to the safety rating of a jacket; not all are created equal. Motorcyclists should research a jacket before making a purchase. Some jackets offer better impact protection, among other safety features, than others.  



Motorcycle boots can protect the feet and ankles while riding as well as from accidents and harsh weather. 


Eye protection 

New York law requires motorcyclists to wear approved goggles or a face shield. Such eye protection must conform with American National Standard Institute requirements.  


How can motorcycle riders get help after an accident? 

After a motorcycle accident that causes personal injury, seeking medical attention should be a priority.  


If you experience pain and suffering in the weeks and month after a crash, you may want to explore filing a personal-injury claim. An experienced motorcycle-accident attorney can help the injured motorcyclist obtain maximum compensation. If you are looking for an experienced motorcycle accident attorney call William Mattar P.C. at 844-444-4444, or complete our online form requesting a free consultation. 



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