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Ounce of prevention: Understanding motorcycle accidents

The freedom to enjoy riding along DuPage County roads is not without risks. Many Illinois motorcyclists realize they are more vulnerable to accidents and injuries than people in other vehicles. Some motorcycle collisions involve factors over which bikers have some control, but a significant number of crashes hinge on the behavior of drivers.

Not every bike crash is a driver's fault but think about the common outcome. In most instances, motorcyclists suffer the most serious injuries in bike-car accidents due to the lack of protection enclosed vehicles provide. Understanding why motorcycle collisions happen can be a lifesaver.

Cars are involved in about two of every three motorcycle crashes. The majority of bike accidents occur when a driver, frequently making a left turn at an intersection, pulls in front of an oncoming motorcycle. Bikers get about two seconds to try to prevent a collision.

Why do drivers miscalculate a bike's distance or speed? Remember: many motorcyclists are adept at operating other vehicles, but car drivers often don't have a motorcyclist's perspective of the road. Bikes are smaller and harder to see and, for many drivers, easy to ignore in traffic.

One in four single-vehicle motorcycle crashes involve bikes hitting fixed objects, like road obstacles. Biker mistakes are linked to two out of every three wrecks when accidents don't involve other vehicles. Bike accident speeds may not be as high as you imagine – the typical motorcycle speed just before a collision is below 30 mph.

Lax bike maintenance can contribute to a motorcycle crash, but typically, this doesn't cause an accident. Mechanical failure is responsible for less than 3 percent of all motorcycle collisions.

Illinois motorcyclists can reduce injury risks by taking rider safety courses, wearing protective gear and maintaining their vehicles. What they can't do is prevent driver negligence. Injured bikers can file claims for compensation against at-fault drivers.

Source: RiderGroups, "The Top 3 Reasons Why Motorcycles Crash," Kevin Morris, accessed June 11, 2015

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