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Motorcycle Crash Causation – Who is at Fault?

by | Sep 1, 2022 | Personal Injury

In February 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, published a study, “The Motorcycle Crash Causation Study” which examined data from Orange County, California, 351 motorcycle crashes, 82 of which were single vehicle crashes and 269 multiple vehicle crashes, in an attempt to determine causation for these tragic events. The findings in this report are worth examining to both the experienced as well as novice bikers.

At the outset, the study noted that from 1994 to 2008 while traffic crash fatalities per year hadgenerally been steadily on the decline, the number of motorcycle crash fatalities had more than doubled.

The study looked at a variety of factors which caused or contributed to the motorcycle’s crash, including environmental data, time and day of week, weather, roadway configurations and conditions, traffic issues, vehicle condition, speed, collision avoidance, trip distance and destination, drug and alcohol use, rider training, rider experience, skid and yaw marks, and dozens of other factors and data related to these hundreds of cycle crashes.

The findings are somewhat telling. Significantly some of the misconceptions of “dangerous” bikers were dispelled by this study. Of the 531 crashes, 89% of the motorcyclists were NOT impaired by drugs or alcohol as a contributing indicator to the crash. Loss of control, by the biker, and driver inexperience seemed to be over-represented in the single vehicle crashes but was really not a factor in multi-vehicle crashes.

The findings most disturbing to me are reported below:

* In 86% of the crashes, the other vehicle driver (other than the biker) took no evasive action to avoid the collision.

* In 98% of the multiple-vehicle crashes the other vehicle left no skid marks whatsoever, whereas skid marks were found from the motorcycle in 32% of the crashes.

* In 94% of the multiple-vehicle crashes the view of the motorcycle / biker was not obscured to the driver of the other vehicle.

* Nearly one-third (32%) of the other vehicle drivers had been involved in at least one other vehicle crash in the past five years.

* In 43% of the multiple-vehicle crashes, “Attention failure / Distraction / Stress” on the part of the other vehicle’s driver was reported as a contributing factor.

* In 60% of the multiple-vehicle crashes “Potential Hazard Detection Failure” on the part of the other vehicle’s driver was a contributing factor; and

* In 63% of the multiple-vehicle crashes an unsafe act by the driver of the other vehicle was cited as a contributing factor.
What does all this mean? To me, as a biker with nearly 50 years experience, this study speaks volumes. Most folks, who are not riders, are quick to point the finger at the “dangerous” and “risky” motorcycle riders for their own injuries after an accident. This study reveals that for the largest part, it is not the biker who causes these accidents, but rather they are attributable to inattention, carelessness and negligence on the part of the “cagers” involved in the collisions.

If you are a biker or the family member of a biker injured by a careless driver, choose your injury attorney carefully. I has been a biker since the age of 9. I myself have been the victim of a careless driver. I knows motorcycles, why and how bikers get injured due to reckless and careless drivers, and how to help bikers receive fair compensation for their losses.