Research: Mistakes by other drivers often cause GA motorcycle accidents

Many motorcyclists in Macon, Georgia, understand that riding carries a significant risk of accidents and serious injuries. At the same time, though, many riders believe their own experience and vigilance will be enough to help them avoid motorcycle accidents. Unfortunately, several recent studies have indicated that it is common for other drivers to be at fault in motorcycle accidents.

Widespread driver errors

Several recent studies have identified ways drivers contribute to motorcycle accidents and reasons drivers make mistakes. Some significant findings reported in the last 18 months were that:

  • Drivers may misjudge the speed of motorcycles because the brain makes rapid judgments of speed based on the size of the approaching object. A Texas Tech University study found that the brain is biased to underestimate speed and arrival time of smaller objects.
  • Drivers may fail to recognize motorcycles simply because motorcycles are less common than other vehicles. A study at Monash University found that the number of motorcycles in a driving simulation related directly to how quickly participants could identify motorcycles; when motorcycles appeared less frequently, participants needed an additional 50 meters to spot them.
  • Drivers may frequently cause motorcycle accidents by making left turns in front of approaching motorcycles. A University of Florida review of 10 years of Florida motorcycle crashes found that other drivers were at fault in 3 out of 5 collisions with motorcyclists, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Though the University of Florida findings were based only on Florida accidents, they may be indicative of a much broader trend. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study published in 2007 found that more than one-third of the motorcycle accidents caused by other drivers involved failure to yield.

These findings show that many motorcycle accidents occur regardless of the actions of the motorcyclist. Sadly, no matter which motorist was at fault, motorcyclists often face the most serious injuries in two-vehicle accidents.

The burden of motorcycle accidents

According to the Washington Post, the NHTSA has reported that motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to be fatally injured in car accidents than passenger vehicle occupants. Not surprisingly, motorcyclists represent a disproportionate number of traffic accident fatality victims. The injury risk for motorcyclists is five times higher than the risk for other vehicle occupants.

The Governors Highway Safety Association reported that motorcycle fatalities declined slightly in 2013, according to the Washington Post. This was only the second year out of the last 15 that motorcycle fatalities have decreased. However, the decline is primarily attributed to weather patterns that led to a shorter riding season, rather than improvements in driver safety or awareness. This means motorcyclists may still face an unnecessarily high risk of accidents.

Research increasingly suggests that mistakes in driver perceptions, rather than outright recklessness or carelessness, contribute to many motorcycle accidents. Still, injured motorcyclists may be entitled to compensation if another driver was at fault in the accident. Any motorcyclist facing serious injuries should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss the possibility of seeking compensation.