How to Avoid the Most Common Motorcycle Accidents



  • Motorcycles have over a fatal accident risk over 25x higher than cars and trucks
  • Riders have to anticipate others’ mistakes, like sudden lane changes
  • 40% of motorcycle riders were alcohol impaired at the time of their fatal crash

In addition to greater thrills, motorcycle owners face greater risks every single time they drive. Whether from a bad decision, other drivers’ carelessness, or sheer bad luck, motorcycle operators can easily end up in a serious accident that’s likely to cause injury or death. Even with so many factors outside their hands, riders can take a few steps to help them avoid the most common types of motorcycle accidents.

Around 25 riders died per every 100 million miles motorcycles traveled in 2015, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). That might not sound like much, but it’s a rate over 25 times higher than occupants of cars or light trucks. In total, 5,029 people died while riding on a motorcycle in 2015, and around 88,000 were injured.

Statistics like these reveal just how dangerous it can be to operate a motorcycle, especially in comparison to heavier vehicles that offer a bubble of protection.

Our San Luis Obispo motorcycle accident lawyers have seen far too many incidents that just add to these tragic statistics. You may not always be able to keep yourself out of every crash, but you can use the following 5 pointers to increase your odds of avoiding the most common motorcycle accidents.

Scan Every Intersection for Possible Threats as You ApproachScan Every Intersection for Possible Threats as You Approach

Following traffic laws isn’t enough when you’re a light vehicle that’s hard to spot among traffic. Motorcycle operators have to give themselves an additional layer of protection by constantly scanning their surroundings for potential dangers. That way, they can plan ahead in case they need to make evasive maneuvers or suddenly stop.

This strategy is particularly important given the most common type of motorcycle accident caused by other drivers: turning left across opposing traffic right into the motorcyclist’s path. If a motorcycle operator is simply following the rules of the road, they may not have time to react to a careless driver putting up an unexpected roadblock.

But if the rider is scanning far ahead and around them for threats, they may have that crucial extra seconds’ worth of reaction time to possibly make their presence known or scoot around the path of turning cars.

Try to Anticipate Other Drivers’ MistakesTry to Anticipate Other Drivers’ Mistakes

You can’t predict the future, but you can predict instances of human carelessness based on past experience. For example, you can anticipate that a car you’re riding alongside might forget to check their blind spot or their sideview mirrors before making an abrupt lane change. This scenario is, in fact, one of the most common types of motorcycle accidents.

Practice defensive driving generally by anticipating scenarios where a driver could make a bad decision and put you in danger. You can then proactively start planning ahead or taking steps to reduce your risk.

In the lane change example, you could pull up alongside the driver’s window to be more visible or pass the vehicle outright so that you are no longer in a potential blind spot. As another example, you can slow while approaching an intersection where you know people tend to run through stop signs.

When Turning, Slow Down Ahead of Time, and Watch for HazardsWhen Turning, Slow Down Ahead of Time, and Watch for Hazards

Turning is half the fun while riding on a motorcycle, but curves also pose significant dangers that can catch riders unaware.

The primary danger while turning is that a rider could hit an unexpected patch of loose material. Whether that material is gravel, dry leaves, slushy ice, or anything else, losing traction while leaning through a turn can quickly turn into a nasty spill. Riders can reduce their risk of such an accident by slowing before the turn, scanning ahead as much as possible, and avoiding suspicious-looking patches on the road.

Another danger of cornering on a motorcycle comes from entering the turn at too high a speed. The rider will end up understeering, possibly swerving into other traffic or off the road entirely. Again, make sure you get the majority of your braking done before a turn so that you can accelerate out of it, thereby regaining cornering control.

If you do happen to catch yourself in a turn you don’t seem to be making, you can lean hard with your knee hovering above the ground, thereby displacing your center of gravity and making your turning radius sharper.

Keep an Eye on Your Rearview Mirror

Keep an Eye on Your Side Mirror

Motorcycle owners have much more to worry about when it comes to rear-end collisions. They are another of the most common types of motorcycle accidents, and they are far more dangerous to a small bike compared to a full-sized vehicle with a bumper.

Avoid riding around drivers who follow too closely. Give them the chance to pass you, or change lanes to get them off your tail. As you approach intersections or other areas where you may stop, maintain awareness of drivers behind you as you scan for possible dangers. You may stop in time to avoid getting hit by a left-turning driver, for instance, only to have a driver following behind skid into you.

Plan ahead for evasive maneuvers in case someone doesn’t stop in time or closes the gap between your vehicle and theirs. Identify safe areas of exit, including squeezing between lanes to get through other stopped cars. Avoid making sudden judgements, though, since evasion can lead to its own set of risks as drivers unexpectedly encounter a small motorcycle wriggling through traffic.

Never, Ever Drink and Drive, And Don’t SpeedNever, Ever Drink and Drive, And Don’t Speed

Sadly, the most common type of motorcycle accident mistake comes from the operator. Over 40% of motorcycle riders who die in a single-vehicle accident had drank enough alcohol to impair their abilities.

Motorcycle owners have to be more aware than other drivers, and they must make many more crucial split-second decisions over the course of their trip. Even a small amount of alcohol can be enough to turn a minor scare into a life-changing accident.

Speeding is another perennial problem for motorcycle safety, and it combines doubly with alcohol impairment. Around a third of all motorcycles involved in fatal single vehicle crashes were speeding at the time of the accident.

Remember You Can Call San Luis Obispo Motorcycle Accident Lawyers if You’re Injured

As we said before, sometimes no matter what you do, you may still find yourself in a serious motorcycle accident.

If you suspect that another driver was completely or partially at fault for your accident, they could responsible for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. You can reach out to San Luis Obispo motorcycle accident lawyers to take up your case and pursue your injury claim to the fullest extent of California law.

Always exercise caution while riding your motorcycle, and remember that you can contact our experienced attorneys for a free consultation if you think you may have a personal injury claim.