Tips for Driving Around Motorcycles in California

June 20, 2017

California is home to the largest motorcycle population in the nation. As of December 2016, 893,107 motorcyclists held active registrations with the state. The state also records a high motorcycle collision accident and fatality rate. In 2015, 462 motorcyclists died on our roadways. Today, the number of fatalities is likely much higher. A key factor in motorcycle accidents is driver error. Motorists do not change their driving behaviors around motorcyclists, and that’s a problem. To properly share the road, every driver must reasonably adjust to the conditions and to other vehicles.

Most Common Motorcycle Crash Types and Causes

Motorcycle crashes rarely involve freak accidents. They occur because someone failed to use adequate caution while driving. Often, more than one contributing factor plays a role in the incident. Common contributing factors to these incidents include speeding, lane splitting, inattention or distraction, and/or impairment – all driver-related activities.
When drivers fail to use their mirrors, check their blind spots, look both ways before turning, and make deliberate movements, they may easily miss the slim profile of a two-wheeled vehicle. Motorcycle accidents most commonly happen when other motor vehicles make left-hand turns. The motorist may not see a motorcyclist traveling straight and strike him or her in a head-on collision or a T-bone collision.
The speed at the time of the incident often determines the severity of an incident. At any speed, a motorcyclist can fall off the bike, get wedged against a vehicle, or fly off the bike and strike an inanimate object. In certain cases, motorcyclists may even skid or fly through the air only to endure a second strike from an oncoming vehicle.

Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries

A motorcycle accident can give rise to many different types of injuries. Minor accidents can result in road rash, excessive bruising, and soft tissue injuries. More serious incidents can lead to impalement, traumatic brain injuries, fractures, and extreme cases of road rash.
Motorcycles do not contain roll-cages or any form of protection. At their lightest, most motorcycles still weigh several hundred pounds. A motorcyclist can suffer serious injuries if a motorcycle falls in the wrong way. Depending on the weight of the vehicles involved, the speed at impact, and the way a riders falls or experiences trauma can all contribute to a host of injuries.
Some motorcyclists are lucky. They walk away from horrific accidents to ride another day. Others will never ride again, and some may never walk or experience life in the same way. For riders who suffered serious injuries due to another drivers actions, compensation may be available. It’s always a good idea to contact a motorcycle accident lawyer to discuss a possible personal injury case.

Motorcycle Laws in California

In California, all motorcycles enjoy the same rights and responsibilities on the roadways as motorists. In addition to general traffic rules, motorcyclists must also follow motorcycle-specific rules:

  • Motorcyclists can legally lane split if they do so in a safe manner.
  • All drivers and passengers must wear helmets.
  • When parallel parking, drivers must park bikes so one wheel or fender touches the curb.
  • All motorcycle drivers must pass the relevant licensing exams and hold a valid license (from California or another state) before driving on state roads.

Tips for Safer Driving

Motor vehicle drivers follow the common rules of the road while driving around motorcyclists. In addition to basic safe driving behaviors, drivers may want to adopt these good habits to reduce the likelihood of a motorcycle-related incident:

  • Follow the 3-second rule. Always leave adequate space between your vehicle and a motorcycle. A motorcyclist may not accelerate or decelerate in the same way as a passenger vehicle. More space will always translate to better safety.
  • Use turn signals. Signal clearly and move deliberately when turning, changing lanes, or coming to a stop.
  • Avoid crowding motorcycles. When traveling on multi-lane roads, try to give adjacent motorcyclists plenty of space.

The safe driving duty of care falls on both motorists and motorcyclists. Motorcyclists can take steps to drive defensively and avoid careless drivers:

  • Watch your surroundings. Expect motorists to do the unexpected. Pay particularly close attention to vehicles at traffic signals, four-way stops, and around left-turn lanes.
  • Wear protective clothing. Invest in a solid helmet and motorcycle-specific clothing to protect your body in the event of an accident.
  • Always turn your lights on. Give motorists every chance to see you. Turn on your lights and ride outside of well-known blind spots to improve visibility.

Everyone can use a safe driving reminder. Practice awareness and safe driving skills on your next drive to protect yourself and those around you. Your awareness could save a life.