June 15 2017

Avoiding Motorcycle Accidents: Answering the Call of the Road Safely

Baby Boomers grew up with Easy Rider, and for Millennials and others, the romance of the motorcycle endures. Unfortunately, a personal injury lawyer sees all too frequently the harsh reality for many motorcyclists – a tragic accident, often resulting in catastrophic injuries or death.

Safety Tips for Motorcyclists

As a personal injury lawyer who was seen the downside of the call of the road, I offer the following tips for safer motorcycle riding:

  • Before each ride inspect your bike to make sure everything is in working order and inspect the tires to make sure they are properly inflated.
  • Don’t speed – excessive speed is frequently a contributing factor in most motorcycle accident cases. It’s true what they say – speed kills.

A Need for Speed can be Deadly and Costly

Speed was a decisive factor in a recent Alberta case. The 56-year-old male motorcyclist, a teacher by training, was out for a pleasure ride on the mountain highways when a car driven by the defendant made a wide and excessively slow left turn, without a left-hand signal, onto the highway. The motorcyclist was riding 100 km/h in an 80 km/h area, and collided with the rear of the automobile, resulting in his death. His widowed wife and their 14-year-old son sued for damages under the Fatal Accidents Act. They were awarded damages for sorrow and bereavement, special damages because of the death of the husband, and damages to compensate for their dependency on his income and housekeeping services. However, because the husband was found to have been excessively speeding on his motorcycle the damages awarded to the wife and son were reduced by 25%.

Stay Visible, Stay Focused, and Drive Defensively

  • Don’t swerve in and out of lanes.
  • Make sure that you are properly equipped.

Wear a helmet that meets safety standards, a visor or goggles, and protective clothing such as long leather pants, a long-sleeved jacket, leather boots that reach over your ankles and leather gloves, in case the worst happens and you find yourself on the road.

  • Obviously, don’t ride while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • Don’t ride while distracted – turn your cell phone and music off.
  • Don’t ride when you are tired or hungry.
  • Make sure you are visible – other drivers often have difficulty seeing motorcyclists and reacting in time when they do (another reason not to swerve in and out of lanes). Wear bright clothing and gear, with reflective strips and decals particularly if you are riding in poor weather conditions or outside daylight hours.

In this Alberta case, one of the main reasons why the defendant driver was held liable when a young motorcyclist collided with her car was because of visibility. The motorcyclist was riding a bright green motorcycle, wearing a colourful yellow helmet and purple attire, and had his headlight on, even though it was 8:30 in the morning. The court ruled these facts, made the motorcyclist clearly visible, and the driver was negligent for not having seen him. Again, however, the motorcyclist was found to have been speeding, and the damages assessed to compensate for his injuries were reduced by 25%.

  • Make sure your headlight works and use it day and night.
  • Don’t follow in the blind spot of another vehicle. Pay attention to those truck bumper stickers that say “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” and “Wide right turns.”
  • If another driver fails to see you, lay on the horn.

Motorcycles are not Toys

  • Make sure that you don’t have more bike than you can handle.

Start by taking motorcycle riding and safety courses which teach you the basics, as well as how to perform evasive emergency manoeuvres. If you need a starting point for finding a safety course near you, visit the Alberta Safety Council website.

  • Make sure that your bike fits you. This includes making sure that you can easily rest both feet flat on the ground, and the handlebars and controls are within easy reach.
  • Work your way up to larger bikes as you gain experience and learn how to handle more power. Take an advanced riding course (they can be life-saving and they also happen to be fun).

Be a Fair Weather Rider

  • Don’t ride in inclement weather – rain cuts down visibility and reduces your bike’s grip on the road. Sometimes Mother Nature throws a curve ball and you may get caught out in bad weather. If that happens, play it safe. Take shelter under bridges and overpasses or find a safe place to pull off the road and wait it out.

Stick to Well Maintained Roads and Drive Defensively

  • Try to avoid poor road conditions such as wet leaves, gravel, and potholes.
  • Drive defensively – keep an eye out for cars suddenly changing lanes or pulling out from side streets and highways.
  • Don’t tailgate – leave at least a 20-foot cushion between you and other vehicles.
  • Make sure that your passenger is schooled in safe riding as well.

In an interesting British Columbia case, a motorcyclist sought to blame the accident on her passenger, arguing that the passenger shifted her position, causing the driver to lose control of the motorbike. The passenger was not found responsible in this case, but it highlights the fact that the passenger must be safety conscious as well.

In the event the worst happens and you or a loved one are in a motorcycle accident, CALL US for a free consultation. We’ll review your situation and help you assess your options.