The Top 4 Causes of Motorcycle Accidents: How to Stay Safe on the Road

Motorcycle in the City

Now that warm weather is spreading across western Pennsylvania, motorcycle fans are hitting the roads. Even though motorcyclists accounted for less than 10% of all licensed PA drivers and 2.1% of accidents in 2018, they also accounted for 14.4% of all crash fatalities across the state in that same year. To stay safe on the road, drivers and motorcycle riders should slow down and remain vigilant for the common causes of motorcycle-related accidents. 

The Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the biggest factors behind motor vehicle accidents involving motorcycles include:

  1. Failure to detect dangerous conditions. This is also known as perception failure. An example of perception failure is when a rider fails to notice a car running a red light through his intersection because he is focused on the road ahead. 
  2. Failure to make the right decision in dangerous situations. Experts call this decision failure. One example is when a driver misjudges the speed of oncoming traffic while making a left turn, resulting in an accident. 
  3. Failure to react correctly to dangerous conditions. This is commonly referred to as reaction failure. Picture a driver hydroplaning through a large puddle. If the driver oversteers and veers off the road, they fail to react correctly to the situation. 
  4. Failure to recognize dangerous obstacles. The NTSB calls this comprehension failure. You’ve encountered comprehension failure if you’ve ever misjudged the curvature of a bend in the road and needed to brake suddenly to avoid driving out of your lane. 

By studying these causes, motorcycle riders and drivers can adjust their behavior to reduce their chances of being involved in an accident. 

Motorcycle on the Highway

Increasing Safety on the Road

As a motorcycle rider, you can take multiple steps to keep yourself safe on the road. These include:

  • Maintain a safe speed. You should always obey the posted speed limit, but you should also drive slower in heavy traffic, when navigating corners and bends, and whenever wet roads may be present. Driving slower gives you more time to detect dangerous hazards. 
  • Maintain a safe distance. The PA Driver’s Handbook recommends remaining at least four seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. To calculate this, pick an object on the side of the road and wait for the vehicle ahead to pass it. Count the number of seconds until you pass it as well. If you take less than four seconds to reach the object, you’re following too close. Leaving extra distance gives you more space to react to dangerous conditions.  
  • Use the right gear. Motorcycles are smaller than cars, which makes them harder to see. Use bright lights to keep your motorcycle visible and wear bright clothing so drivers can see you. Finally, wear a helmet to reduce the chances of a brain injury in an accident. 

By taking these and other precautions, motorcyclists increase their safety every time they ride onto the road. While these steps may not eliminate accidents, they give riders and drivers extra advantages.

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