Motorcyclists were 27 times more likely to die in motor vehicle accidents than passenger car occupants in 2017.
Last year, 412 motorcyclists lost their lives on Texas roads, and another 1,800 riders were seriously injured in motorcycle accidents. Houston saw the highest number of motorcycle fatalities in Texas in 2019 and was in the top 10 in the country.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident here in the Houston area, it is essential an experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorney is on your side.
The Most Common Cause of a Motorcycle Accident
About 30 percent of the motorcycle crashes in Texas last year happened at intersections. That a motorist does not see a motorcycle approaching or misjudges the distance and speed may one explanation for the high number of intersection-related motorcycle accidents.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, an intersection-related crash is: A traffic crash in which the first harmful event both: occurs on an approach to or exit from an intersection, and results from an activity, behavior or control related to the movement of traffic units through the intersection.
This definition includes intersections of freeways (and their subsequent on-ramps, off-ramps and service streets), major thoroughfares and country roads.
The intersection of W. Sam Houston Parkway and Bissonet Street is far and away the most dangerous intersection in Texas, leading the way in both total crashes and injuries.
Houston is home to the most dangerous intersection –and thirteen of the top twenty– as well as the greatest number of dangerous.
Whether it’s due to the rapid population growth (the greater Houston area added nearly 500,000 people between 2012 and 2015), the never-ending road construction, or a combination of other factors, Houston is in the midst of traffic crises. And the data shows that it’s only getting worse. The city saw a 42 percent increase in intersection-related accidents from 2012 to 2015–going from 21,524 in 2012 to 30,583 in 2015. You can clearly see the difference below, where we’ve plotted every intersection-related car crash in Houston in 2012 compared to 2015.
This dramatic increase in intersection-related crashes corresponds with a similar uptick of 37 percent in overall motor vehicle crashes in the city.
The Differences in Car and Motorcycle Accidents
Many of the differences between motorcycle accidents and car accidents come from the differences between motorcycles and cars. These differences affect the likelihood of a motorcycle accident, the circumstances that can cause a motorcycle accident, and the injuries that result.
Motorcyclists have a greater likelihood of getting into an accident than motorists. The U.S. has about 8.6 million registered motorcycles. These motorcycles travel about 19.7 billion miles each year. Motorcyclists get into about 110,000 accidents every year.
For comparison, the U.S. has 268 million registered passenger vehicles. Vehicle owners drive about 3.2 trillion miles per year. These vehicles get into about 6 million accidents every year.
This means that motorcycles get into about 5.6 accidents per million miles traveled. Passenger vehicles have about 1.88 accidents per million miles traveled. This makes motorcycles three times more likely to get into an accident than cars.
CAUSES OF ACCIDENTS
More than half of all motorcycle accidents result from a vehicle driver hitting a motorcyclist. The fault for slightly more than half of the collisions between cars and motorcycles rests with the driver, not the motorcycle rider.
- 42% of these accidents result from vehicles turning left onto a motorcycle or a motorcycle’s path
- 41% of the accidents result from drivers failing to see motorcycles in their blind spots during lane changes
- 43% of accidents involved motorcyclists impaired by alcohol or drugs
- Speeding played a role in 33% of motorcycle accidents
In comparison, car accidents have much more diverse causes. Distracted driving is the most common cause of car accidents, causing about 16%. About 10% of car accidents involved drugs or alcohol. Finally, speeding played a role in only 2% of car accidents.
Motorcyclists lack the protection that motorists have. Even when they wear helmets, motorcyclists have nothing–like a crash bar– to help protect their sides. They also lack a roof to prevent ejection from their motorcycles and onto the road.
Motorcycles usually weigh around 700 pounds, although heavier road bikes can weigh up to 900 pounds. In contrast, passenger cars usually weigh about 2,000 pounds, while SUVs can weigh up to 6,000 pounds.
In an accident, weight matters. The momentum and energy transferred in an accident depend on the speed and weight of the vehicles involved.
When a vehicle hits a motorcycle, the vehicle will have two to six times more energy and momentum when compared to a motorcycle traveling at the same speed. As a result, the motorcycle and motorcyclist will experience the bulk of the damage.
If you have a motorcycle accident, you will probably suffer an injury. Of the 110,000 motorcycle accidents that take place in an average year, 89,000 cause injuries. This means 81% of motorcycle accidents result in an injury. Of the 6 million car accidents that occur every year, about 50% cause injuries.
According to the insurance industry, this means that motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to die in a crash than vehicle drivers. When motorcyclists get injured, they suffer more severe injuries. In fact, about 6.6% of motorcycle accident victims suffer head injuries.
Other Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist rides between rows of cars in slow-moving or stop-and-go traffic. It has also been called lane sharing, stripe-riding, or whitelining. Filtering (also called filtering-forward) is a similar maneuver in which a motorcyclist rides between cars stopped at a traffic light in order to be the first vehicle in line when the light turns green.
But isn’t lane splitting safe?
That depends on which driver and which expert you ask.
In many ways, lane-splitting can be a safe alternative to sitting in traffic. Conversely, if a rider is not aware enough of his or her surroundings, it can also be dangerous. Like every aspect of safely riding a motorcycle, vigilance is key.
While lane splitting, riders should always watch out for–and try to predict–what drivers may be about to do around them. Keeping your speed in check helps you to have the time to brake or maneuver around unexpected situations. Most scenarios that could cause harm to motorcyclists while lane splitting come from in front or the side, so again, keeping the differential in speed low is paramount to ensuring you, as the rider, have time to react.
Consider this statement from the American Motorcycle Association:
“The AMA endorses lane splitting, given the long term success in California and the University of California study by Berkley researchers showing that it enhances motorcycle safety. ‘A motorcycle’s narrow width can allow it to pass between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars on roadways where the lanes are wide enough to offer an adequate gap. This option can provide an escape route for motorcyclists who would otherwise be trapped or struck from behind. There is evidence … that traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars (i.e., lane splitting) on multiple-lane roads (such as interstate highways) slightly reduces crash frequency compared with staying within the lane and moving with other traffic.’ There has been recent enthusiasm for lane splitting and/or filtering in other states. The AMA endorses these practices—as long as lane splitting is conducted within safe highway speeds—and will assist groups and individuals working to bring legal lane splitting and/or filtering to their state.”
The Hurt Report, the most comprehensive motorcycle crash causation study to date, noted that reducing a motorcyclist’s exposure to vehicles that are frequently accelerating and decelerating on congested roadways can be one way to reduce rear-end collisions for those most vulnerable in traffic.
Some drivers (and governments) deem it an unnecessary risk that no motorcyclist should ever take. Many motorcyclists argue that lane splitting is safer than riding in-lane with stop-and-go traffic. While almost every country in the world allows lane splitting, 49 states in the U.S. prohibit lane-splitting; only the state of California allows it.
The AMA contends that motorcyclists who are lane splitting are less likely to get rear-ended by inattentive drivers. There typically aren’t vehicles directly behind riders, and usually while lane-splitting, the motorcyclist is going slightly faster than the surrounding traffic.
One of the most important aspects of staying safe on a motorcycle is situational awareness. You must pay attention to everything going on around you, including what the motorcycle is doing beneath you. Keep your head on a swivel, as they say. When lane splitting, this is all amplified as the tolerances between the rider and other cars are decreased.
The University of California at Berkeley researchers examined 6,000 motorcycle crashes and found that 17% of them occurred while a rider was lane splitting. Their conclusion was that when a motorcyclist is riding a few feet from two rows of cars, they have no room for error–or surprises.
More Often Caused by Unaware Motorists
Motorists in slow-moving traffic often “lane surf” or rapidly change to a faster lane of traffic. Sometimes they use their turn signals; other times, they swap lanes too quickly to signal. Such a maneuver can easily kill a lane-splitting motorcyclist. In addition, many drivers and passengers enjoy hanging an arm out their car window while waiting in traffic on a hot day. A lane-splitting biker plus wayward limbs is a recipe for certain disaster.
Finally, drivers in standstill traffic may open a car door suddenly. Perhaps they see some litter in the road they want to clean up, or maybe the heat and fumes get to them and they feel the need to throw up. If you are lane splitting on a motorcycle and a door flies open in front of you, you will be hard-pressed to avoid a crash.
Distracted drivers are dangerous and cause thousands of car accidents each year that kill and injure innocent victims.
Inattention is one of the most common causes of traffic accidents. In 2019, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 3,142 people died in distracted driving accidents. Over 400,000 people were injured that year in accidents involving distracted drivers.
In 2019, 377 people died in Texas distracted driving accidents, which was a 6 percent decrease from 2018. In Harris County alone, there were 12,094 known crashes involving distracted drivers during 2019.
Those distracted driving resulted in 22 fatalities, 252 severe injuries, and at least 1,191 serious but non-incapacitating injuries. Thousands more sustained moderate, mild, and possible injuries because of distracted drivers around Houston that year.
Driver distraction causes thousands of car and motorcycle wrecks each year. The reasons for distracted driving accidents are preventable if drivers would avoid common distractions.
A driver’s attention needs to be focused solely on operating the vehicle. Any minor distraction could result in a deadly car crash.
Distracted driving involves:
- Manual distractions,
- Visual distractions, and
- Cognitive distractions.
Some practices fall into one single category. Others, like texting and driving, fall into all three.
Examples of distractions that can be avoided while driving include:
- Sending, receiving, and reading text messages while driving
- Using a cell phone while driving, even a hands-free cell phone
- Eating and drinking
- Grooming and changing clothes
- Interacting with passengers
- Reaching for objects
- Adjusting vehicle controls or GPS controls
Any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from driving is dangerous. Texting and driving are very dangerous distractions. It causes the driver to look away from the road, focus on the message, and remove at least one hand from the steering wheel.
Drinking and driving is alarmingly common. In fact, in 2018, one out of every 227 licensed drivers in the United States were arrested for driving under the influence. That adds up to more than 1,001,320 drunk driving arrests in a single year.
Unfortunately, not all drunk drivers are stopped before they cause an accident. Collisions involving drunk drivers occur quite frequently, too. In fact, drunk driving crashes have increased in recent years.
In 2014, there were 1,620 drunk driving car accidents in the city of Houston. In 2018, the total number of DUI crashes was 1,908. That’s an increase of nearly 20 percent in just a few short years.
More causes of motorcycle accidents:
- Drowsy Driving
- Reckless driving
- Poor weather conditions
- Inexperienced riders and drivers
- Poor road conditions
Are you struggling with painful injuries and emotional distress after a motorcycle crash in Houston? You may be entitled to a substantial monetary award.