According to TxDOT, more than half of fatal motorcycle crashes involve collisions with other vehicles.
A sergeant with the Texas Department of Public Safety told Spectrum News that, in 23 years of crash investigations, “the majority of motorcycle crashes were due to the vehicles failing to yield right of way to the motorcyclists at intersections.”
This is not just anecdotal evidence. The Texas Transportation Institute reports that around one-third of Texas motorcycle fatalities occur in an intersection or are intersection-related. Frequently, these car-motorcycle crashes occur because a driver misjudges the motorcycle’s distance and speed and makes a left turn in front of it.
Not only do drivers tend to misjudge the distance and speed of a motorcycle, but in many cases, they don’t see them at all.
The smaller size of motorcycles makes them harder to spot. Drivers may also suffer from a phenomenon known as “inattentional blindness” that causes them to miss an unexpected object.
Simply put, drivers may not see motorcycles because they aren’t expecting them. In one study, 65% of participants who were shown a motorcycle in a picture did not see the motorcycle, but only 31% missed a car in the same position.
Other driver behaviors that commonly contribute to motorcycle accidents include:
- Not paying attention, especially at intersections and when making a left turn
- Driving distracted
- Unsafe lane changes, such as not checking mirrors and blind spots and not using turn signals
- Not giving motorcyclists enough room when passing them
- Following a motorcycle too closely, giving drivers less time and distance to react to a rider slowing down
The road itself is more dangerous to bikers, too. Potholes, loose gravel, spilled loads, wet and icy roads, and other roadway hazards present an outsized risk to motorcycles, which may weigh only 500 – 1,000 pounds and have less traction and ability to absorb bumps than cars, trucks, and SUVs.
Sometimes, riders don’t do themselves any favors. The big picture of why motorcycles accidents and deaths are up includes rider-related issues like inexperienced motorcyclists and risky actions, like lane splitting. Speeding, alcohol impairment, and not having sufficient training are major causes of motorcycle crashes as well.
Like many unsafe behaviors, these tend to be concentrated among a small subset of irresponsible individuals and do not reflect the motorcycling community as a whole. Nonetheless, bikers may be judged as a member of a group, subject to anti-motorcycle biases and stereotypes. This can negatively impact them when navigating the claims process after an accident.