With year-round warm weather, it’s easy to see why there are over half a million registered motorcycles in the Sunshine State. The number of bikes in Florida comes second only to California.
Unfortunately, Florida also ranks high when it comes to motorcycle accidents. The state has the 4th highest motorcycle fatality rate in the nation. It’s also number one in total motorcycle accidents. Knowing the risks and common causes of motorcycle accidents can make riders feel more prepared on the road.
Cars Turning Left
The single most dangerous situation occurs when cars are making a left turn. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 41% of accidents involving a motorcycle and another vehicle happened when the vehicle is turning left.
These accidents typically happen when a motorcyclist who has the right of way is riding straight across an intersection. Because of the small size of motorcycles, drivers often don’t see them until it’s too late.
In the best of conditions, drivers have to put in more effort when operating a motorcycle versus a standard vehicle. Balancing and maneuvering are much more challenging when a driver is impaired.
A recent study showed that 25% of fatal motorcycle accidents involved a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher. That’s above the legal limit in Florida. While impaired, drivers often feel a false sense of confidence that pushes them to test the speed limit or to make other misjudgments.
Driving in Blind Spots
Parking sensors, backup cameras, and blind spot detection are modern technologies that are helping to make roads safer for motorcycle owners. However, they have not completely solved the problem of drivers failing to spot motorcycles in their rear view and side mirrors.
Due to their small size, motorcycles are easily missed. Their size also makes the impact of accidents exponentially more damaging than accidents between two standard cars.
Wearing bright colored clothing, using headlights before dark, and keeping a distance of at least 20 feet are some ways a motorcycle driver can increase the other drivers’ visibility.
Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist drives between two lanes. This usually happens when a motorcyclist wants to bypass slow or standstill traffic.
Lane splitting is a common cause of accidents because of the reduced space that the motorcycle driver has to maneuver. Also, car drivers aren’t generally expecting another vehicle to pass when traffic is congested. Therefore, car drivers may not be actively checking rearview mirrors for lane splitters.
Lane splitting is illegal in 49 states. That includes Florida. Consequently, motorcyclists are likely to be determined at-fault after accidents involving lane splitting. However, if the motorcyclist can show that the other vehicle driver contributed to the accident, then the other vehicle driver may be partially or entirely held responsible.
Dangerous Road Conditions
Because of their size and the lack of protective doors and windows, motorcycles are more susceptible to road hazards than most vehicles.
Gravel, uneven pavement, debris, roadkill, and other objects on the road can affect a motorcyclist’s balance. Even speed bumps designed to make the road safer can be a hazard if a motorcyclist fails to make adjustments.
The single biggest element of weather that can increase motorcycle accidents is rain. Stuart, Florida motorists see more than their fair share of rain with about 146 rainfall days every year.
Heavy rain can cover potholes and other dangers on the road that drivers would normally actively avoid. If it has not rained in a while, the water may make built-up oils rise to the surface, making roads slippery.
Rain not only decreases a motorcyclist’s ability to see clearly. Car drivers who can miss a motorcycle in the best of circumstances may have an even tougher time noticing one in the rain.
Fog is another factor that affects all drivers’ sight. When combined with the night’s darkness, fog makes the road especially dangerous. Lights, which normally help motorcyclists and car drivers guide themselves through the night, can worsen visibility. Their beams can reflect off of the water in fog and create a glare.
Incorrect Use of Safety Equipment
Florida has a relaxed policy on safety gear and does not mandate helmet use. In the three years prior to Florida suspending the mandatory use of helmets, the average number of motorcycle deaths was 160 per year. Since then, the average deaths has skyrocketed to 550 a year.
The NHTSA estimates that helmets save the lives of close to 2,000 motorcyclists a year. Additionally, the NHTSA estimates that helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries in drivers and 41% in passengers of motorcycle accidents.
What do I do if I’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident?
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, call the The Eberst Law Firm at 772-225-4900. Our experienced personal injury team will help you evaluate your claim and will work tirelessly to secure the maximum compensation for your suffering.