Left-turn Crash

The left turning vehicle crossing the path of an approaching motorcycle continues to be a problem at intersections. Most of these type crashes occur on multi-lane roads with a speed limit of 35 to 45 miles per hour.

Many times the other vehicle driver states that the motorcyclist was not observed until just before or at the time of impact.

For example, a young rider was on a roadway with two lanes going the same direction approaching an intersection. Ahead of the rider was a vehicle in the same lane moving at the speed limit. The rider changed to the right lane and accelerated to pass the other vehicle. At the same time an automobile began to execute a left turn across the path of the approaching vehicle and motorcyclist. The automobile was contacted on the right front fender by the motorcyclist who was ejected from the machine and struck the roadway sustaining fatal injuries.

The motorcyclist in this crash, was effectively hidden by the vehicle being passed. Both the motorcyclist and the driver making the turn did not observe each other until it was too late. In any instance where the traffic lane to the left of the rider is moving slower or stopped, while the motorcyclist lane has relatively light traffic, the potential for the same type of crash can occur. A driver in the stopped or slow moving lane, may pause to allow a left turning vehicle to attempt completion of the turn. Riders should use caution when observing larger than normal gaps between vehicles to the left, coupled with a side street or driveway on the right, as a potential path for an intruding vehicle.

On a multi-lane approach to an intersection with a potential left turning vehicle ahead, and with no other vehicles in close proximity to the motorcyclist, the rider should either move from the left to the right portion of the travel lane, or if in the left lane, change lanes to the right. This movement along with the headlight of the motorcycle, will alert the potential left turning driver of the approaching motorcycle, in addition to creating an additional space buffer for the rider to react should the driver begin the turn. Covering the front brake lever  also helps in reducing reaction time.

Rear-end Crash

Rear end crashes occur when the motorcycle rider does not allow enough distance in following another vehicle, coupled with failure to scan ahead and anticipate the potential actions of the lead vehicle. Nationally, almost half of the rear-end crashes involving motorcyclists into other vehicles occur at night.

In crash analysis, many of the motorcyclist fail to use the full braking potential of the motorcycle to stop or slow the motorcycle to allow the vehicle ahead to clear. Many riders improperly apply the front brake causing the motorcycle to fall to the roadway.

As an example, a rider on a three-lane major roadway driving at 45 miles per hour decided to change from the center to left driving lanes. The rider turned and looked back for traffic in the left lane while moving the motorcycle into the left lane at the same time. When the motorcyclist turned and looked in the direction of travel, another vehicle was stopped in the lane ahead due to heavy traffic. The rider could not react and brake fast enough, struck the rear of the stopped vehicle and was ejected from the motorcycle glancing off the vehicle falling to the roadway sustaining fatal internal injuries.

In this crash, the rider held the head-check too long, and before making the maneuver, did not look far enough down the highway to observe potential traffic problems.

Single-vehicle Crash

This crash scenario is one of the most common single-vehicle motorcycle crash. The tendency for the rider and motorcycle to go straight while the roadway curves. All motorcycles (not 3-wheelers), need to lean to turn. The higher the speed, and tighter the turn radius, requires additional lean to successfully complete the turn. Since much of the traction between the road surface and motorcycle tires is utilized to lean, any heavy braking or accelerating can cause a loss of control. Any braking should be done prior to entering the curve.

Alcohol impairs judgement and balance. A rider under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances, may fail to lean sufficiently and widen the turning path exceeding the paved portion of the roadway. Once into a softer area like grass or earth, the traction requirements change drastically and rider recovery of control becomes almost impossible. Likewise, many motorcyclists strike curbing or barrier rails which cause them to be ejected from the motorcycle, often striking tree’s, mailboxes or parked vehicles before hitting the ground.

For example, a young rider at night on a 30 mile per hour residential street curving to the left, drifted to the right leaving the paved roadway. The rider and motorcycle crossed two driveways and lawns, striking a mailbox and post, and the ends of two concrete drainage culverts. The rider was ejected from the motorcycle and died of head injuries. The autopsy of the rider found a BAC level two and a half times greater than the legal limit in Florida.

Key factors for motorcyclists to consider on curves, is how tight a turn the curve is along with an appropriate entry speed. The posted curve warning signs are a clue for the rider. If the sign contains no advisory speed plate, the curve radius or turn is adequate for the posted speed limit. If there is an advisory speed plate, or the arrow on the sign is at 90̊, this indicates a very tight turn. At night, the appearance of chevrons on the roadside is another helpful indicator of the tightness of the turn.