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Common California Motorcycle Accidents and How to Avoid Them

Motorcycle season doesn't really stop in California. Great weather, long winding roads that feature national parks, forests, lakes, and mountains call hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to hit the road every year.

But as good as it feels to ride, California roadways can pose significant risks to bikers.

The state experiences hundreds of fatal motorcycle accidents annually. The rate is about 59 to 68 fatal wrecks per 100,000 registered motorcycles per year, according to federal data. That’s more than 500 deaths each year on average in California.

Bikers are vulnerable, and they have every right to use the road safely. There are steps all motorists should take to make the streets safer – and when they don’t take those steps, a California motorcycle accident attorney can hold them accountable.

Motorcycle accident types and causes

Motorcycles are involved in around 15 percent of fatal accidents per year in California. Bike wrecks involving a collision with another motor vehicle often involve speeding and intersections.

The two most common motorcycle accidents are when another vehicle turns in front of a bike (either cutting it off or hitting it head-on) and when a bike runs off the road to avoid a bigger crash. This is sometimes called laying down, dumping, or ditching the bike.

Sideswipes and broadsides are another regular type of motorcycle accident. These are often caused when a driver fails to properly check blind spots before changing lanes.

Other types of motorcycle crashes include:

  • Rear-enders
  • Sudden U-turns or Y-turns (three-point turns) by another vehicle
  • Passing (by others as well as bikers)

Riskiest California counties for motorcycles

The number of motorcycle fatalities has increased significantly in California. Some areas of the state are riskier for bikers than others. Among California’s 20 most populated counties, the ones with the highest fatal motorcycle accident rates include:

  • Tulare
  • Kern
  • San Bernardino
  • San Joaquin
  • San Diego
  • Riverside
  • Fresno
  • Sacramento
  • Santa Barbara
  • Orange
  • Los Angeles

Tulare most likely leads the state for deadly bike wrecks because it's an attractive place for a ride. The county includes parts of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, mountain vistas and lakes. There are also about a dozen state routes that offer great rides (including Route 245) crisscrossing the county.

How motorcyclists can avoid accidents

To help reduce accidents and make yourself more visible to others, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles includes safety tips for all motorists in its “Motorcycle Handbook.” These recommendations include such advice as:

  • To be more visible, wear bright-colored jackets, vests, and helmets, as well as reflective material on helmets and clothing.
  • Communicate with the drivers around you. Use turn signals when making lane changes or turns.
  • Flash brake lights before slowing down to provide advance notice of your intention to stop.
  • Avoid riding in other vehicles’ blind spots.
  • Use high beam headlights during daylight hours.

That said, there is only so much a biker can do to avoid collisions with larger vehicles. Motorists have to do their part to share the road with motorcycles.

How cars and trucks can avoid motorcycle collisions

All drivers have a responsibility to make sure others are safe on the road. Extra attention may be needed to spot and accommodate motorcycles. To reduce car vs. motorcycle crashes, the DMV recommends that other motorists:

  • Always check blind spots when entering a major thoroughfare or changing lanes. Use vehicle mirrors to make sure you’re getting the fullest view possible.
  • Allow a 4-second following distance between you and a bike.
  • If possible, move over to give passing motorcyclists more room.
  • When making a turn, check for motorcyclists and gauge their speed to avoid a collision.
  • Look for motorcycles (plus bicycles, pedestrians, other cars, etc.) before opening car doors when you're parked or pulled over next to moving traffic
  • Look at least twice for motorcycles before making a right turn.

It’s especially important to be attentive for motorcycles on sunny days when they are more likely to be out on the road. Conversely, in inclement weather, there may not be as many motorcycles, but the risk of a collision is even higher because of limited visibility and slippery road conditions.

Motorcycle accident victims’ rights

Motorcycle riders have the same rights as other motorists in California. This means that if you were on your bike when a negligent driver hit you, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries, motorcycle repairs, and other losses.

A California motorcycle accident lawyer with years of experience fighting for injured bikers can help you. Accident lawyers almost always offer free case consultations. During a session, a member of the firm will listen to the details of your accident and explain how the law applies to your situation. They can also help you calculate how much compensation you will need to make and maintain a full recovery.

Take control of your crash. Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer in your area to schedule a free consultation now.

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Founded in 2007, Clancy & Diaz, LLP is a personal injury law firm with offices in Walnut Creek and Antioch, CA. Attorney Pete Clancy is a highly regarded trial attorney who has wo...