California Motorcycle Crash Safety Lawyer Sebastian Gibson
California Motorcycle Crash Safety Lawyer Sebastian Gibson
The Right Choice in Motorcycle Crash Safety Attorneys in California
California motorcycle crash safety attorney Sebastian Gibson has spent decades as a personal injury attorney representing motorcycle crash victims and individuals involved in other vehicle accidents throughout California. With law degrees both in the U.S. and Great Britain, he is sought after by clients around the world.
Named one of the Top Lawyers in the field of personal injury for the past 8 years by the prestigious Palm Springs Life Magazine, he has also been named a “Superb” lawyer by Avvo, their highest rating, which rates attorneys all across the nation.
With millions and millions of dollars obtained for his clients, Sebastian Gibson knows what it is to be seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and what you can do to try to avoid suffering serious injuries from a motorcycle crash.
This article will provide you with the most common types of motorcycle accidents, what to do to avoid certain situations and what type of injuries most frequently occur in a motorcycle crash.
We’ll also look at the high number of fatalities suffered by off-duty U.S. Service Members, especially in the Twentynine Palms area and on Hwy 62 which leads down to Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio and Coachella where Marines often ride their bikes for nightlife, music festivals and restaurants.
Finally, we’ll look at the types of motorcycles, motorcycle manufacturers and what’s coming on the horizon in concept bikes and technology in the future to make motorcycle riding more safe.
Common California Motorcycle Crash Situations
1) Cars Turning Left At An Intersection Who Never See Your Motorcycle
Drivers of cars in California simply don’t look for motorcycles. If they’re looking at all, they’re looking for a wide car, two headlights or maybe a cop, but not a motorcycle. A study in Europe found that in 69 % of the accidents with other vehicles, the other vehicle attempted no collision avoidance maneuver whatsoever, which suggests they never saw the motorcycle at all.
It therefore falls on the motorcyclist to avoid a collision with the car pulling out in front of them, and far too many simply don’t have more than a split second to take evasive action before a collision with the turning car wipes them out.
If the car waiting at the light does turn in front of you, you need to know what routes of escape are open to you and any evasive action you might take. The wheels are what you should look at for your first clue. If they do turn in front of you, laying the bike down is not your best answer in most cases.
Your best chances are if your bike is upright and you’re ready either to use the brakes or swerve and get out of the way. The last thing you want to be doing is skidding along the asphalt into a fixed object. As soon as you get on your bike, you must anticipate that other drivers won’t see you and won’t be looking out for you.
2) Cars Ahead Making Quick Stops
The car ahead or a number of cars ahead slam on the brakes because someone didn’t notice traffic was coming to a stop.
While it’s easier for the driver of a car to still avoid a collision, it’s much more difficult for the motorcyclist when the cars ahead stop on a dime.
As any motorcyclist knows, 70% of the braking power comes from the front brakes. Brake too hard and you lock up the front wheel and go flying off the bike. ABS brakes can help, but not always.
3) Getting Clipped by Oncoming Traffic
Take any two lane highway, uphill or downhill, it doesn’t matter, throw in a curve and you have the perfect recipe for being clipped by oncoming traffic not staying in their lane.
4) Road Gravel and Other Road Hazards
Gravel, a motorcyclist’s worst road fear. There are other potential road hazards as well for sure, but gravel is the worst. Pot holes come in a close second. Honorable mentions go to dirt, sticks and road kill. When a motorcycle rider is going around a corner and has no time to react before his or her wheels hit the road hazard, an crash can easily occur.
Advanced training can help a motorcycle rider learn how to trail brake and to maximize your vision.
5) Car Drivers Opening Their Car Doors Before Checking If It’s Safe
It’s not simply elderly drivers who do this, though it may seem so sometimes. But take a narrow street where shoppers parallel park, throw in a motorcyclist, a shopper not thinking if anyone may be coming down the street, and you have all the ingredients for a motorcycle rider to be thrown off their bike trying to avoid the shopper and/or their car door.
6) Cars Changing Lanes As You Split Lanes in California
A similar situation to car drivers opening their car doors, is the situation that occurs when a motorcyclist is splitting lanes on a freeway or on a busy street filled with cars and a driver shoots left or right into the gap in another lane hitting the motorcyclist splitting lanes along side their car at that moment.
It’s the fault of the car driver, but 9 times out of 10, the car driver, having never seen the motorcyclist coming up between the lanes, will try to blame the motorcyclist. Fortunately, most traffic cops, especially those who ride motorcycles, are able to see who’s really to blame – the car driver.
7) Cars Changing Lanes Even When A Motorcyclist Isn’t Splitting Lanes
It’s good to see signs on freeways now warning drivers to watch for motorcyclists or to share the lanes with them. But far too many motorcycle accidents are still caused by car drivers who change lanes right into a motorcycle rider, having failed to look out for anything other than a car, if they’re paying attention at all.
When this happens on a freeway while both the car and the motorcycle are traveling at 70 miles or more, the consequences can be deadly for the motorcycle rider.
The way to lessen the chances of this type of crash is to spend as little time in blind spots as possible. And if traffic is slowing with one lane moving faster than others, be aware that cars in the slow lane may want to go into the faster lane. Avoid being where they may decide to go.
This type of situation may be alleviated in the future as more and more new cars are coming equipped with blind spot alerts or other self-driving features which warn a driver that a vehicle, including a motorcycle may be on their side or in their blind spot. However, if the car driver is still in control of their vehicle and the blind spot or lane changing warning doesn’t allow the car to prevent the lane change, these features may not prevent that many of these accidents.
8) Riding Too Fast Around A Curve or A Corner
Motorcycles are fast, especially the newest ones and speed, as dangerous as it is, can be intoxicating. Speed on corners and curves though don’t blend well. New riders learn that lesson quickly. But even experienced riders will occasionally go through a curve or take a corner too fast, not realizing what they’ve just bargained for.
Sometimes this type of motorcycle crash comes as a result of overconfidence on the part of the motorcycle rider. Other times, it’s the result of a road hazard or the actions of an oncoming car.
If you do find yourself going too fast, whacking the brakes, chopping the throttle or doing anything else that can upset the bike and lose traction is what you want to avoid. Many times, the bike can handle it better than the rider. What you can’t do is panic.
9) Car Drivers Behind Motorcyclists
As with any driver who stops first at an intersection, motorcycle riders know they too can be rear ended by a car driver’s inattention to the traffic signal or to their motorcycle stopped immediately ahead.
But while cars have air bags and crumple zones, a motorcycle rider is, for the most part, riding unprotected from this type of impact.
Rear end collisions, however, don’t simply take place at intersections. They can occur in slow-moving traffic, in stop and go situations and even while traffic is proceeding at a fairly quick pace but not quickly enough for someone speeding or driving recklessly.
How do you avoid being slammed into from behind when traffic stops ahead? Use the car ahead for protection. Pull in front of it and if possible off to the side so the car takes the impact, not you, and you avoid having it hit pushed into your motorcycle.
10) Bad Weather
Rain is bad, snow is worse, but ice is beyond dangerous. With rain, a motorcycle rider doesn’t just get wet, they get splashed. Puddles can be deceiving, pot holes crop up out of nowhere, and the more rain there is, especially that first rain of the season that brings out all the oil on the roadways, are no fun at all. Even if a motorcycle rider reduces their speed, visibility can be next to nothing.
If there’s snow or ice on the road ahead, turn back or take another route if possible. The life you save will probably be your own.
11) Drunk Drivers
A drunk driver can cause nearly any of the above situations, except for bad weather, gravel and other road hazards, or a motorcycle rider taking a curve or corner too fast.
When a motorcyclist drinks and drives, it can cause a motorcyclist to drive more recklessly and even when they’re driving carefully, it will slow down the rider’s reaction time. Since so many car drivers don’t watch out for motorcycle riders, an impaired motorcycle rider is that much more prone not only to getting into an accident, but also runs a high risk they will be found at fault for the crash, simply because they had alcohol on their breath.
In California, the highway patrol have the right to blame anyone in an accident who has been drinking as the cause of the collision, even if they otherwise would be found blameless if they hadn’t consumed alcohol.
12) Car Drivers Texting Or Looking At Their Cell Phones
It’s a fact of life today, that car drivers frequently use their cell phones while driving. Laws against cell phone texting have only limited though not eliminated the use of cell phones.
The new California law taking effect January 1, 2017 prohibits the use of cell phones by drivers not only for texting but for any purpose unless they are attached to the dashboard or window and an action can be accomplished by a single swipe of a finger. Whether or not this will eliminate cell phone use by drivers will have to be seen.
13) Being Lucky (or Unlucky)
There’s something to being in the right place at the right time as opposed to being on the wrong road near the wrong driver at the wrong time. That’s why we put this at number 13. You occasionally meet a motorcycle rider who has never had an accident and they’ve been riding for decades. These riders have to be the luckiest people on the face of the earth. If you come across one, ask them where they play the lottery.
14) Male Older Riders
A great number of fatalities and injuries are suffered by motorcycle riders age 40 or older. In 2013, motorcycle riders age 40 or older suffered 46% of the fatalities. Males have a considerably higher fatality and injury rate than females.
While seasoned bikers will tell you they are the most experienced and more skilled, which in many cases may be true, they also have slower reaction times. And if they get tired or lose focus from the road, it’s a bad combination, seasoned or not.
15) Road Surface
A sudden change in the surface of a road can cause a sudden loss of traction for a motorcycle and destabilize it. If the motorcyclist is braking or changing direction, the risk of skidding increases as well. Asphalt sealer, steel plates, and road grading can all cause a motorcyclist to lose control.
16) Riding Alone In Rural Areas
More than half of motorcycle crash fatalities occur on rural roads, especially when the rider is off road. Medical attention finally arriving at the scene of the accident can arrive too late to save the motorcyclist’s life. If the crash occurs at night, it can take even longer for help to arrive.
17) Riding Your Motorcycle In The First Month
You really can’t avoid doing this, but the first 30 days a motorcycle rider operates their motorcycle is nearly four times more dangerous than their entire next year. More than half of the accidents on supersport bikes occurs in the first three months.
Motorcycle Riding Requires More Thinking And Being At Your Best
A motorcyclist must constantly be thinking whether they can be seen by the drivers that pose a risk to them, whether they are in a driver’s blind spot, whether they can split lanes without being killed, whether they can even change lanes without being run down by that person texting or weaving, whether they’re going too fast for a corner or curve, and what road hazard they’re most likely to come upon next after having just avoided the last one.
Riding while sick, hungover, stressed out, tired, hungry or while not at your best can also be deadly.
Motorcycles Weigh Considerably Less Than Cars and There’s No Comparison With Trucks
The average motorcycle weighs 600 pounds. The Honda CBR 250, one of the lightest sportbikes weighs approximately 340 pounds while the Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special weighs around 800 pounds.
Compare that to cars that on average weigh two tons or a garbage truck that weighs 32 tons when empty or up to 50 tons fully loaded. A big rig tractor trailer can weigh less than a garbage truck, but at 60 to 70 feet long and 8 to 9 feet wide, they are more than hazardous to a motorcycle rider unless both the motorcyclist and the truck driver are well trained and being careful on a freeway.
Car manufacturers have made a great many improvements to cars to protect the safety of their owners. But there simply haven’t been the same number or type of improvements to motorcycles to protect motorcycle riders. Partly, it’s the nature of the beast. You can’t surround a motorcycle rider with a crumple zone, for instance, as you can with a driver encased in their car. However, fuel tank airbags have been designed to reduce the risk of injuries and head trauma by preventing the rider from traveling into a vehicle in a frontal low speed collision.
Motorcycles With High Death Rates
According to information available, crotch rocket motorcycle riders have a four times higher mortality rate due to crashes than riders of other types of motorcycles. Crotch rockets, also called supersport motorcycles reportedly make up less than ten percent of all motorcycles yet account for more than 25 percent of motorcycle rider deaths.
Why do crotch rockets have such a higher percentage of motorcycle deaths? Motorcycle buyers are drawn to crotch rockets because they can go fast, really fast. They have much higher horsepower than most other motorcycles and today have speeds of up to 200 mph or more.
As you would expect, speed is the highest cause of supersport or crotch rocket fatalities.
But it’s not just crotch rockets that cause more deaths than drivers of cars. Motorcyclists on all types of motorcycles taken together are 25 times more likely to die in a crash than car drivers and their passengers and are 5 times more likely to be injured.
Despite being the type of vehicle used in less than 1% of all miles driven in the U.S., the riders of motorcycles make up 15% of all traffic deaths per year on average.
There is an 80% chance of injury or death on a motorcycle in an accident, compared to 20% for people in passenger cars.
Motorcycle fatalities are 15 % of all traffic deaths, even though motorcycles are only three percent of all vehicles.
Primary Causes of Motorcycle Injuries and Deaths
Half of motorcycle fatalities in single vehicle crashes (where no other vehicles are involved) are related to problems negotiating a curve prior to the motorcycle crash. Almost 60% of motorcyclist fatalities in these single-vehicle crashes occur at night.
Head-on collisions with cars produce 78% of the fatalities of motorcyclists. The most common situation of these head-on collisions is when a car makes a turn. Another is when a motorcycle rider is trying to pass another car.
A common fear of motorcycle riders is crashing into a stationary or oncoming object at high seed after being ejected from a motorcycle rider’s bike. A quarter of motorcycle fatalities are single-vehicle crashes with a fixed object.
In two vehicle crashes, nearly 40% involve the motorcycle hitting another vehicle turning left.
Of the 4,688 riders killed on motorcycles in 2013, 1,281 were killed on Cruisers, 578 were on Touring, 22 on Sport-touring, 269 on Sport, 945 on Supersport, and 42 on Off-road. Other or unknown had 889.
Motorcycle Deaths of U.S. Service Members
Motorcycle accidents are the leading non-combat cause of death for U.S. Service members. While non-motorcycle deaths have declined, motorcycle deaths have increased.
A study by the Desert Sun into the number of deaths of off-duty service members stationed at the Twentynine Palms Combat Center found that of the 28 Marines to die in off-duty crashes between 2007 and 2014, nineteen died in automobile accidents, seven in motorcycle accidents, and two as pedestrians. Extreme speed was a factor in more than half of the crashes.
Vehicle crashes are in large part what has in the past made the desert more dangerous for off-duty Marines than almost every other Marine Base in the U.S. Between 2007 and 2014, the base in Twentynine Palms suffered more non-hostile deaths, such as motorcycle crashes, car collisions and suicides, than war fatalities. Sixty service members from the base died in those years in war zones in the Middle East, while 64 have died on American soil, mostly in the High Desert area close to Twentynine Palms, while either stationed or training at the Marine base.
The Twentynine Palms Combat Center is isolated, more isolated from major population centers than all other marine bases. The nearest larger population center for nightlife, and a greater number of places for dining and shopping is Palm Springs. A number of music festivals including Coachella, Stagecoach and Desert Trip require first going downhill toward Palm Springs and then traveling another 20 miles east on Interstate 10.
Palm Springs and the other Coachella Valley cities of Palm Desert and Indio require traveling down Hwy 62, which has in the past been called a “killer highway.” Today, Hwy 62 has undergone significant safety improvements, and an effort has been made on the base to reduce these deaths.
In the Marine Corps, high-speed bikes have accounted for the majority of motorcycle fatalities. In 2007 for instance, 78 percent of the motorcycle accidents involving Marines occurred on a sport bike.
Motorcycle Injuries From A Crash
Once a motorcycle collision has occurred, these are the most common types of injuries that result when the bike collides with another vehicle or falls on its side:
1) Concussion and brain damage. Riders wearing an approved motorcycle helmet reduce their risk of death, but only by 37 percent.
2) Fractures of the elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, wrists, fingers, spine and neck. The most common fractures are of the shoulder and the pelvis. A fracture of the pelvis an damage to the lower spine can cause a rider to be paralyzed.
3) Soft tissue skin and muscle damage (road rash) as the body slides across the pavement.
4) Nerve damage in the upper arm.
5) Facial disfigurement when the motorcycle rider is not wearing a full-face helmet as the unprotected face slides across the pavement or smashes into a fixed object.
6) For male riders, the risk of injury to the testicles is also high.
Types and Manufacturers of Motorcycles
There are seven basic categories:
Cruisers like those manufactured by Harley-Davidson (the most common), Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Triumph;
Sportbikes, often called crotch rockets, like those produced by Ducati, Kawasaki, Triumph, Yamaha, Honda, BMW, Suzuki, Aprilla, and Buell;
Supersport motorcycles like those developed by Ducati, Kawasaki, BMW, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Aprilla.
Touring motorcycles like those made by BMW, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Triumph, Can-Am, Star, Ducati, Victory, Harley-Davidson, and Honda;
Adventure motorcycles like those produced by BMW, Honda, Suzuki, KTM, and Kawasaki;
Enduro or Dual-sport motorcycles like those manufactured by Honda, Suzuki, BMW, Triumph, Kawasaki, KTM and Yamaha; and
Standard motorcycles like those made by Honda, Kawasaki, Victory, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Triumph, Suzuki, Moto, BMW and Yamaha.
There are also specialty bikes built for a specific purpose, such as choppers and dirt bikes.
New Technology On The Horizon for Motorcycles and Riders
1) Cornering ABS – This will allow the central processing unit to calculate the optimal amount of pressure to be applied to the brakes. Additionally, it will distribute the ideal amount of braking force between the front and rear brake. With cornering ABS, a motorcycle rider can apply full pressure on the brake levers even while under a full lean while taking a corner. Instead of a disaster resulting, the act could still be a safe procedure.
2) Connectivity to Your Smartphone – With such connectivity, the ride can perform a great number of tasks using their smartphone, or a tablet. With connectivity, we’re also talking about more extensive infotainment systems with information being at the fingertips of the motorcycle rider.
3) Electric Motorcycles – Before these become common, battery technology will need to advance so the range of an electric motorcycle is competitive with a motorcycle using an internal combustion engine.
4) Networked Wireless Communications – Such a system could provide information to riders of dangerous road conditions ahead or on one’s route.
5) Self-Riding Motorcycles and Artificial Intelligence – These will allow the motorcycle to learn a rider’s behavior, to intervene if the rider makes a bad decision that could lead to disaster or even to operate the motorcycle from the start to the end of a rider’s journey.
In the future, we’ll probably also see more use of GoPro cameras and automatic emergency call systems on motorcycles.
Motorcycles In The Not So Near Future
Among the motorcycle concept vehicles which have been shown publicly or talked about are the Speed Racier Alien Motorcycle, the Honda V4, the Hlbo Duo-Wheel BMW, Suzuki G-Strider, Mach Ness, the I.Care motorcycle, the Victory Vision 800, Swordfish motorcycle, Yamaha Tesseract, Peraves Monotracer, Energya, and the Ghost Concept.
We’ve also seen photos of the Bombadier Embrio, the Jaguar M-Cycle, the Batpod, Scarab, the much talked about Dodge Tomahawk, Ferrari V4, the nUCLEUS, Magic Tricycle, the Honda CB750, and the Confederate Renovatio.
By the time you’re reading this article, some of these futuristic motorcycles may no longer be sufficiently futuristic, may no longer be a motorcycle actually being considered by the designers or manufacturers, or they may be in production and on the road.
One of the most exciting concept bikes for motorcycle enthusiasts and amazing technologies envisioned for the future are those envisioned for the BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100, a concept bike that will include zero-emissions, electric power, a flexi-frame, and most interesting of all a “self-levelling system” which BMW claims will make the bike uncrashable.
BMW believes that by combining self-balancing and digital technology, the bike will be able to protect the rider at all times and without the need for protective clothing or even a motorcycle helmet.
Besides having self-balancing wheels, and a variable tire tread that can adjust itself to different road conditions, the BMW futuristic bike will communicate with other vehicles and road sensors as self-driving cars do and which are already being tested and utilized in limited situations, to help the bike automatically or autonomously avoid crashes.
Instead of a helmet, the rider’s goggles with keep wind and bugs out of the eyes of a rider while also providing a display that provides the information the rider needs and which will change depending on the direction the rider looks.
Clothes for the rider of the BMW futuristic bike will warm or cool a rider as needed, provide support to help prevent fatigue and provide further information to the motorcycle rider in the event, for instance, if the bike is leaning too far.
The future for motorcycles is clearly an exciting one and one that will likely inspire car manufacturers as well to design more appealingly designed cars and other vehicles.
The Future of Motorcycle Riding
Motorcycle riding will always be more dangerous than driving a car, but with the coming advancements in safety and technology such as collision avoidance technology and cornering ABS, motorcycles may become much safer in the future.
Until such advancements are common on motorcycles and self-driving cars filled with sensors to look out for motorcyclists are common, it will remain up to the motorcycle rider to use every ounce of safety techniques to stay upright on their bikes when car drivers do stupid things.
Call California Motorcycle Crash Safety Attorney Sebastian Gibson
If you find yourself on the ground after a motorcycle accident that’s not your fault, call the California motorcycle personal injury lawyer who has your best interests at heart, Sebastian Gibson.
With over a quarter of a century of experience representing motorcycle accident victims from San Diego to Palm Springs, and riders injured from Palm Desert to Orange County, we’ll put our office to work for you and rush to obtain the evidence from your crash scene anywhere in California.
As soon as you call our main office in Palm Desert at the number above or email us for help from our office in Newport Beach, we can begin our efforts to prove your motorcycle crash wasn’t your fault and to obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries and every day you’ve suffered as a result of your motorcycle accident.