Texas motorcyclists face a rising risk of serious accidents

Reports indicate that fatal and general motorcycle crashes are on the rise in Texas, and other drivers may contribute to many of these accidents.

For many people in Houston, motorcycle riding is a favorite recreational activity or even a primary form of transportation. According to KFDA News, more than 400,000 motorcycles and mopeds are registered in Texas in 2015, which represents an increase over prior years. Unfortunately, state data indicates that serious motor vehicle accidents that involve motorcycles are also on the rise.

A growing threat

Fatal motorcycle accidents occur at a high rate in Texas and account for a large proportion of national motorcycle fatalities. According to The Star-Telegram, nationally, about 5,000 lives are lost per year in motorcycle accidents. In Texas, about 450 to 500 fatal motorcycle crashes - or as many as one-tenth of the deadly accidents reported across the country - occur each year.

The annual number of deadly accidents has also increased over the last few years. In 2012, 470 people lost their lives in Texas motorcycle crashes. In 2013, the reported number of fatalities was 495. KFDA News reports that in 2014, the number of lives lost nearly reached 500 again. According to one Department of Public Safety official, general motorcycle crashes are also rising.

These accidents can occur for various reasons, from road conditions to vehicle issues. Unfortunately, many of these accidents may happen because other motorists simply fail to exercise necessary caution when riding near motorcyclists.

Accident risk factors

Research has suggested that other drivers are often at fault in motorcycle accidents. One study, which was based on data from the Florida Department of Transportation, found that other drivers are at fault in 60 percent of collisions between motorcycles and other vehicles. According to The Sun Sentinel, these crashes frequently occur when drivers make turns in front of motorcyclists. Drivers may make these unsafe maneuvers for various reasons, including the following:

  • Motorcycles are difficult for other drivers to see, due to their smaller size.
  • Drivers may misjudge the speed of approaching motorcycles. Many people judge an object's speed based on its size, and this bias can lead drivers to underestimate how quickly a motorcycle is approaching.
  • Motorcycles are less commonly seen than other vehicles. As a result, drivers may be less adept at quickly noticing them.

This last potential accident cause comes from a simulation study conducted in Australia. According to ABC News, researchers found that people were less capable of detecting motorcycles when they performed simulations in which motorcycles appeared infrequently. People who completed simulations with more motorcycles could spot the motorcycles from 51 meters further away, on average. This suggests that, when motorcycles represent a small fraction of all vehicles, drivers are less likely to detect them at a safe distance.

Drivers may be liable

Tragically, accidents that involve other vehicles often cause the most serious harm to motorcycle drivers and passengers. Motorcyclists lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, which leaves them at risk for serious or catastrophic motorcycle crash injuries. National traffic fatality data underscores this risk. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorcyclists suffer 26 times more deaths per mile driven than people traveling in cars.

When two-vehicle accidents result in injuries to motorcyclists or loss of life, recourse may be available to victims or their family members. People who have sustained injuries or lost loved ones in crashes that other drivers caused should consider discussing potential legal remedies with an attorney.

Keywords: motorcycle, accident, Texas