Intersections often the scene of a motorcycle accident

motorbike accident on the city street

motorbike accident on the city street

Plenty of good weather, beautiful scenery and frequent motorcycle events give Nevada riders lots of reasons to hit the road. Unfortunately, the heavily trafficked intersections in Clark County and other metropolitan areas in the state present notoriously high danger zones for those on two wheels. In southwest Las Vegas Valley this summer, the intersection of South Fort Apache and West Russell proved fatal for one rider.

As the motorcyclist traveled east, a driver in a passenger car made a left turn into the rider’s path, causing him to hit the right front of the vehicle. He was thrown from the motorcycle and died of blunt force trauma. A car accident attorney would be able to relate many such stories of injury and fatality crashes at busy Las Vegas intersections.

Hazards of intersections

Motorcyclists face the greatest risk of a collision when a car is making a left-hand turn at an intersection. These crashes account for 42 percent of car-motorcycle accidents. Riders are most frequently struck from the front, and as with the man who was killed in the crash on West Russell, the largest percentage of Nevada motorcycle crashes occur when a rider is going straight. According to the Nevada Department of Transportation, this accounted for 63 percent of the motorcycle rider fatalities and 57 percent of the injuries sustained on the state’s roadways between 2009 and 2013.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association’s Motorcycle Safety Foundation states that, in two-vehicle crashes, the driver of the larger vehicle is most often the one at fault, frequently by violating the rider’s right-of-way. The extreme danger motorcyclists face at intersections has led Allstate Insurance to place signage at dangerous intersections across the country. In Las Vegas, four signs reading, “Watch for Motorcycles” were placed at the intersection of Lamb Boulevard and Stewart Avenue earlier this year. This area was identified as one of the busiest in the city, with a high level of motorcycle traffic.

Identifying the danger

A lack of visibility continues to be a major threat to motorcycle riders at intersections and elsewhere on the road, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Often, drivers in larger vehicles simply do not see them, but it is also common for a driver to misinterpret the rate of speed at which the motorcycle is traveling. Faulty depth perception is another difficulty that leads a motorist to make an ill-timed move that puts a rider at risk.

Seen from the front or the back, the motorcyclist is roughly one-third the width of a passenger vehicle. While the reduction in visual recognition is a primary factor in collisions, it is not solely to blame. Instead, researchers have discovered that one part of the visibility issue is that motorists simply overlook riders because they are not mentally prepared to see motorcycles. According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, when motorcycle riders drive passenger vehicles, they generally are able to see those on two wheels and act accordingly. Statistics show that drivers who also ride are involved a much fewer car-motorcycle crashes. Drivers who are not as conscientious cause the majority of these accidents.

Rider precautions

Awareness programs aimed at drivers have been working to improve rider safety, but a Las Vegas car accident attorney encourages motorcyclists to ride defensively, always assuming that passenger car drivers will not see them. According to the NHTSA, there are proven strategies that riders can undertake to improve the conspicuousness of a motorcycle. These include the following:

  • Increasing lighting usage
  • Wearing contrasting and bright colors
  • Developing strategic plans for the most dangerous traffic situations

Most motorcycles have a headlamp with a low beam that is automatically on during daylight hours. Research cited by the NHTSA indicates that high beam usage during daylight hours, auxiliary lights and reflectors increase rider conspicuity. Similarly, a white helmet and brightly colored vest in caution yellow help a rider to stand out from the background.

A motorcycle operator is entitled to the whole lane, and using that space wisely can increase the chances that a rider will be recognized and acknowledged. When a rider can see the driver’s mirror, the motorcycle should be visible if the driver is behaving responsibly and checking traffic carefully before making a turn or a lane change.

Higher risks

There are not a disproportionate number of motorcycles in two-vehicle collisions compared to passenger cars. However, riders sustain serious injuries and fatalities more often than those who are in passenger vehicles because of their relative vulnerability and lack of safety protections. Ride Safe Nevada, a motorcycle awareness program, indicated that there were more than 1,000 serous rider injuries in motorcycle crashes between 2009 and 2013, and nearly 250 fatalities. According to the Nevada Department of Transportation, there is a 26 times greater chance that a motorcyclist will die in a crash than a passenger in a car. In 2013, one out of every five traffic fatalities in Nevada was a motorcycle rider.

No matter how many safety measures motorcyclists take, there will always be those drivers on the road who put them at risk. When distracted or negligent drivers do not take the time to look twice for motorcycle riders at intersections, the consequences can be permanently devastating. A Las Vegas car accident attorney may be able to help victims and family members to hold drivers accountable for damages they cause, including financial compensation for medical expenses, loss of wages, lost quality of life and pain and suffering.