The state of California has the highest population in the country; close to 12 percent of all Americans call The Golden State home. It also has the highest number of registered private and commercial motorcycles. In 2016, there were over 840,000 registered motorcycles in California. With that number comes a great number of motorcycle accidents.

Motorcycle accidents are some of the most deadly types of collisions. The rider does not have the protection around him or her that drivers have. Because of this, motorcycle accidents are nearly 27 times more deadly than regular vehicular crashes. Here are some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents and the precautions that drivers and riders can take to prevent them.

Lane Splitting

Lane splitting, although a common performance by motorcyclists, is often very dangerous because of the close proximity of vehicles and the motorcycle. Traffic is unpredictable and cars can stop or change lanes in an instant. If a motorcycle is riding in between lanes, this sort of unpredictability can instantaneously turn into a serious or even deadly accident. When done safely, however, this maneuver can actually be an effective and safe way to ride. In a study by the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, 6,000 motorcycle-involved traffic collisions were reviewed, including 997 riders that were lane splitting at the time. The study showed that:

  • Lane splitting is safer when the rider is not moving 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic.

  • Lane splitting riders were more likely to be wearing a full-head helmet.

  • Lane splitting riders were less likely to be under the influence of alcohol.

Many times, drivers of vehicles will become frustrated at the speed of motorcyclists and attempt to hinder them from passing. However, drivers of vehicles must remember that motorcycle riders have more at stake when they are involved in an accident because they don’t have as much protection. In addition, according to the California Vehicle Code, it’s illegal for cars to attempt to hinder motorcyclists from passing between lanes due to the severity of those accidents. Motorcyclists can also try to avoid these types of accidents by not exceeding 15 mph above the flow of moving traffic and always trying to anticipate drivers’ next moves.

Cars Making Left-Hand Turns

42 percent of accidents between motorcycles and passenger vehicles are caused by cars in an oncoming lane turning left in front of motorcycles at a passing intersection. Motorcycles generally have a thin profile and are therefore harder to see in oncoming traffic. Vehicle drivers also aren’t usually actively looking for motorcyclists while making a left-hand turn. Motorcyclists should look for indicators that the driver is about to make a left-hand turn, such as if:

  • The car is in the middle of the intersection

  • The driver looks both ways

  • There is a gap in front of the car

The best way for motorcycles to avoid this type of accident is to always think of the driver’s next move. As riders are crossing an intersection, they should be aware of cars in every direction and look for signs that a car is about to turn their way.

Failure to See the Motorcyclist

About 3 out of 4 motorcycle accidents are collisions with passenger vehicles. While a motorcycle is lane splitting or changing lanes , they can also weave in and out of these vehicle drivers’ blind spots. If a motorcyclist can’t see the driver of the vehicle in his or her side mirrors, it’s safe to assume that the driver can’t see the motorcyclist either. If this is the case, the motorcyclist should speed up or slow down until he or she is in the view of the driver. For the driver of the vehicle, that’s why it’s extremely important for drivers to look over their shoulders and check their mirrors before changing lanes or turning.

Obviously, it can be difficult to check if the driver can see you while riding. Motorcyclists should always be on guard when driving next to vehicles and look for signs that the driver is going to switch lanes and doesn’t see them, such as if:

  • Turn signals come on

  • The driver’s head turns to look in his or her mirrors

  • The vehicle’s wheels begin to turn


This could pertain to either the motorcycle rider or other vehicles. People will speed to get ahead of another vehicle or motorcycle rider who is going slower than they are going. However, it’s imperative to be patient and recognize that the speed limit is there to protect everybody. Many speeding instances on the road are alcohol-related, so drivers and riders should not drink and drive before getting on the road.

Coming into contact with road hazards or colliding with fixed objects while speeding can also lead to serious or fatal injuries. Riders going at a fast speed then suddenly coming to a stop can cause them to be thrown off their motorcycle. This can put them at risk for injuring their necks, heads, and backs, some of the most serious injuries that the body can withstand. In addition, only about 50 percent of motorcycle riders wear helmets, and only 40 percent of those involved in motorcycle accidents were wearing helmets at the time. Riders should wear helmets no matter how fast they are going; it could be the difference between life and death.

Los Angeles is such a populous area that it’s especially important to be aware of riders and drivers around you while on the road. Knowing some of the common causes of motorcycle accidents will help prevent them and keep safe drivers and riders alike.

Contact our Los Angeles personal injury firm today at (800) 905-8777 if you or someone you know has been involved in a motorcycle accident.