Motorcycle crashes are dangerous events that often lead to injuries and sometimes fatalities. Even when bikers wear a helmet, leather, and other proper safety gear, they still face potentially severe injuries when accidents occur. Bikers simply do not have the same protection as individuals in cars, trucks, SUVs, and other passenger vehicles. As a result, bikers face a high risk of sustaining severe injuries in accidents.
If you suffered injuries in a Syracuse motorcycle accident, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer who can help you determine your eligibility to pursue compensation for the full cost of your injuries. Until you can meet with an attorney, we provide the following overview of seven common causes of motorcycle accidents in Syracuse. Read on for more information.
1. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving remains one of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents in Syracuse and throughout the nation. Whether motorists are distracted by something outside their control or by their own negligent choices, when their full attention isn’t on the road, bikers are at risk. Among government agencies and other organizations that study traffic accidents and fatalities and promote safe driving, the consensus is that distracted driving includes any activity or event that takes a driver’s eyes, hands, or mind away from driving.
Many think of cell phone use as the most common form of distracted driving. Cell phones certainly have played a role in increasing traffic accidents, including motorcycle accidents, because everyone has one nowadays. Texting is especially dangerous because it visually, manually, and cognitively distracts drivers, making it likely that a driver will cause some type of traffic accident if they consistently text while driving.
As the popularity of cell phones has increased over the past decades, New York and other states implemented cell phone use laws to prevent accidents. Individuals who live in Syracuse and throughout New York break the law if they use a handheld device for talking, texting, emailing, or anything else while driving. These types of laws have reduced cell-phone-related distracted driving accidents to some extent, but not everyone follows the laws; as a result, accidents continue to occur.
Cell phone use, however, is far from the only distracted driving activity that puts motorcycle riders at risk on the roads of Syracuse.
Other dangerous distractions that could lead to a severe motorcycle accident include:
- Adjusting heat, A/C, seats, or other vehicle features
- Reaching for items on the floor or in the backseat
- Tending to backseat passengers, often children
- Arguing with vehicle occupants
- Personal grooming such as applying makeup or fixing hair
- Programming a GPS
- Concentrating on another event outside the vehicle
Distracted driving is the most dangerous for bikers on I-81 and other highways and interstates near Syracuse, where traffic speed is much higher.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities occurs because of speeding. Syracuse is relatively flat, especially within the city and to the north, making it especially tempting for motorists to speed. Drivers who speed ultimately have less control of their vehicles, with the ability to safely handle a vehicle decreasing as speed increases. Many people speed and never cause an accident. However, speeding makes it far more likely for drivers to lose control, especially if they come upon a road hazard. They simply do not have enough time to react appropriately, putting bikers at risk.
Motorists who speed also suffer from limited visibility, sometimes making it difficult or impossible to see motorcycles. In general, passenger vehicle drivers are not great about looking out for motorcycles. Excess speed makes the situation worse. It’s far more difficult to see motorcycles when a driver is whizzing by everyone else on the road. If a speeding vehicle swerves or turns and does not see a motorcycle, the consequences can prove treacherous.
Speeding also increases the likelihood of severe injuries and fatalities in a motorcycle accident. At low to moderate speeds, bikers who wear helmets and protective gear have a good chance of survival if a vehicle strikes them. Bikers who live through a high-speed motorcycle accident are fortunate. However, those who survive are lucky if they don’t suffer severe or catastrophic injuries that lead to lifelong complications and struggles.
3. Dangerous Road Conditions
Syracuse motorcyclists face a risk for accidents and injuries from accidents caused by dangerous road conditions. Likely, bikers do not take their motorcycles out in the winter months. Not only is it really cold for a ride, but even on nice winter days, roads could have dangerous ice or snow patches. However, bikers that risk it during the winter months face a potential accident if a driver slides into them at an icy intersection.
During the other three seasons, Syracuse receives significant rain, especially from June through September. Bikers risk accidents because of hydroplaning on water or from having to brake too hard because of another driver’s actions. Additionally, motorists driving in inclement weather suffer from poor visibility and risk striking a motorcycle.
Weather is not the only situation that creates dangerous road conditions for bikers in Syracuse. Potholes and heavy traffic also create conditions for a potential motorcycle accident. If the city doesn’t repair potholes or other dangerous road hazards promptly, bikers risk suffering injuries in an accident if they encounter that dangerous condition while driving.
Dangerous road conditions typically do not directly cause motorcycle accidents. Rather, a secondary cause usually gets a boost from driver negligence. Distracted driving, speeding, and other negligent driving behaviors, combined with dangerous road conditions, lead to dangerous and deadly motorcycle crashes. Motorists who are impaired or distracted may struggle to react appropriately when they come upon road construction, animals, or traffic jams, and sometimes, bikers pay the price.
4. Drunk Driving
Onondaga County historically falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to New York counties with the most drunk driving crashes and fatalities. Unfortunately, these crashes also include unsuspecting bikers who have fallen victim to a drunk driver. Most bikers know the risks of drinking on their motorcycles and avoid alcohol consumption while riding. Experienced bikers are notoriously safe and responsible when it comes to riding; however, they have little control over negligent motorists who drink and drive.
Safely sharing the road with motorcycles means watching for them and having the capacity to react appropriately to everything on the road. Drivers sometimes mistakenly assume that they can have two or three beers or cocktails and still drive safely. This is especially true among young, college-age drivers. They have impaired their capacity to react to their surroundings.
Alcohol impacts reaction time and the ability to judge distance, putting everyone on the road at risk, including bikers. For example, a drunk driver is following behind a motorcycle when a stoplight turns red. The driver will react slower to the red light because of alcohol consumption. Sometimes there is enough stopping distance, but other times, the result is a driver plowing into the back of a motorcycle. Drunk drivers typically struggle to notice other vehicles and motorcycles, but even those that do notice cannot always avoid an accident if impaired.
5. Drowsy Driving
Driver fatigue is a serious issue that you might not think of as a potential cause of motorcycle accidents in Syracuse. Yet, drowsy driving can lead to dangerous accidents. Many assume the risk is falling asleep at the wheel. A drowsy driver does not have to nod off while driving to cause a motorcycle accident. Lack of sleep impairs the body in the same way that alcohol consumption does.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has devoted ample time and resources to study the impact of sleepiness on driving, especially as it relates to the trucking industry. Although the FMCSA’s research has focused on truckers, the same applies to drivers in passenger vehicles. According to FMCSA research, a driver who has gone without sleep for 18 hours suffers the same level of impairment as someone who has a blood-alcohol level of 0.01 percent.
Drowsy drivers have slowed reaction times and sometimes have difficulty judging time and space. Truck drivers, shift workers, those with untreated sleep disorders, and anyone else with demanding schedules put motorcyclists at risk for accident and injury. If a drowsy driver falls asleep at the wheel, the driver may swerve into a nearby lane. If the driver doesn’t head into the ditch, he or she may enter on-coming traffic, including the path of any motorcyclists in the way.
6. Failure to Check Blind Spots
All vehicles have blind spots, and larger vehicles have larger blind spots. Responsible and safe drivers always check their blind spots before changing lanes or turning to avoid accidents. Motorcycles are much smaller than most passenger vehicles, so it’s easy for motorcyclists to hide in blind spots. Most bikers are aware of the dangers of riding in a vehicle’s blind spot, so they typically do not linger in that zone. However, in certain traffic conditions, bikers might not have control over their proximity to a vehicle’s blind spot.
Negligent drivers who fail to check their blind spots risk crashing into a motorcycle or cutting off a motorcycle and causing a dangerous accident. Drivers in SUVs, semis, and other large trucks put bikers at the most risk by failing to check blind spots. Drivers in small cars have such small blind spots that they can usually see a biker in their rearview mirror. It may prove impossible to see a motorcycle in a blind spot in larger vehicles, however.
Blind spot accidents in Syracuse are most likely to occur on I-81 and the 690 bypasses because they have multiple lanes of traffic. However, blind spot accidents can occur wherever there are multiple lanes of traffic going in the same direction. The speeds on interstates make them especially dangerous. If motorists don’t clear their blind spots and run a biker off the road, it’s doubtful the biker will avoid serious injury or fatality.
Motorcycle accidents devastate victims and their families. Recovering from motorcycle accident injuries is often painful and also typically comes with some level of financial burden. If you’ve suffered injuries in a Syracuse motorcycle accident, you may qualify to seek compensation if another driver caused the accident. Contact an experienced Syracuse motorcycle accident lawyer to discuss the details of your accident, the scope of your injuries, and the way they have impacted your life, and learn about your eligibility to seek compensation.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.