By Matt Lalande in Uncategorized on March 30, 2021
Temperatures throughout southern Ontario are on the rise, which means we’re seeing the last trances of winter begin to slip away and hearing those warm-weather sounds of motorcycle engines out on the roads. That means it is also that time of the year when drivers need to be vigilant about sharing the road with more vulnerable vehicles, including motorcycles and bicycles. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and the risk of sustaining a severe, life-changing injury increases. Just take a look at some of the Ontario motorcycle accident statistics: while motorcyclists only make up a small portion of vehicles on the road, they are 15 times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers of cars. Motorcyclists also suffer 3 times more serious injuries and 5 times more deaths than vehicle drivers.
These statistics are startling, but we are Hamilton personal injury lawyers who are also motorcycle riders ourselves. We understand the liberating experience of traveling on the open road, feeling that calling for freedom and exploration. However, as lawyers, we have also seen how devastating the consequences can be when someone makes one wrong move and a motorcycle accident occurs.
Here, we take a look at some of the most common motorcycle crashes in Ontario and how you can take precautions to avoid them. The more you do to protect yourself on the road, the more you can continue to enjoy riding your motorcycle as long as you can.
Most motorcycle accidents in Ontario are caused by cars turning left and striking the oncoming motorcyclist. Often this occurs because the driver of the vehicle either does not see the motorcycle or misjudges the speed at which the motorcycle is travelling. It has been scientifically proven that motor vehicle drivers have “inattentional blindness” to motorcycles, which means that they are not naturally inclined to notice motorcycles when scanning their surroundings. Most drivers are scanning primarily for other vehicles because their eyes have been trained to do so.
The best way to avoid this type of crash as best you can is to practice safe motorcycle riding, and be alert in order to anticipate a driver’s next move. People are always unpredictable, but there are certain signs you can keep an eye out for. A good rule of thumb is to always assume that the person in the vehicle does not see you. When you see that a car is waiting to turn at an intersection, be alert and watch to see if they look both ways. If you can, switch lanes so you’re further away from the vehicle. Additionally, be aware of any large gaps ahead of you that may be large enough to provide an opportunity for a car to turn or pull out.
Rear-end collisions are particularly common among motorcycles and vehicles, and they are most often caused by distracted driving. It’s easy for someone driving a car to become distracted and not see the smaller figure on the road ahead of them because they are only scanning for other vehicles. However, rear-end collisions can also be caused by speeding, aggressive driving, driving while fatigued, and tailgating or not leaving enough space.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid a rear-end collision because you don’t have eyes in the back of your head, and a rear view mirror doesn’t always give you a well-rounded view of the vehicles behind you. You cannot predict what someone is doing behind you, or see a vehicle behind you to anticipate their next move. However, you can reduce the risk by ensuring that your rear view mirrors are properly positioned and that all of your rear and tail lights are well maintained. If you feel that a vehicle is following too close behind you, switch lanes to put more distance in front of them.
Another common cause of motorcycle crashes in Ontario, drivers changing lanes or merging onto the highway often don’t see motorcycles and can collide with them. The primary reason this happens is because motorcycles can easily slide into a driver’s blind spot due to their smaller size, and drivers are not naturally inclined to scan their surroundings for motorcycles specifically. When a vehicle sideswipes a motorcycle, the motorcyclist is at risk for being crushed under the vehicle, thrown from their bike, or dragged across the road.
To prevent this type of collision, be on alert when you are travelling beside a vehicle. If you are in a blind spot, slow down or speed up to position yourself where the driver is more likely to spot you. While you can’t always know when you’re in someone’s blind spot, you can sometimes tell if you can see the driver’s face or if you can see their mirrors. Look out for any indication the driver may want to change lanes, such as turn signals coming on, wheels turning, the driver looking around to check their blind spots, or congestion in the road ahead.
No matter what type of vehicle is involved, head-on collisions are one of the deadliest types of accidents there is. Sadly, they are also a common cause of motorcycle crashes in Ontario (78% of motorcycle vs. vehicle accidents are head-on collisions), as well as for serious, life-changing injuries and wrongful death. Head-on collisions are more likely to lead to motorcycle accident deaths than any other type of collision because both cars are traveling at high speeds towards one another, and when the vehicles collide, the occupants continue moving at the pace they were traveling. For motorcyclists, that can spell disaster and catastrophic or fatal injury.
The National Safety Council recommends using the “Four Rs” while riding a motorcycle to reduce the risk of experiencing a head-on collision. They are:
Lane splitting occurs when a motorcyclist rides between lines of cars when they are stopped for traffic or moving at a slow pace due to congestion. It is a dangerous practice, but the law in Ontario is relatively unclear as to whether it is actually illegal. Most motorcyclists have accepted that the laws dictate it is illegal in Ontario, but many on the other side of the coin argue the laws are too vague. In fact, some cities have considered allowing certain forms of lane splitting, such as filtering, in certain circumstances.
Of course, the best way to avoid these types of motorcycle accidents are to not engage in the practice of lane splitting. This is generally against the law and incredibly dangerous because cars do not always see the motorcyclists as they weave through the traffic. If the motorcyclist is moving at a high speed, they could make a wrong turn and collide with a vehicle. When riding a motorcycle, if you have no choice but to engage in lane splitting, ensure that you do so at a slower pace and stay alert to drivers who may not see you.
Environmental conditions such as loose gravel and wet or slippery roads can cause havoc for all drivers on the road, but particularly for motorcyclists. Rough roads or bumpy stretches of road can cause a motorcyclist to lose their control over the bike and present a risk to their stability. Debris and gravel on the road may not be a major factor for a large vehicle, but for a motorcycle it could mean the difference between arriving somewhere safely and requiring an ambulance to the nearest hospital.
The best way to prevent motorcycle accidents caused by environmental hazards is to be alert and constantly scan the road for potential debris, oil spills, wet leaves, or other conditions. For example, take extra precaution if you are out riding shortly after a rainfall, or if you must travel through a construction zone that could create road bumps and debris.
Wearing proper motorcycle boots or riding shoes is also an essential way to prevent serious damage in the event that this type of motorcycle crash does happen. Proper motorcycle boots include traction to help you grip the road in the event that you slide, and they are also usually waterproof to allow for a stronger grip on the pedals.
We are told that the rules of the road are there for our safety. Every time we head out onto the road, we expect other drivers to follow these rules. It doesn’t take long to get used to how things work, and make assumptions based on our experiences. We can easily see that the majority of drivers are following the rules and obeying the law on a daily basis. Our riding behavior can adjust to this without us even knowing. Ninety nine times out of one hundred, the car approaching the intersection we are crossing will obey the rules of the road and stop at the stop sign in front of them…. but what about that one percent that doesn’t see the stop sign? What about the one percent that doesn’t see you and does a “rolling stop” while continuing through the intersection?
If you expect everything to go as planned, you won’t prepare for the worst. Instead of assuming the rules of the road will protect you, we should assume the exact opposite. What if that driver blows through the stop sign? What if that driver doesn’t see us coming? Prepare! Slow down. Cover both brakes. Change lanes. Do whatever it is that you need to do to prepare for the worst case scenario.
Imagine you see a car that looks like it might pull out in front of you. You reduce your speed, cover both brakes, and prepare to take action. Now let’s say you ride right past them and it turns out that they saw you coming all along. What did you lose? Anything? Not really. You might have slowed down for what appears to be no reason, but that’s certainly not a big loss. On the other hand, what did you gain? You slowed down ahead of time, and prepared to brake if needed. If the car had pulled out in front of you, you would have been able to react quicker and slow down more easily. This could be the different between a full on collision with the car, and slowing down safely behind it. We have gained far more in this situation than we would have lost had the car not pulled out in front of us. Just because you have the legal “right of way” doesn’t mean the situation will turn up in your favor.
Sure, you will be able to retain our motorcycle accident lawyer and sue for damages – but we cannot turn back the clock and give you back your health and well being. Drivers aren’t perfect. Far from it. Even if the actions aren’t intentional, drivers make mistakes. Expecting the worst and planning ahead can go a long way in keeping you safe when things don’t go as they should. Make a mental effort not to always expect drivers to follow the rules. It’s a small effort that’s well worth the reward.
Remember, the more responsibility we take on as a rider, the better we improve our chances of avoiding a motorcycle accident. There are many things we can do to improve our odds out there on the road. We can take riding courses, read books, watch videos, or just practice existing skills – as a good part of your safety is in your own hands.
Ride like you’re invisible – there’s a reason that this idea has stuck around for so long and that seasoned riders continue to preach it. To be a safe rider, you have to assume the responsibility of those around you. You must take each situation into your own hands and pro-actively decide the outcome. No one’s looking out for you on the road other than you – and riding like your invisible certainly reduces your risk factor for being involved in a serious accident.
The reality is that you could take every precaution listed here and still end up involved in an motorcycle accident due to someone else’s mistakes. If you have suffered serious, catastrophic injuries in a motorcycle accident that was not your fault, you deserve financial compensation to help alleviate some of the stress as you recover.
Matt Lalande is a motorcycle rider and motorcycle accident lawyer who has been representing victims in serious motorcycle collisions since 2003, He has recovered millions for motorcycle accident victims and their families since 2003. He is a motorcycle accident understand the stress and despair you’re going through and are dedicated to supporting and representing you until you get the settlement you deserve.
Meet with us for a free consultation, at no cost to you, where we will go over the details of your case and determine the best options for your situation. Book your free consultation by scheduling a call back through our online form or by calling us provincewide at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the Hamilton/GTA at 905-333-8888. You can also email us confidentially through our website and we will get back to you without delay.