How do Motorcycles Operate and Perform Differently Than Passenger Cars?

By Matt Lalande in Motorcycle Accidents on July 26, 2020

How do Motorcycles Operate and Perform Differently Than Passenger Cars?

There’s a motive other than trying to look good on a bike – smart motorcyclists often gear up in safety leather and kevlar before hitting the highway because they want to be safe. Besides keeping riders comfortable in the elements, wearing proper riding gear will dramatically improve the chances of surviving a motorcycle accident and certainly reduce the chance of suffering certain serious injuries, or worse, of dying. Despite this, however, motorcyclists continue to account for a considerable proportion of Canadian road trauma.

How do Motorcycles Operate and Perform Differently Than Passenger Cars?

There are 3 major classifications of motorcycles: street bikes, off-road and dual purpose. Motorcycles categorized as street bikes include cruisers, sportbikes, scooters, and mopeds. Each category of motorcycle allows for varying stability, performance, rider visibility and handling. In general, motorcycles require more agility, coordination and alertness when riding and provide less protection when involved in a crash.

Motorcycles have significant operational differences than passenger cars. To state the obvious, there is a higher risk of injury for the motorcyclist since motorcycles lack the enclosure of a passenger vehicle. In addition, because motorcycles are much smaller than other motor vehicles, they are often less visible to other road users.

Although motorcycles typically outperform passenger cars in terms of acceleration and braking, environmental issues often remove the advantage theoretically available to the motorcyclist. Typically, motorcycles are equipped with a front brake, operated by hand, and a rear brake, operated by pedal. Some riders use both habitually, but many rely on the rear brake for most situations. During full brake use, up to 70 percent of braking performance is produced by the front wheel. During heavy braking, when both front and rear brakes are used, loss of control or upset can occur if either brake locks. Where riders are unaccustomed to utilizing the front brake, loss of control can occur. Tire marks at the scene can be easily misinterpreted or missed altogether by investigators. Road conditions and maneuvers vastly decrease braking effectiveness. Braking performance while turning is significantly degraded on a motorcycle as opposed to a passenger car. While a minor collision might not affect a car driver, unexpected events are often catastrophic for motorcycle riders.

Motorcycles are often also assumed to be much more maneuverable than passenger cars. However, because turning a motorcycle requires leaning the bike, changing directions can require more effort than one might assume from the rider and perhaps the passenger. Additionally, braking improperly while turning can have disastrous effect. Many riders, even experienced ones, may be hesitant to maneuver or brake dramatically, even in the face of danger, if they perceive that they will lose control or upset the bike.

This situation stands in contrast to a passenger vehicle, which requires almost no physical effort to input significant steering and braking maneuvers. Before assuming that a rider made an improper maneuver or failed to properly act, consider the specifics, and consult an experienced rider if possible to make sure that you are analyzing the situation accurately.

An often-overlooked factor in motorcycle crashes is conspicuity. Because cycles are relatively narrow compared to a passenger car, vehicles and objects can easily block an oncoming or overtaking driver’s view of cyclists. Often, drivers simply are not able to perceive a motorcycle until it is too late to avoid a collision. In evaluating a case, careful consideration of the environment, including any signs, vehicles, or obstructions, must be given. Differences in vehicle performance capabilities and operation can lead to confusion and improper analysis of crash situations. Even experienced accident reconstrucionists may not have sufficient exposure to motorcycle crashes to make accurate judgments concerning crash events.

Frequently, accident reconstruction reports prepared by local law enforcement agencies significantly misinterpret data and arrive at erroneous conclusions about speed, crash location, cause, or other significant events. One common area of mistake involves the fact that motorcycle tires are often made of much softer compounds than passenger tires. This can lead investigators to make wildly erroneous assumptions for use in speed calculations from tire marks. Additionally, front and rear tires are often different sizes and made from different compounds; this can have significant effect on conclusions. Often, motorcycle riders are faulted for making or failing to make maneuvers that would be impossible under the circumstances.

Have you suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident?

If you or a family member has suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident that was caused by another vehicle or negligent motorist, call us provincewide at 1-844-LALANDE or local at 905-333-8888. Since 2003, Matt Lalande has specialized in representing motorcycle accident victims and their family get the justice and compensation they deserve after an accident. If you or someone you love was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash, contact us 24/7 and we will be happy to provide you the answers you need, free of charge and at no obligation to you.




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