Motorbike Accidents: A Guide to Defensive Motorcycle Riding

Motorbike accidents are a common occurrence on our roads. As a motorbike rider, it is important to be aware of the most common types of motorcycle crashes and how to avoid them. By being proactive and practicing your skills, anticipating driver behaviour, and reading traffic patterns, you can minimize the risks of motorbike riding and enjoy the ride safely. In this blog post, we will explore a guide to defensive motorcycle riding and ways to avoid most common motorcycle accidents by being proactive.

Introduction

This will be a different view on staying safe while riding a motorcycle. Sure, I will suggest always having proper motorcycle protective gear (only fools ride their motorbike in T-shirt and tennis shoes) and the importance of good condition of your motorbike tyres, but you won’t read here anything about riding within speed limits or obeying the local traffic laws. It is only my personal opinion and I am not suggesting anyone should do it, but I am a firm believer that on a motorcycle you have to be aggressive and actively look for the best situation for you. After all, we bikers are very vulnerable on our motorbikes, especially when confronted with larger vehicles, the consequences can be fatal. Let’s start by listing the most dangerous situations.

Most Common Motorcycle Accidents

Motorbike accidents caused by cars turning left

A car making a left, meaning from a right hand traffic perspective, is a single most potentially dangerous situation and supposedly amounts for over 40% of all accidents involving a car and a motorcycle. There are three different types of these crashes and I’ve covered this topic in depth in a blog post about the most common motorcycle accident.

Motorbike accidents caused by cars switching lanes

motorcycles in middle lane on the highway

This situation happens on multi-lane roads, be it a city street or a highway and it’s caused by car or truck drivers’ lack of attention or because they cannot see the motorcyclist. A motorbike is fairly small compared to other vehicles and easily can be missed by a car or truck driver. Stay clear from their blind spots, if you cannot see their mirrors or their face in the mirrors, they cannot see you. Speed up, move within your lane, or change lanes. Leave yourself some maneuvering space, don’t get boxed in between cars from both sides.

Head-on collisions with a car

Maybe not as common as an accident caused by a left-turning vehicle, but not surprisingly with a very high death rate. A head-on collision happens essentially in the case when either the motorcyclist or the incoming vehicle leaves its lane. I see two typical motorbike situations and they both involve a corner. Either you run wide in a turn or an incoming vehicle is cutting through your lane in the middle of the turn, because he or she is stupid, lazy or afraid to tip the vehicle because of its speed and turn radius.

The first case is all about you and your cornering skills. The other one is about anticipating that this might happen and that an incoming vehicle might cut through your lane midcorner, especially if it is a blind corner. Therefore don't ride through the corner all the way on the inside of your lane, if it is a blind corner or if there is a vehicle approaching.

The second advice is to anticipate this and other situations by not riding your motorcycle at your motorbike or your limit. This should not be done in traffic and there is a place for it called a parking lot or a race track. If you are in a deep lean angle or hanging of your motorbike Moto GP style, you are committed to your trajectory and cannot effectively change it.

Finally the aim should be avoiding a head on collision at any cost, and controllably slow down and drive off the road as a last resort of minimizing the consequences.

Lane splitting / filtering motorcycle accidents

Filtering or lane splitting is a common cause of motorbike accidents. I have written a whole article about filtering / lane splitting, but in general the accidents happen because of less maneuvering space and close proximity of other vehicles and because of the drivers who do not expect the motorcyclists or do not want to give them space.

Cornering motorcycle accidents

motorcycles cornering

This type of accident is mostly on us bikers. It happens due to the lack of cornering skills, or road conditions. Practicing or taking courses on cornering is a great way to stay safe on a motorcycle. However, the best cornering skills won’t help you, if you are ripping through a corner close to the limit of your tyre traction and you run into some gravel, sand or other debris.

I am always very cautious about blind corners or corners that I have not taken previously the same day. While turning your head into the corner and looking further ahead, scan the road condition immediately in front of you with your peripheral vision, while cornering.

If a low side crash occurs, your best option is letting go of the motorcycle. The damage will depend on your speed, the surroundings and your protective gear.

Proactive Motorbike Riding

According to the statistics, over 50% of deaths from motorcycle accidents involve other vehicles. What I mean by proactive motorcycle riding is to always try to put yourself in the safest possible position to manage these risks. And I don’t mean going slow, be in the slow lane or close to the outside of your lane. That way you are just being passive and hoping for no car to hit you. This is good advice for cyclists, because they don’t have many other choices. But by sitting on a motorbike, you have both the agility and power. You can always accelerate to get out of a potentially dangerous situation that makes you exposed.

I actually prefer riding in the fast lane and on the inside of my lane if on a two way road. Riding to the center of a two lane road also gives me the most maneuvering space, in case of an emergency. If you are already riding your motorbike close to the outer edge of your lane, you can only swerve in one direction in case of an emergency like an object on the road, pedestrian or an animal. This position ist best for my vision and perspective of the situation ahead and signals my intentions to overtake the car drivers. And overtaking I use, regardless of the signage, vertical or double solid lines. A car in front of me is always a possible threat. It obstructs my vision, not only of the traffic ahead but also the condition of the pavement in front of me. It is also a threat, because I could get boxed in between two cars and when rear-ended, become the inside of a sandwich. This fear of mine from a rear end collision is one of the reasons why I filter between traffic lanes and why I always go to the front of the queue at the light.

Motorcycle Skill Practicing

Moving to the other half of the motorbike accidents, that does not involve any other vehicle. This is something that we bikers need to work on, considering that when in an accident, on a motorcycle your probability of dying is 40 times higher than if you are in a car. It comes down to two main areas. The physical aspects like condition of your motorbike, tyres and protective gear. And the motorcycle riding skills including shifting, braking, throttle control and all of these while cornering. Make some time, find a place and practice every week slow and fast maneuvers in a safe place away from traffic.

Conclusion

In conclusion, as a motorbike rider, it's your responsibility to be proactive when it comes to avoiding accidents. The most common motorcycle accidents can be divided into two categories: those caused by motorbike riders and those caused by car drivers. By practicing motorcycle skills, anticipating driver behavior, and reading traffic patterns, you can minimize the risks of motorbike riding and avoid accidents. Be proactive, stay alert, and always look for the best situation for the rider. Remember, safety is always the top priority. Ride safe and enjoy the open road!


What are the most common motorbike accidents?

Motorbike rider caused accidents include: 1. Cornering too fast – This is one of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents. Always approach corners at a safe speed and be aware of the road conditions. 2. Over-braking – Braking too hard can cause the front wheel to lock up and cause a skid. Always use brakes gradually apply gradual cfpressure. 3. Target fixation – If you stare at an obstacle, you’ll likely hit it. Always look where you want to go, not where you don’t. Car driver caused accidents include: 1. Left turn collisions – Car drivers often don’t see motorbikes when making left turns. Always approach intersections with caution and be prepared to take evasive action. 2. Rear-end collisions – Cars may not be able to stop in time when a motorbike suddenly slows down. Stay visible and leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you. 3. Lane changes – Always assume that cars don’t see you and position yourself defensively.