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Rear-End Accidents

Most people are aware that while fun, riding a motorcycle is a somewhat risky mode of transportation. Like a bicyclist, the motorcycle rider lacks the advantages enjoyed by drivers and passengers in automobiles and trucks – a nice, comforting, and protective envelope of steel surrounding the vehicle occupants and restraint systems designed to keep the occupants from becoming human projectiles in the event of an accident. Motorcycle riders and passengers have helmets, assuming they opt to wear them. That's it. There is nothing else to protect them from collisions, nothing to keep them from flying off their vehicle. Unlike bicyclists, though, motorcycle riders have the speed to ride with the big boys, and they do so with practically no protection. That common traffic accident, the "fender bender," might seem like a minor accident to the driver of a car. Perhaps they experience a little bit of vehicle damage, but no harm, or only minor injuries, to the occupants of the cars involved. For a motorcycle rider, those “minor” accidents can be fatal.

Studies strongly support this point. When car meets motorcycle, it is rarely the occupants of the car that are injured or killed. In a study conducted in 2005 regarding accidents involving motorcycles, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that of 4,553 motorcyclist fatalities in that year, slightly more than 2,000, or 44 percent, were caused by one-vehicle accidents, while 56 percent, or 2,532, occurred in multi-vehicle crashes. Of those, a whopping 89 percent of the motorcyclist fatalities (2,260) happened in two-vehicle crashes. More than 85 percent of those fatalities involved a motorcycle that was in an accident with a passenger vehicle. For all fatalities arising from accidents involving a motorcycle and a passenger vehicle, 98 percent of the deaths were motorcycle riders. In almost every instance that a fatality occurred, the passenger vehicle occupants were fine, and the motorcyclist died.

In 2005 there were 4,553 motorcycle rider fatalities. Out of these 2,021 (44%) were from single-vehicle crashes, and 2,532 (56%) were from multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes. Two-vehicle crashes made up the majority of fatalities from multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes (2,260 or 89%). A large number of motorcycle riders killed in two-vehicle crashes (more than 85%) were in crashes involving passenger vehicles. Among the fatalities in two-vehicle crashes involving motorcycles and passenger vehicles, 98 percent of the fatalities were motorcycle riders, and only 2 percent of the fatalities were passenger vehicle occupants. This study was initiated to provide an understanding of the factors in these two-vehicle crashes.

Being Rear-Ended on a Motorcycle is Uncommon but Deadly

Being rear-ended by another vehicle is fairly uncommon for motorcyclists. The NHTSA’s study of motorcycle traffic fatalities in 2005 found that 11 percent of fatal two-vehicle motorcycle accidents, resulting in 204 deaths involved a rear-end collision. However, two-thirds of those 204 fatalities came from accidents where the motorcycle struck a car in the rear. Only about one-third of the accidents resulting in a fatality to the motorcycle rider involved a car rear-ending a motorcycle.

More recent studies show that the percentage of motorcycles being rear-ended has risen. When the NHTSA examined motorcycle fatalities for 2013, it found that overall motorcyclist traffic fatalities were down from 2012, from 4,986 in 2012 to 4,668 in 2013, a decline of 6 percent. Injuries also were down 5 percent, from 93,000 in 2012 to 88,000 in 2013. While only 6 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents in 2013 were rear-end collisions in which a car struck a motorcycle, that was roughly double the percentage of such accidents from 10 years prior.

Regardless of whether the motorcycle is rear-ending a car or vice versa, the consequences of a rear-end accident are always more dire for the motorcyclist and any passengers on the bike. They risk being thrown into the vehicle ahead of them if the motorcycle is the striking vehicle or being pitched from the bike and run over if a car strikes from behind. Either way, injuries for the motorcyclist will virtually always be more severe than for the occupants of the car and can include whiplash, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, or even death.

Simple Steps Can Help Avoid Rear-End Motorcycle Accidents

A web publication for motorcyclists offers simple advice on how to protect yourself and avoid being struck from behind by a passenger vehicle in traffic. Because motorcycles, unlike cars, do not have a crumple zone to absorb the impact of a collision, motorcyclists need to create a crumple zone. The publication suggests using other cars as your crumple zone, either by pulling between two lanes of cars stopped at a traffic signal or pulling up next to a single car at a light if there are not two lanes of stopped vehicles. Either action makes it impossible for a vehicle to strike your bike from behind while you are stopped at the light or crosswalk.

If there are no other cars at a light, stop at one side of the lane of traffic rather than in the middle. Tap the brake frequently, and keep the bike in gear and ready to go in case you need to move out of the way of an inattentive driver approaching from behind. Obviously, these methods work only in traffic situations where crosswalks or traffic signals require stop-and-start driving, but those situations lead to the majority of rear-ends anyway. The advice can keep a motorcyclist from suffering devastating injuries or death from a rear-end accident.

Speak with an Atlanta Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today

If you have been involved in a rear-end accident while riding a motorcycle and have suffered injuries, you should consult with an attorney to see what your options for recovering damages are. Those options might involve insurance claims or a court action for personal injury, but you would be well advised to seek professional assistance to help determine the plan of action. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling (404) 255-6677. Our attorneys serve the entire state of Georgia, including Smyrna, Decatur, and Marietta. You also can reach us through our online contact form.