Road hazards are a common cause of motorcycle accidents. Things that have little effect on a car, like debris, uneven road surfaces, small objects, or wet pavement, can cause a motorcycle to crash. Motorcyclists should understand what constitutes a hazard, be alert for such dangers, and take precautions to avoid them. If a biker is injured in a road hazard accident, who or what entity might be liable for the bikers injuries is governed by negligence law.
Common Road Hazards for Motorcycles
Motorcyclists encounter many more hazards on the road than do cars. Bikers should not assume that because they’ve been driving a car for years, they know what is dangerous. Some of the most common hazards for motorcycles, like leaves, are surprising. Learn what does and does not constitute a hazard before you hit the road on your motorcycle. Here are some of the things bikers should be on the lookout for.
Rough roads. Rough and bumpy roads, either from disrepair, construction work, or resurfacing efforts, can cause motorcycle accidents.
Gravel on pavement. Gravel is one of the trickiest hazards for motorcyclists to navigate. It is particularly troublesome if encountered during cornering. Unfortunately, gravel on pavement tends to be more common on winding roads –which are popular with bikers and which require lots of cornering. Accidents caused by gravel go hand in hand with motorcyclists who are going too fast, some of whom do not have the requisite skills to ride a bike in such conditions.
Edge breaks. An edge break is when two traffic lanes are different heights. This is not a big deal if you are driving a car, but can be problematic for unsuspecting motorcyclists, especially when traveling on the freeway at high speeds.
Expansion joints. Expansion joints connect two sections of a road together, or a section of a road to a bridge. They allow the road to expand or contract without cracking. The uneven surface can cause motorcycle riders to crash and can become slick in wet weather.
Open bridge joints. Open bridge joints hold sections of a bridge together. Some can be very wide, making it difficult for motorcycle riders to navigate.
Animals. Hitting a small animal can throw a motorcycle off path or off balance. Unfortunately, live animals that run into the road are difficult to anticipate and swerving to avoid them can cause an accident as well. Large animals, like deer, can be a major hazard in areas with large deer populations. Hitting a deer can be fatal for a motorcycle rider.
Slick surfaces. The list of objects and surfaces that are, or can become, slippery is long. Slippery surfaces are much more dangerous for motorcycles than for cars. The unstable nature of a two-wheeled bike and the smaller, lighter size mean that sliding on the road can easily result in a crash. Slick surfaces are even more dangerous when the biker is turning. The following debris and road surfaces can be very slippery, especially when wet:
- Crosswalk Lines
- Trolley Tracks
- Other painted surfaces
- Anti-freeze or oil
Bikers must also be cautious of rain after a dry spell. A first rain on a dry road is difficult to drive on, even for cars. The mud and oil on the road combine with the water to form a slippery later. The first half hour of a rainstorm is the most dangerous time to ride on the road.
Standing water. Some motorcycle tires can cause hydroplaning when driving through a puddle of water.
Snow and ice. Snow and ice are more hazardous for motorcycles than for cars.
Railway tracks and crossings. Motorcycle tires can get caught in a railway track, causing a crash. Some railway crossing areas have metal or wood between the tracks, which become extremely slick when wet.
Debris or objects in the road. Debris or objects in the road, such as parts of tire treads, things fallen from trucks (furniture, tools, boxes), branches, or rocks, are more hazardous to motorcycles than cars. Not only can they cause a crash, but the object itself can hit and seriously harm the rider.
The best defenses when navigating the road on a motorcycle are to get lots of training on how to safely handle your bike, use caution, and anticipate hazards. Here are some general tips for everyday riding:
Understand what constitutes a road hazard. Some bikers are unaware that certain things are hazardous for motorcycles, like railway tracks or wet leaves. Educate yourself about the many hazards on the road. Don’t assume that you know all the dangers because you’ve been driving a car for years. The hazards are different for motorcycles, and the consequences of a motorcycle crash are often severe.
Avoid heavy traffic. When possible, travel when traffic is light. That way, if you encounter a road hazard, you’ll have more room and time to maneuver. Look for less-traveled routes where vision is unobstructed.
Don’t tail the vehicle in front. Follow vehicles at a safe distance. At least two seconds behind.
Constantly survey the road and the surrounding area. Keep your eyes up and look ahead. Survey the road and take note of everything; other cars, children playing, trees that might house small animals, painted surfaces and then change your speed or path accordingly.
Plan escape routes. As you ride, think of ways you could evade any potential road hazards. For example, decide if you can safely travel on a shoulder to avoid a large gravel patch, or notice what cars are around in case you must swerve to avoid a squirrel or debris in the roadway.
Note hazards on roads you use. Make mental notes of fixed hazards that you encounter on roads you travel. That way, you can anticipate problems or even avoid some routes at certain times or during bad weather.
Slow down when necessary. Your speed should match your sight distance. Also slow down when you see, or even anticipate, a hazard.
When it rains, wait. If possible, wait until the rain has stopped before you ride a motorcycle. If you must travel in the rain, try to wait until it has been raining for at least one half hour before you hit the road.
Learn the skills necessary to navigate hazards. Motorcycle handling skills are often the key to safely navigating a road hazard, or surviving a skid, wobble, or dicey situation caused by a hazard. Get training on how to safely handle your bike. Learn about ways to navigate gravel and ridges in the road and what to do if your tires skid on ice or slick surfaces.