Playing it Safe while Motorcycle Riding

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on June 20, 2016

Richard Fortus, guitarist for famed rock group Guns N’ Roses, was recently injured in a motorcycle accident. The 48-year old rocker, who is expected to make a full recovery, suffered a broken shoulder blade, collarbone, six ribs, a toe, lacerated liver and a concussion, from the accident.

Riding a motorcycle can be a dangerous activity on Ontario roads, particularly for inexperienced drivers or anyone who doesn't practice safe biking.  Unfortunately, when motorcycle accidents occur, they often result in severe or catastrophic injuries and sometimes death for the cyclist. In fact, according to U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle riders are 35 times more likely to die in a road accident than drivers of cars and other passenger vehicles.

This is unsurprising as motorcyclists, along with bicyclists and pedestrians, are classified as vulnerable road users. This is owing to the fact that they have little physical protection to protect them against the impact of the road, a tree or another motorist, in the event of a collision. In August 2015, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported the 26th motorcycle death in the province and anticipated that motorcycle fatalities would likely surpass the 29 deaths which occurred in 2014, already reported to be a seven year high.

This 2015 OPP report was released just after two motorcyclists were killed in a tragic accident in St. Catharines. A 31 year old man and 38 year old woman suffered fatal injuries when their motorcycle collided with a Jeep Cherokee.  St. Catharines police reported that the motorcycle hit the Jeep’s front right corner when the Jeep was attempting to make a left turn, causing both riders to fly off the bike.

In their report, OPP also commented that contrary to popular belief, motorcycle accidents and deaths often do not involve young drivers or slippery roads. In fact, according to their data, older drivers aged 45 to 64 accounted for almost half the motorcycle deaths and the majority of motorcycle accidents occurred on dry roads. Research has shown that the following factors often contribute to motorcycle collisions crashes, but the driver of other motor vehicles are just as likely to be guilty of many of these actions (and thus cause an accident) as are motorcyclists. 

  • Alcohol – This is unsurprising, as alcohol is a leading cause of all types of motor vehicle accidents resulting in fatality. Alcohol impairs one’s judgement which can often lead to the inability to think clearly, which in turn can result in making very costly and possibly deadly mistakes. These may include missing or misreading road signs, veering out of your lane, being unaware of traffic lights, miscalculating distances and failing to see oncoming motorists..

  • Speeding – Speeding is one of the top three causal factors in motor vehicle accidents in Ontario.  Speeding makes if particularly difficult to effectively maneuver a motorcycle, especially if the driver needs to avoid another vehicle or stop unexpectedly.

  • Loss of control of the motorcycle –  Many motorcycle crashes are caused by a driver simply losing control and skidding off the road, often when driving at an excessive speed.

  • Failing to yield to other motorists – Failing to yield to other motorists, particularly when they have the right of way, is always a bad driving decision that can have very serious and sometimes fatal consequences, particularly for the more vulnerable motorcyclist.

  • Inattention to the road and what’s going on around you – It is very important to always be alert and attentive when driving, which is why driving under the influence or being distracted by your phone, music, etc. are such major problems. The possibility of sudden and unexpected actions by other motorists is always a possibility and if you are not paying attention, you can’t react and respond in time.

Motorcyclists must obey the same Ontario traffic laws as other motorists, but as well, all riders, including passengers, must wear a crash helmet at all times. This law is entirely to the benefit of motorcyclists because research shows that head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents and these injuries are far more likely to result when not wearing a helmet.

The NHTSA reports that a motorcyclist who is not wearing a helmet has a 40 percent greater chance of dying from a head injury, than someone who is wearing one; helmets reduce the possibility of a crash fatality by 37 percent. In Ontario, only helmets that meet CSA CAN3-D230-M85 standards, should be worn. Other laws related to motorcycle drivers include:

  • Although helmets may be equipped with speakers, riders cannot listen to music in them while driving.

  • Riders must have a valid and current license, like the driver of a car or truck.

  • The handlebars of the motorcycle must be well-maintained at all times. If it is loose or damaged in any way that may interfere with the driver’s ability to drive safely, then by law it is deemed unsafe. A driver operating a motorcycle judged to be unsafe may be liable to a charge and fine between $400 and $20,000.

  • The muffler of the motorcycle must be in good working condition which includes not creating unreasonably loud and excessive noises and/or emitting excessive smoke. It must be noted that on the issue of noise, there is no specific and defined decibel level and so it is up the officer’s discretion of what is “too loud.”

Motorcycles are increasingly popular in Ontario, despite the potential danger, particularly in the summer months. For some riders, part of the appeal is the lower cost and gas mileage.  However, many riders describe motorcycling as a passion and thrill that is unlike any other experience.  Whatever the reason, riders can't ignore the inherent risks in biking. And, by being cognisant of, and adhering to the applicable regulations and safe practices unique to motorcycle riding, a rider can minimize their risk of injury, at least within what they can control.  

Unfortunately, sometimes other motorists fail to watch out for motorcycles and cause unforseeable injury to the rider.  In any circumstance where a negligent driver collides with a bike or causes it to spin out, there is often little that the rider can do to circumvent this situation and in most cases, it is the rider that suffers far more significant injuries than other motorists involved in a collision.

At Injury Lawyers of Ontario, our exceptional team of personal injury lawyers are well experienced in handling personal injury cases arising from motorcycle accidents. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a motorcycle accident caused by a careless or negligent driver, please do not hesitate to call or visit us today.  We welcome your questions and can outline our approach for getting you the accident benefits and compensation you deserve.


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