Rear-End Accidents are Far More Serious for Motorcyclists
January 8th, 2019
Just before Christmas, an off-duty Houston police officer was struck from behind on his motorcycle, causing him to hit another police vehicle. Fortunately, the officer sustained only minor injuries. But, larger passenger vehicles rear end motorcyclists far too often—and those rear-end collisions are far more serious than the fender benders the term brings to mind.
Rear-end collisions account for a significant percentage of all two-vehicle accidents. The number and percentage vary by year, but have been reported at between 40% and 60% of all two-car collisions, for a total of 1.7-2.5 million crashes. But, when the vehicles involved are cars, SUVs, and light trucks, those accidents are often minor. More than 2/3 of those collisions involve no reported injuries, and fewer than one in 1,000 involves a fatality.
Unfortunately, rear-end collisions involving motorcycles often play out very differently.
Motorcyclists are at Greater Risk in Low Speed Collisions
Many rear-end collisions occur at relatively low speeds, as one vehicle stops at a stop sign or slows approaching an intersection and the following vehicle fails to adapt. When a car or truck is rear-ended at low speed, the collision is often little more than a convenience. In many cases, the vehicles don’t even sustain damage.
For a motorcyclist, however, that same type of accident can cause serious injury, or even death. That’s partially because the motorcycle itself is less able to absorb the shock of the impact, and so may be knocked over or thrown. And, of course, the motorcyclist is exposed. A car or truck shields the occupants from much of the impact of a low-speed collision and seat belts, airbags, and even the internal structure of the vehicle offer further protection. Without any of those protections, the motorcyclist may be thrown from the bike in even a low-speed crash.
Avoiding Rear-End Collisions with Motorcycles
The vast majority of rear-end collisions with motorcycles and with other motor vehicles are avoidable. For the driver of a vehicle following a motorcycle, the following precautions will significantly reduce the risk of a crash:
- Avoid distractions: Inattention is a common cause of rear-end collisions, for obvious reasons. Looking down at a phone, turning to talk to another occupant of the vehicle, and other brief distractions can cost critical seconds—seconds that mean the difference between braking in time and striking the vehicle in front of you.
- Follow at a safe distance: A safe following distance is important regardless of the type of vehicle in front of you, but at lower speeds, many drivers take this precaution less seriously. Give motorcycles and other vulnerable road users a larger margin to ensure that you have time to react to whatever may arise.
Of course, motorcyclists share responsibility for avoiding collisions. While it may seem that the rear driver has all of the control in a situation that could lead to a rear-end collision, motorcyclists can take precautions, too. For instance:
- Make sure you’re visible: One reason motorcyclists are more at risk on the road is that other drivers don’t always see them. Make sure that your clothing and your bike are visible by wearing reflective material at night, ensuring that your tail light is working and visible, and otherwise making yourself noticeable.
- Use your mirrors: Though you should be able to rely on the driver behind you to maintain a safe distance and pay attention, that’s not always the reality. Defensive driving is important for everyone on the road, particularly in high-risk situations. Know what’s happening behind you and be prepared to take evasive action.
- Always wear a helmet: If you’re thrown from your bike in a low-speed collision, a helmet could save your life, or spare you a serious brain injury.
If you were injured when your motorcycle was rear-ended, it’s in your best interest to consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling motorcycle accident crashes. In most situations, the following driver is legally responsible for rear-end collisions, and you may be entitled to compensation.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.