Why are motorcycle accidents more frequent in California than in the U.S. in general?
While motorcycle fatalities are, fortunately, declining throughout the nation, such fatal accidents are still occurring at an increasing rate in the state of California. Moreover, the percentages involved are not minimal. As the U.S. motorcycle fatality rate dropped 7 percent in 2013, the fatality rate in California during the same year rose 13 percent. Obviously, the reasons behind this alarming discrepancy in statistics must be addressed.
If you have suffered serious personal injury in a motorcycle accident or if a member of your family has suffered a wrongful death in California, it is imperative that you contact a practiced, skillful personal injury attorney in order to receive the compensation you deserve.
Analysis of the state data by Southern California Public Radio uncovered the disturbing fact that between 2003 and 2012 motorcycle collisions in the state increased 23 percent. The largest increase — 49 percent — was in Los Angeles County. Orange County and San Diego County injuries and fatalities were not far enough behind. It is also worth noting that, with few exceptions, the rate of motorcycle accidents has continued to climb.
Reasons for Motorcycle Accidents
Experts in the field postulate a number of reasons for serious accidents involving motorcycles. One reason frequently mentioned is the absence of helmets, since helmets have been shown to decrease motorcycle deaths by 37 percent and head injuries by 69 percent. Other factors mentioned are inexperienced motorcycle drivers and lack of awareness of motorcycles on the road by the drivers of other vehicles. Also, motorcyclists are at far greater risk of injury or fatality when they collide with much larger, heavier vehicles and those riding motorcycles have almost no protection in such a collision.
These latter reasons, however, are present anywhere motorcyclists ride. As far as helmets are concerned, California has had universal helmet laws in place since 1992. Clearly then, there must be other reasons for the heightened risk to California cyclists.
Reasons for Increased Risk to Motorcyclists in California in Particular
Those who investigate specific differences that may account for the discrepancy between motorcycle accidents rates in California and elsewhere note the following important pieces of information:
- Lane splitting, which involves motorcyclists riding between lanes, is legal in California
- Temperate weather all year round, especially in Southern California
- An increase in the number of older motorcyclists in California since 2010
Lane splitting, in particular, leads to an increased number of accidents since automobile drivers changing lanes are often not aware of the presence of motorcyclists. Although California recently became the first state to establish lane-splitting guidelines; it is yet to be seen whether this will assist in improving its accident statistics.
The fact that there has been an increase in the number of older motorcyclists in California is significant because The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has discovered that between 2005 and 2014 fatalities involving motorcyclists 40-years-old or older have increased by 14 percent nationwide, while fatalities for younger cyclists increased only 1 percent.
As far as temperate weather is concerned, it is well-known that more motorcyclists are on the road during summer weather all over the country, so it stands to reason that states with warmer climates may have higher accident rates involving these vehicles. Still, this doesn’t answer the question of why California’s statistics are worse than those in other Southern states.