NV motorcycle deaths increase; research shows others are often at fault

Research shows other drivers cause many motorcycle accidents, possibly due to errors in perception; sadly, riders often suffer most in these crashes.

Las Vegas motorists are encouraged to share the road and be especially alert to vulnerable road users. Sadly, though, the number of fatal Nevada motorcycle accidents has grown at an alarming rate over the last few years. From 2012 to 2013, the number of motorcycle fatalities rose from 24 to 40, according to KLAS-TV. In July 2014, year-to-date deaths were up 50 percent compared to 2013.

Nevada lawmakers have proposed legislation to make licensing requirements for young and inexperienced motorcyclists stricter, since more than one-third of motorcycle fatality victims are under 25. Unfortunately, research indicates these measures may not be enough to reverse the increase in fatalities, since other motorists are often at least partly to blame for motorcycle accidents.

Accident risk factors

Past research has shown that other motorists can contribute significantly to motorcycle accidents. It is not uncommon for drivers to make unsafe lane changes or pull out in front of motorcyclists because they misjudged the motorcyclist's distance or approach speed. Sadly, motorcyclists often face the steepest consequences in these accidents.

A 2007 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report produced the following figures on two-vehicle crashes involving cars and motorcycles:

  • When driver-related failure caused a motorcycle accident, drivers failed to yield in 35 percent of cases.
  • In two-vehicle crashes, 90 percent of the fatality victims were motorcycle riders.
  • In nearly three out of four crashes, motorcyclists struck other vehicles.

More recently, a Florida Department of Transportation study found that other motorists were to blame for 60 percent of motorcycle accidents, according to the Sun Sentinel. Accidents in which other vehicles failed to yield and made left turns in front of motorcyclists were especially common.

A recent study suggests why drivers are so likely to overlook motorcyclists. During the study, researchers from Australian National University had 40 participants perform a driving simulation. According to a press release reposted on Science Daily, one simulation featured a high number of buses and a low number of motorcycles, while the other simulation included more motorcycles and fewer buses.

During the simulation, all participants were asked to look for buses and motorcycles.

Researchers found that the participants were biased to quickly notice and identify the vehicle they saw more frequently while overlooking the other vehicle.

Participants who saw more buses needed an extra 51 meters, on average, to identify motorcycles. These participants lost about 3 seconds in response time. This delayed reaction time, which presumably affects many motorists, could be decisive in a real-life setting.

Recourse for victims

These findings suggest that Nevada's proposed legislation may not be enough to keep motorcyclists safe. Although inexperience can contribute to any motor vehicle accident, statistics show that motorcyclist errors are not an exclusive cause of motorcycle accidents. In fact, even the most experienced and prepared motorcyclists may be powerless to avoid accidents caused by other drivers.

If you or any loved ones have been hurt in a Las Vegas motorcycle accident and you believe another driver's negligence played a role, please consider meeting with an attorney to discuss your legal options.

Keywords: motorcycle, accident, injury