What are the causes of motorcycle accidents in Chicago? Motorcycle accidents cause thousands of injuries and fatalities in Chicago every year. What should be a fun activity becomes harmful when other drivers are reckless or don’t pay attention to their surroundings. Understanding the potential causes of motorcycle accidents may not always prevent harm, but it can ensure you are on your guard as you ride the streets of Illinois.
These causes can vary widely. In almost every case, there is a chance that the other party is at least partially responsible for the accident. And because Illinois is an at-fault state for vehicular accidents, even partial responsibility can mean that the other party has to compensate you for your injury and motorcycle damage.
Involving a lawyer focusing on this part of Chicago law can help you determine how the cause of the accident may play out legally. A basic understanding of the most common motorcycle accidents helps you look for and provide the information that a lawyer needs in building a case. Reach out to a Chicago motorcycle accident lawyer.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics in Chicago and Illinois
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, nearly 3,000 motorcycle accidents occurred in the city of Chicago in 2020. Of those accidents, 140 resulted in fatalities, meaning that accidents involving motorcycles accounted for nearly 13 percent of all traffic accident fatalities.
That data tracks information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which estimates that motorcycle riders are more than 30 times more likely to die in a vehicle accident compared to drivers of any other type of vehicle.
While these accidents can occur for a wide range of reasons, a few common causes tend to appear and re-appear for motorcycle accidents in Chicago and elsewhere.
The most common causes of motorcycle accidents include:
- Failure to see the motorcyclist when making a turn
- Changing lanes without proper precautions
- Drivers in parked cars suddenly opening their doors
- Inexperienced drivers
- Distracted drivers
- Speeding drivers
- Drivers who fail to account for road or weather conditions
- Drivers under the influence
- Technical defects on the motorcycle
Let’s examine each of these potential causes in more detail.
Failure to See the Motorcyclist When Making a Turn
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about one-third of all multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes happen because another motorist unexpectedly turns into the motorcycle’s path. Those accidents occur most frequently when a driver makes a left turn but fails to respect the right of way or doesn’t see the motorcyclist.
These situations are clear-cut. As long as the motorcyclist follows Illinois traffic laws, the other motorist is responsible for ensuring the area is clear before making a left turn. When they don’t, they endanger those around them, particularly those more vulnerable due to their vehicle type.
Motorcyclists making left turns are another common cause of accidents. Because their vehicles are smaller than most around them, other drivers may fail to see them and not yield to them as required by the law. Failing to follow traffic laws connected to left turns can be devastating for the motorcyclist.
Changing Lanes Without Proper Precautions
When a driver changes lanes, they are responsible to others on the road to ensure that the lane is clear first. Unfortunately, too many drivers do not check for clearance properly and, as a result, endanger those around them, especially motorcyclists, who are more vulnerable than drivers of larger vehicles.
Illinois state law states that a vehicle “shall not be moved from ‘a lane’ until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.” When a driver doesn’t properly check their blind spots or otherwise simply assumes the lane is clear, they could seriously harm motorcyclists around them. Talking to a lawyer can help you determine whether another driver’s unsafe lane change may be at fault for the accident.
Drivers in Parked Cars Suddenly Opening Their Doors
Chicago is consistently among the most congested cities in the United States, with U.S. News and World Report recently ranking it the city with the second most traffic in the nation. Anyone living or working in and around the city will know the difficulties associated with finding a parking spot near the road.
Traffic congestion and a lack of parking spots mean more stress getting in and out of cars. Unfortunately, it can also mean that drivers getting in and out of vehicles pay less attention to their surroundings as they try to reach their destination.
The result is a failure to check for the traffic around them as they open their car door. So-called “dooring” describes how that driver inadvertently hits another party, like a motorcyclist, with the car door. The consequences can be significant, leading to injuries and even some fatalities every year.
Inexperienced drivers are a major cause of traffic accidents of all kinds, but the problem worsens when motorcyclists are involved. Most driving lessons and tests focus on ‘regular’ traffic situations and don’t always account for the nuances of a situation involving motorcyclists.
As a result, new and inexperienced drivers tend to react to situations involving motorcycles in one of two ways:
- They’re overconfident, thinking they know how to handle the situation even though they’ve never experienced it.
- They’re nervous and unsure and can fail to act simply because the situation is so unfamiliar to them.
Any common causes of accidents described throughout this guide, like lane switching or left turns, can be worse when inexperienced drivers are involved. Add the stress that the congested traffic of a city like Chicago can induce, and the dangers for motorcyclists can be significant.
Distracted driving claimed more than 3,000 U.S. accident deaths in 2020 alone. Texting is the most common distraction, but there are other actions drivers typically take that can take their eyes off the road.
Any of these actions can cause potentially serious harm on the road:
- Texting or talking on the phone
- Eating and drinking while driving
- Talking to others in the vehicle
- Changing settings on the entertainment, audio, or navigational system
Any time a driver takes their eyes off the road, they fail to account for those around them—especially motorcycles. And while motorcyclists are naturally focused while on the road, the perceived safety within a car can lead other drivers to be more easily distracted.
Unfortunately, any accident that results from a driver’s distraction can hurt motorcyclists.
Reckless driving doesn’t just happen to distracted or inexperienced drivers. It’s an active choice by many drivers, especially when they choose to speed to get to their destination faster. Unfortunately, they fail to consider the consequences their actions might have on those around them.
Speeding is especially common in Chicago, where a recent 16-month span saw 3.8 million speeding tickets handed out to drivers within city limits. For reference, that’s the equivalent of every single Chicago resident receiving almost 1.5 speeding tickets over that time span.
Speeding drivers harm everyone, but motorcyclists tend to be especially affected because of the more serious consequences they experience in the event of a crash. The faster the vehicles are involved in the accident, the higher the risk of injury and even death. It’s what makes speeding drivers a common cause of motorcycle accidents with potentially devastating consequences.
Drivers Who Fail to Account for Road or Weather Conditions
Drivers in both Chicago and the larger Illinois area know that weather conditions can be treacherous, especially as the temperatures begin to move down. But that isn’t an excuse for drivers to drive less cautiously, causing potential harm to motorcyclists who share the road.
As road conditions worsen, the attention required for everyone begins to rise. A motorcyclist may be paying attention and doing everything needed to drive safely in these conditions. Still, it doesn’t matter if the car driver behind them drives on bad tires or is too fast to account for an icy spot that causes an accident.
Road conditions can also become dangerous for motorcyclists when local authorities have not maintained them properly. Potholes, damaged or missing street signs, and unmarked lanes can all lead to motorcycle accidents and potentially serious injuries. Discuss your accident with a lawyer if you believe these types of conditions caused your accident and resulting injuries.
Drivers Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a Class A Misdemeanor, but a driver under the influence who causes an accident can create much more serious negative consequences for others involved—especially motorcyclists. According to the Illinois Secretary of State, more than 20,000 drivers were arrested in DUI cases in 2020, while more than 250 people died in vehicular accidents connected to alcohol alone.
Driving under the influence can significantly impair judgment and slow reaction times. As a result, it’s especially devastating in situations involving motorcycles due to the many reasons mentioned above. Intoxicated driving heightens the risk of accidents during turns, lane changes, difficult road conditions, and more. Impaired drivers are also more likely to speed up and exhibit reckless behavior, causing accidents.
Put differently, drivers who operate their vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs are a major danger to any motorcyclist. Too often, the accidents they cause lead to crashes with massive negative consequences for those around them.
Technical Defects on the Motorcycle
Responsible motorcyclists take good care of their equipment, ensuring regular maintenance and safety inspections. But they could still be in danger due to technical and manufacturing defects out of their control.
The manufacturer may have poorly designed a part of the vehicle, or the mechanic may have installed it improperly. The manufacturer may not communicate in a timely fashion about a recall, or a tire might blow due to design, mechanical, or environmental causes. When any of these issues happen while riding a motorcycle, the consequences can be disastrous.
You may have a case against your manufacturer or mechanic in these scenarios. A lawyer experienced in this legal area can help you document and take the next steps necessary to get compensation for both motorcycle damage and any injuries you sustain.
Seeking Legal Help After a Motorcycle Accident
No matter the cause, the aftermath of a motorcycle accident can be devastating. Physical injuries and mental trauma add to the property and vehicle damage and indirect consequences like inability to work.
When you seek legal help after the accident, a lawyer can:
- Gather the evidence you need for a compelling court case, especially in a state like Illinois with at-fault negligence laws.
- Validate the need for maximum financial compensation to account for your immediate injuries and the long-term harm and cost of recovery.
- Defend you against the negative stereotypes that still persist against motorcycle drivers, helping to ensure a fair and just legal process.
- Work with insurance companies on your behalf, insulating and protecting you against potentially underhanded tactics to get you less compensation than you deserve.
- Negotiate on your behalf, guiding you through the legal process while working toward justice after your motorcycle accident.
Of course, working with a lawyer does not guarantee success. Every case is different, and outcomes can be unpredictable. But the right lawyer can become your partner through the process, maximizing your chances of financial and mental recovery.
Don’t be on your own after your motorcycle accident. Instead, contact a Chicago personal injury attorney as soon as possible to get the partner you need for any next steps and long-term recovery.