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At What Speed Do Most Motorcycle Accidents Happen?

If you are like most individuals and assume that the majority of motorcycle accidents happen because of speeding, you would be mistaken. Motorcycle accidents occur for many reasons, but speed is generally not one of them. Despite posted speed limits of between 60 and 80 MPH along most major highways, the average speed at which motorcycles crash is low — shockingly so.

The Speed at Which Most Motorcycles Crash

According to a study that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted — albeit, in the 1980s — the median pre-accident speed of over 900 motorcycle accidents was just 29.8 mph. This indicates that the typical motorcycle accident occurs when riders are driving at just 30 mph. What is more impressive is the speed of impact. The average speed of impact for motorcycle accidents is 21.5 mph. Shockingly, only one out of every 1,000 motorcycle accidents occur at speeds of around 85 mph.

Speed Is Still a Major Contributor of Motorcycle Accidents

Though the median speed at which motorcycles crash is low, speed is still a major culprit in motorcycle accidents. According to a 2017 study, as many as 32% of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the incident. This is compared to just 18% of drivers of passenger vehicles, 14% of drivers of lightweight trucks and 7% of drivers of larger trucks. This data indicates that not only do a significant portion of bike accidents occur at high speeds but also, when they do, they tend to be fatal.

It is also important to consider that the data only takes into consideration the information that appears on police reports and in court records. Per the NHTSA, a crash is only considered speeding if the records show one of two things:

  • The police officer concluded that driving too fast for road conditions, racing or traveling in excess of the posted speed limit was a contributing cause of the accident
  • The motorcycle rider was subsequently charged with a speeding-related offense

If the records indicate neither of these things, it is unlikely that speed will show up as a factor.

When Speed Is an Issue in Motorcycle-Related Crashes

If you or a loved one was involved in a motorcycle accident, and if the attending police officer marked speed as a contributing factor, you may wonder what the determination means for your monetary recovery — assuming, of course, that you decide to pursue a motorcycle accident claim. The answer depends largely on in which state you live.

Before you can recover compensation for your injuries, you must establish fault. In other words, you must show that the other party’s negligence contributed in some way to your crash. Without negligence, you do not have a case. To account for cases of shared fault, such as yours, most states have adopted a variation of the comparative fault system. Which system your state adopted will dictate how much, or even if, you can recover compensation despite your sharing some blame for the accident.

Comparative Negligence

All but five states have adopted some variation of the comparative negligence system. Under a comparative negligence system, a defendant in an accident case can raise a partial defense by claiming that the plaintiff’s own negligence also contributed to the crash to some degree. If successful in his or her claim, the defendant can reduce the amount he or she owes the plaintiff, if not negate his or her responsibility to pay entirely. Ultimately, the outcome boils down to which type of comparative negligence system a state follows and the percentage of the plaintiff’s shared fault.

  • Modified Comparative Fault: Under a modified comparative fault system, a plaintiff may only recover compensation if his or her level of fault does not exceed a certain percentage. In some states, that percentage is 50%. In others, it is 51%. For example, in states such as Michigan, Ohio and Massachusetts, you may assume up to 50% fault for your accident and still be able to recover compensation. In Georgia and Colorado, on the other hand, the law bars your ability to recover if your percentage of fault exceeds 49%.
  • Pure Comparative Fault: Under a pure comparative fault system, the rules are much more lenient. In a pure comparative fault state, you may recover compensation for your injuries so long as you do not assume full responsibility for the accident. For instance, if the jury decides your speeding was the main contributing factor in your accident and, therefore, assigns you 90% fault, you can still recoup some of your losses.

If you live in a comparative negligence state, and if you do assume some level of responsibility for your motorcycle accident, the deciding parties must reduce your settlement or award by the same percentage of the fault it assigns to you. For instance, say you stand to recover $200,000 in damages. The jury determines you were 30% at fault for your crash. You may only recover $140,000, which is $200,000 less 30%.

Contributory Negligence

The handful of states that do not adhere to a comparative fault system still follows the much stricter contributory negligence doctrine. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, you may not recover any amount of compensation for your injuries if the defendant can prove that your negligence contributed to your accident in some way. This is the case even if your percentage of fault is 1%. The few states that still honor this strict code are Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Alabama.

The theory behind contributory negligence is that the accident never would have happened had at least one of the parties been following the rules of the road. If you live in one of the five jurisdictions that take a contributory negligence approach, and if your speed was at all a contributing factor in your crash, you are out of luck.

Other Major Causes of Motorcycle Crashes

If speed is not a major contributing cause of most motorcycle accidents, you may be wondering, what is? Motorcycle accidents can occur for any number of reasons. However, some factors are more prevalent than others:

  • Failure for other motorists to detect and recognize motorcyclists in traffic is the predominant cause of all multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents.
  • Violations of motorcyclists’ rights-of-way contribute to two-thirds of motorcycle accidents.
  • Alcohol is a contributing factor in one-third of all fatal motorcycle crashes.
  • Distracted driving accounts for a little more than 40% of all motorcycle crashes.
  • Cars making left-hand turns account for approximately 42% of all motorcycle crashes involving other vehicles.
  • Collisions with other vehicles account for 56% of all motorcycle accident-related deaths, 78% of which are head-on collisions.

These are just the top cause of motorcycle accidents. Other contributing factors include low visibility, hazardous road conditions, lane splitting and corner turning, to name a few.

When To Hire a Motorcycle Accident Attorney

If you sustained injuries and other losses in a motorcycle accident, the best thing you can do for your claim and your recovery is to contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer right away. It is especially prudent to do so if the authorities determine you were speeding at the time of or directly leading up to the accident. A skilled lawyer can minimize your percentage of shared fault and push for the maximum amount of compensation allowable. Do not wait until the defendant attempts to diminish your claim to start building your case. Schedule your free consultation with Fielding Law today.