The best defenses when navigating the road on a motorcycle are to get lots of training on how to safely handle your bike, use caution, and anticipate hazards. Here are some general tips for everyday riding:
Understand what constitutes a road hazard. Some bikers are unaware that certain things are hazardous for motorcycles, like railway tracks or wet leaves. Educate yourself about the many hazards on the road. Dont assume that you know all the dangers because youve been driving a car for years. The hazards are different for motorcycles, and the consequences of a motorcycle crash are often severe.
Avoid heavy traffic. When possible, travel when traffic is light. That way, if you encounter a road hazard, youll have more room and time to maneuver. Look for less-traveled routes where vision is unobstructed.
Dont tail the vehicle in front. Follow vehicles at a safe distance --at least two seconds behind.
Constantly survey the road and the surrounding area. Keep your eyes up and look ahead. Survey the road and take note of everything --other cars, children playing, trees that might house small animals, painted surfaces --and then change your speed or path accordingly.
Plan escape routes. As you ride, think of ways you could evade any potential road hazards. For example, decide if you can safely travel on a shoulder to avoid a large gravel patch, or notice what cars are around in case you must swerve to avoid a squirrel or debris in the roadway.
Note hazards on roads you use. Make mental notes of fixed hazards that you encounter on roads you travel. That way, you can anticipate problems or even avoid some routes at certain times or during bad weather.
Slow down when necessary. Your speed should match your sight distance. Also slow down when you see, or even anticipate, a hazard.
When it rains, wait. If possible, wait until the rain has stopped before you ride a motorcycle. If you must travel in the rain, try to wait until it has been raining for at least one half hour before you hit the road.
Learn the skills necessary to navigate hazards. Motorcycle handling skills are often the key to safely navigating a road hazard, or surviving a skid, wobble, or dicey situation caused by a hazard. Get training on how to safely handle your bike. Learn about ways to navigate gravel and ridges in the road and what to do if your tires skid on ice or slick surfaces. There are many websites devoted to motorcycle enthusiasts that provide practical advice on how to handle hazardous riding situations.
Liability When Road Hazards Cause an Accident
Who or what entity is liable, if any, for an accident caused by a road hazard is as varied as the types of road hazards themselves. Whether an injured motorcyclist can recover for medical expenses or other losses in an accident depends on the type of hazard, why the hazard was there, whether someone should and could have eliminated the hazard, the behavior of the motorcyclist, the behavior of other drivers, and many other factors.
Generally, these cases are governed by the law of negligence. When a person or entity is negligent, it means that the party has behaved in a thoughtless or careless manner, which has caused harm or injury to another person. (To learn about negligence law, including the elements of a claim, see Nolos article Motorcycle Accidents: An Overview.) In accidents caused by road hazards, negligent parties might include:
Public entities. The state, county, city, or other public agency that maintains the roadway might have behaved negligently if it should have known about the hazard and could have done something to prevent the problem. Sometimes, prevention is as simple as posting a warning sign.
Private individuals or businesses. Other individuals or businesses might have been negligent. For example, if a biker crashes when she hits a tree that falls out of a landscapers truck on the freeway, the landscaper might be liable for the bikers injuries.
Of course, the motorcyclists behavior might have contributed to the accident as well. If a biker is speeding, or weaving on the highway, her behavior may prevent recovery in a road hazard accident. (To learn more about how a bikers behavior might prevent recovery, see Nolos article Motorcycle Accidents: An Overview.)
Motorcycle accident claims involving road hazards can be complicated and can require advice or representation from a lawyer. For help on choosing a good personal injury attorney, read Nolo's article Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer. You can go to Nolo's Lawyer Directory for a list of personal injury attorneys in your geographical area (click on the "Types of Cases" and "Work History" tabs to learn about a particular lawyer's experience, if any, with motorcycle accident claims).
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