Last Updated on December 4, 2023

The Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in New York

Motorcycle accidents in New York occur with great frequency, often leading to severe injuries or fatalities. Motorcycles account for an average 14% of traffic fatalities in just New York City each year alone, a staggering figure considering that motorcycles make up just 2% of all registered vehicles.

This statistic highlights the disproportionate risk motorcyclists face compared to others on our roads. The same NYC study found that a majority of these fatalities involve young riders, with a significant percentage of victims under the age of 35.

Understanding the common causes of these accidents is crucial for both riders and policymakers to develop strategies for prevention.

1. Driving Under the Influence

One of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. More than 40% of all motor vehicle fatalities in the state involve impaired driving. Young drivers, particularly those under 21, represent a high-risk group. They constitute about 4% of the driving population but account for 7% of the impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes. 

According to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 28% of motorcycle riders killed in crashes had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent. Pursuant to New York State law, a BAC of more than 0.05% is legal evidence of impairment, a BAC of 0.08% or higher is evidence of intoxication, and a BAC of 0.18% or more is evidence of aggravated driving while intoxicated.

2. Inadequate Training and Licensing

Another major factor contributing to motorcycle accidents is inadequate training and licensing. Many riders take to the roads without proper training or a valid motorcycle license, significantly increasing the risk of accidents. 

The complexity of operating a motorcycle, combined with the unique challenges of road navigation, makes comprehensive training essential. New York State offers motorcycle safety courses, which are crucial for developing the skills needed for safe riding. However, the lack of enforcement in ensuring all riders are adequately trained and licensed remains a challenge.

3. Low Visibility and Bad Weather

Low visibility and adverse weather conditions are also significant contributors to motorcycle accidents in New York. Motorcycles are less visible to other drivers, especially during poor weather conditions like rain, fog, or snow. 

This reduced visibility increases the likelihood of accidents, as other motorists may fail to notice motorcycles on the road. Additionally, bad weather can affect a motorcycle's handling and braking capabilities, making it more challenging to control.  

4. Manufacturing Defects

Manufacturing defects in motorcycles can be a critical factor in accidents. While not as common as other causes, when they occur, these defects can lead to catastrophic outcomes. Issues can range from brake malfunctions to engine failures, and even small defects can significantly impact a motorcycle's safety and performance. 

Riders are encouraged to stay informed about any recalls or safety notices for their motorcycles to ensure they are riding a vehicle that meets all safety standards.

5. Speeding and Reckless Riding

Speeding and reckless riding are major, preventable causes of motorcycle accidents. In 2017, 32% of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding, a higher rate than any other vehicle type. Additionally, the average impact speed in motorcycle accidents is around 30 mph (48 km/h), often after emergency braking, indicating initial speeds were likely much higher. 

This highlights the risks of speeding, which reduces reaction time and complicates safe navigation, especially in traffic or on challenging roads. Additionally, practices like lane splitting, where a motorcyclist moves between lanes of slow-moving or stopped traffic, can be dangerous and are not legally permitted in New York. 

Best Practices to Avoid Motorcycle Accidents

  • Signaling: Always use turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if you think no one will see it.
  • Speed Limits: Adhere to speed limits to maintain control and react effectively to unexpected situations.
  • Safe Following Distances: Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front to allow enough time to react and stop safely.

Use of Anti-Lock Brakes

The benefits of anti-lock brakes (ABS) in motorcycles are significant in reducing fatalities. ABS prevents the wheels from locking during braking, which is crucial in maintaining control during an emergency stop.

ABS can also improve stopping distances on both dry and slippery surfaces. Knowing that the bike is equipped with ABS can boost rider confidence, leading to safer riding practices.

Wearing Proper Safety Gear

The right safety gear plays an essential role in preventing injuries during motorcycle accidents. 

  • Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet. It's the most effective way to prevent head injuries. 
  • Protect your hands with gloves, which also improve grip.
  • Wear abrasion-resistant jackets and pants to protect against road rash.
  • Use boots that cover your ankles to protect against fractures and provide better stability.

What Are The New York State Motorcycle Laws?

Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

In New York, understanding the statute of limitations is critical for anyone involved in a motorcycle accident. This law sets a three-year deadline for filing personal injury suits starting from the date of the accident, and a two-year deadline for filing wrongful death suits measured from the date of death. It's important to note that if you fail to file your lawsuit within these time periods, the court may permanently dismiss your claim.

No-Fault Laws and Motorcycles

Under Section 5103 of the New York Insurance Law, motorcycle riders are specifically exempted from no-fault insurance coverage. This exemption is similar to other scenarios where insurance companies do not provide coverage, such as for losses occurring due to intoxication, operating an all-terrain vehicle, injuries sustained while committing a felony, or driving a stolen vehicle.

Despite the fact that a majority of motorcycle riders operate their bikes safely, insurance companies perceive the risks associated with motorcycle riding as exceptionally high. This perception leads to their decision to exclude motorcycle accident injuries from no-fault policy coverage.

Serious Injury Threshold for Motorcyclists

In New York, the legal definition of a “serious injury” for motorcyclists differs significantly from that for car drivers, affecting their ability to seek compensation. Under Section 5102 of the No-Fault Law, motorcyclists and their passengers are not subject to the "serious injury" threshold requirement that applies to car drivers. 

This means that any injury, regardless of its severity, can be grounds for a lawsuit. Understanding this difference is crucial for motorcyclists involved in accidents, as it broadens their legal options for seeking compensation.

What's The Legal Process Following a Motorcycle Accident in New York?

The process begins with negligence analysis, an assessment of the degree of fault for each party involved in the accident. This analysis is crucial as it determines how responsibility is distributed among the parties. 

The compensation awarded to the injured party is adjusted based on their percentage of fault. For instance, if a motorcyclist is found to be 30% at fault for an accident, their compensation will be reduced accordingly.

Navigating this system requires a thorough understanding of New York's traffic laws and legal standards. The diverse traffic scenarios in New York add to the complexity of determining fault in motorcycle accidents.

Necessary Documentation for Filing a Lawsuit

To file a lawsuit following a motorcycle accident in New York, the following documents are typically required:

  • Police Report: Documenting the details of the accident.
  • Medical Records: Showing the extent and nature of injuries sustained.
  • Proof of Income Loss: If the accident impacted your ability to work.
  • Evidence from the Accident Scene: Including photographs and witness statements.

Compensation and Settlements in Motorcycle Accidents

  1. Compensatory Damages: These are intended to cover any out-of-pocket expenses and future costs related to the accident. Compensatory damages can include:
  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Wages
  • Property Damage
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Disability
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Life
  1. Punitive Damages: These are awarded in cases where the defendant's conduct was particularly negligent or malicious. Punitive damages serve as a punishment to the responsible party and a deterrent to others, and they can be significant in amount. They are typically awarded by a jury if the case goes to trial.

Factors influencing the compensation include the severity of injuries, the degree of fault, and the overall impact on the victim's life. Consulting with legal experts is crucial to understand the full range of potential compensation.

The Porter Law Group understands these challenges and is dedicated to supporting accident victims. Our team operates on a contingency basis, meaning there are no upfront fees for you. We are committed to protecting your rights and ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.If you or your loved ones need assistance with a motorcycle accident claim, Porter Law Group is here to help. Contact us at 833-PORTER9 or email for a free consultation.

Written By
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
Legally Reviewed on December 1, 2023
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Michael S. Porter on December 1, 2023. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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