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Life on two wheels: common causes of motorcycle accidents

Ask motorcycle owners why they choose two wheels over four, and you’ll hear more reasons than you can shake a leather jacket at: cost and fuel efficiency, the sense of freedom and adventure, ease of parking, camaraderie, reduced carbon footprint, and – let’s be honest – riding a bike is the iconic image of cool.

While motorcycle enthusiasts are as loyal to their mode of transportation as Juliet was to Romeo, it is no secret that it can be a dangerous way to travel. And South Carolina is no exception. In fact, in the past few years it has been in the top five states in numbers of motorcycle accidents and fatalities.

What are the most common causes of motorcycle accidents, and what should bikers be on the lookout for to reduce the likelihood of becoming a casualty?

Cars turning left

This is, without a doubt, the most common cause of accidents involving motorcycles. Left turns carry a higher risk for cars, but a motorcycle’s smaller size means that an inattentive driver may not even see it. When making a left turn, drivers look for oncoming cars, or rather the absence of oncoming cars; the presence of a motorcycle may not even register with them. A popular bumper sticker says “Look Twice, Save a Life,” and for good reason: over 40% of all motorcycle accidents are caused when inattentive drivers turn left.

Cars changing lanes

As noted above, motorcycles are just harder to see. Accidents often occur when a driver fails to see a bike and changes lanes, either hitting the bike or dangerously cutting it off. Motorcycles easily disappear into blind spots, and most drivers, when checking the blind spot, are looking for cars, not motorcycles.

Riding between lanes

When traffic is at a standstill and there are brake lights as far as the eye can see, it can be very tempting to jump into the space between the cars and put the gridlock far behind you. This is extremely dangerous, and for a couple of reasons. First, the motorcycle is very close to the cars, giving you very little room to maneuver; the slightest waver to the left or right could mean an accident. Second, drivers of cars are not anticipating that a motorcycle will zip past when traffic is not moving, and lane changes – or even an opening door – can be disastrous.

In some states, lane splitting is illegal. South Carolina is one of those states. Motorcycle riders are prohibited from entering another vehicle’s space and from riding between lanes. If you do this and an accident occurs, you’ll likely be found at fault.


While a good bike with good tires can manage quite well on wet roads, rain definitely ratchets up the risk factor. Roads become more slippery, and surfaces like manhole covers or patches of oil on the pavement become much more hazardous. Additionally, visibility decreases – not just for the biker, but for everyone. If drivers have difficulty seeing motorcycles on a bright, sunny day, imagine how much the problem is amplified in the rain.

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