By nature, driving is a hazardous activity; individuals are responsible for guiding multi-ton vehicles safely across roadways with nothing more than painted lines as suggestive barriers.
However, motorcyclists face an increased risk because they are more difficult to see and use vehicles that are lighter than most vehicles and are easier to damage, flip, and push. When combined with distracted driving, motorcycle operation grows riskier still, and only some of this distraction is within the biker’s control.
In California, recent legislative changes have prohibited the use of mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle. However, this is not the only contributor to distracted driving.
Here is an overview of the data surrounding distracted driving and motorcycle accidents in California, including what behaviors fall within the purview of distracted driving, the statistics on motorcycle accidents, and what to do if you have been a victim.
What Constitutes Distracted Driving in California
Distracted driving is most commonly associated with the use of mobile phones, and while this behavior does constitute a large portion of potential distractions while on the road, texting, looking at maps, or even receiving phone calls are also considered distracted behaviors.
Following California’s legislative action to prohibit mobile devices while driving, the state has seen some improvement. The Office of Traffic Safety has noted that observations indicate a 7.4% reduction in drivers actively seen utilizing a mobile device while operating their vehicle.
Despite the recent changes to the law, many drivers still spend a notable portion of their time distracted because mobile phones are only one cause of distracted driving. Vehicles, including motorcycles, that have touch screens for music, navigation, Bluetooth, and the radio require the operator’s eyes to focus on the screen rather than the road.
Similarly, eating, drinking, or adjusting elements of the vehicle, such as a seatbelt, also constitute distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that even speaking to a passenger is enough to cause an accident due to divided attention.
The Statistics on Motorcycle Injuries
The CDC reports that nine people die each day in traffic accidents attributable to distracted driving. This is not good news for motorcyclists, who already face increased risk when out on the roads.
Although motorcycles are only responsible for 0.6% of all miles traveled in a vehicle within the United States, they make up 14% of the deaths that occur in traffic and 17% of fatalities to occupants of a motor vehicle.
Death rates have continued to rise in motorcycle accidents, increasing 29% in the last 10 years. Some of this spike has been attributed to increased access to mobile phones driving according to the National Safety Council.
One of the most significant elements in calculating the danger of distracted driving for motorcyclists is the impact that other vehicles have during an accident. Motorcycles are more likely to lead to multi-vehicle crashes, most often because a car does not see a biker, merges into them, and then forces the biker to move into the path of another vehicle.
When surveyed, as many as 40% of motorcyclists admitted that they had been in a crash or fall related to operating a motorcycle while distracted.
Who Is at Fault in a Motorcycle Accident?
When motorcycle accidents occur due to distracted driving, both parties may wonder who is at fault and what legal avenues are available for compensation. California is a tort state, which means that the individual responsible (or “at-fault”) for the accident is the one whose insurance is liable for paying out compensation after an accident.
Most commonly, other vehicles are the at-fault party in a motorcycle accident. The most frequent accidents on motorcycles occur when other vehicles cannot see the biker or when the biker is lane splitting, which is legal but not always safe.
However, even if a motorcycle has been hit by another motorist, their case will be evaluated based on whether the biker was distracted (e.g., using a phone, eating) and thus did not respond to traffic conditions in an appropriate manner.
This is also true in cases in which the motorcyclist was the one who caused the accident. If a biker is lane splitting and rear-ends another vehicle, both parties will be evaluated based not only on the physical evidence from the vehicles but also evidence of who may have been distracted while driving.
Seek Legal Counsel from a California Motorcycle Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, it is critical to partner with an experienced legal team focused on traffic law to have the best chance of recovering compensation when possible, or avoiding liability.
The team at Lehr Law are California motorcycle accident lawyers with years of experience navigating the complex legal landscape of motorcycle collisions and distracted driving. Contact Lehr Law to schedule a consultation.