The Left Turn: One Common Cause of Motorcycle Accidents


Picture of mangled motorcycle

One of the most common types of motorcycle accident is the left turn accident. This type of accident occurs when a vehicle is attempting to make a left turn, crosses the opposite lane and into the path of the motorcyclist, who then slams into the car.

This type of accident occurred recently in Santa Maria, when a motorcyclist slammed into the side of a SUV as it turned left into a shopping center. The motorcyclist sustained serious injuries after flying and landing several yards away from the site of the accident.

You would think that a motorcyclist would be noticeable to the person driving the car, but there are any number of reasons these accidents occur. Distraction, misjudging the motorcycle’s speed and flat out not seeing the motorcycle are some common ones.

Almost 40 percent of motorcycle accidents occur this way.

In California, we use a pure comparative negligence rule to determine fault in left turn accidents. This means that a defendant is only liable for his or her percentage of fault. Generally speaking, the driver that makes the left turn will be either completely at fault or mostly at fault, because drivers are supposed to make sure the path is clear before making a left turn.

However, not all left-turn accidents are purely the fault of the person turning left. If a motorcyclist runs a red light, for example, or is speeding through an intersection, under pure comparative negligence that motorcyclist may be partly liable for the accident.

How to Prevent Injury and Left-Turn Motorcycle Accidents

When coming up to a place where someone may make a left turn:

  1. Follow the speed limit
  2. Scan ahead to see if there are any places a car might turn into
  3. Observe any cars that look like they are going to turn. Do they see you? Pay attention to the front tires.
  4. Predict whether the car will go for it
  5. Prepare to brake or swerve if they do turn
  6. Use your horn if necessary

If you do end up suffering injuries, even if you don’t directly impact the other vehicle, you should seek immediate medical attention as well as document the accident site as thoroughly as possible.

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