Motorcycle Loss Of Control Accidents

Loss Of Control Of Motorcycles

A leading cause of motorcycle accidents is “loss of control.”  As seen in the January 30, 2015 Bloomberg article titled “Motorcycle Control Loss Largest Crash Cause, Study Finds,” according to Progressive Insurance such motorcycle accidents are the most common type of crashes.  An excerpt from the article:

“Progressive saw the most motorcycle claims from single vehicle accidents -— far more than rear-end, intersection, and stolen bikes combined,” Scott Hall, motorcycle product manager at the insurer, said in the report. “Even when other vehicles aren’t around, you need to be extremely vigilant on the open road.”

As seen in various accidents summarized in this site, Illinois “loss of control” motorcycle accidents often cause serious injuries, as well as many fatalities.  Many of the fatal Illinois motorcycle accidents in the first half of 2015 have stated that the accident happened after the motorcyclist “lost control” of the bike.

Reasons For Loss Of Control Of The Motorcycle

Given the frequency of these accidents, as well as their severity, from a motorcycle riding safety perspective it is worthwhile to review various reasons for loss of control of a motorcycle.   While the reasons for such are numerous, some common reasons include:

Misapplication of the brakes

Motorcycle braking has to be done properly; if it is not, a variety of adverse outcomes can occur.  The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) document titled “Braking” discusses the hazards associated with “overbraking” and “underbraking.”  An excerpt:

Overbraking can either cause loss of steering control or total loss of control. If the rear wheel is locked, the rider typically loses directional control. If the front wheel locks, the rider is likely to crash due to loss of stability.

The document suggests ways to avoid such conditions, including training.

Hitting gravel

Running over gravel can cause instability and possibly loss of control.  Such is especially likely if the gravel is on a curve in the roadway.

Sometimes, such gravel is hit because the motorcyclist is riding too fast heading into a curve, and as such doesn’t have time to react and avoid hitting the gravel.

Other times, the gravel may otherwise be hard to see.

Usually, gravel is seen near the road’s shoulder, although this is not always the case.  As discussed on the “Early-Season Motorcycle Riding Safety Issues” page, often winter snowplowing can cause gravel to be spread over the roadway, and this can be a hazard, especially in early-season motorcycle riding in Illinois.  As well, unmelted road salt is another factor that presents similar hazards to that of gravel.

Excess Speed Going Into A Curve

Operating a motorcycle too fast for conditions is often problematical from a control standpoint, and such excess speed is especially perilous when going into a corner.  Motorcyclists should be mindful of their speeds, especially when going into a corner.  This is especially so when riding on unfamiliar routes, where curves may be much sharper than one might expect.

Road Hazards

Road hazards, if hit, can cause loss of control.  Such road hazards can be in numerous forms, and can present themselves suddenly.  Often, such road hazards can include large potholes or other types of substantial pavement abnormalities.  Another type of road hazard includes debris, which can be especially hazardous if substantial.  Often such debris may be from other vehicles, such as tires or tire treads.  Dropped cargo from trucks and cars can also be problematical.

Another road hazard that has caused numerous instances of Illinois motorcycle accidents is that of motorcyclists colliding with deer.  Deer can cross the roadway unexpectedly, and their movements can be highly difficult to anticipate.  While deer can present a hazard to safe biking at any time, as explained in the post titled “Elevated Risk Of Deer-Vehicle Collisions In Autumn” such deer encounters are especially likely in the fall.  (Tips for minimizing risk posed by deer are also discussed in that post)

Any such unexpected road hazard can cause the motorcyclist to lose control as he attempts to avoid such a hazard.

Getting “Cut Off” By Another Vehicle

In motorcycling, other vehicles may suddenly “cut you off,” especially if they are not aware of your presence.  Such can cause the motorcyclist to lose control, as the motorcyclist seeks to avoid a collision with the wayward vehicle.

Getting Hit By Another Vehicle

Another reason for loss of control of one’s bike is when another vehicle hits you.  This may range from a car hitting you from behind or from the side, or another motorcyclist hitting or “bumping” you.  In such circumstances, depending on various factors, you may lose control of the bike and be forced to deal with an impending crash.  While getting hit by another vehicle is often unavoidable, keeping a proper “space” between your motorcycle and other vehicles is one way in which to minimize such collisions.

Slippery Surfaces

Given that motorcycles (with the exception of trikes) have two wheels, they can be susceptible to instability, which may lead to a loss of control, if they hit “slippery” surfaces.   Such “slippery” surfaces can be especially hazardous if they are hit when a motorcyclist is attempting to turn or otherwise negotiate a curve.

Substances that may cause a slippery road surface are numerous, and can include:

  • Oil or other chemicals
  • Wet leaves
  • Wet manhole covers
  • Painted highway striping
  • Ice or frost

One aspect of the above substances that make them especially dangerous is that they may not be easily visible to the motorcyclist.

Mechanical failures

There are many types of mechanical failures that can occur on a motorcycle.  Perhaps the best way to minimize and/or eliminate the risks of such mechanical failures is to perform regular maintenance checks, and otherwise be aware of the normal service life of the various motorcycle components.   Motorcycle maintenance is further discussed on the “Illinois Motorcycle Maintenance” page.

Defective parts

Defective motorcycle parts and/or defective motorcycle components can lead to the motorcyclist losing control of the motorcycle.  Due to the nature of these defective parts, it may be very difficult to predict their failure.

The manufacturer of such defective parts and components may be liable for injuries and/or other damages that may arise from accidents caused by failing parts.

Riding After Drinking

Riding a motorcycle after drinking is a primary cause of serious motorcycle accidents, many of which are fatal.   The subject is further discussed on the “Illinois Motorcycle Riding After Drinking” page.  It would seem that a large percentage of these accidents involve a loss of control, due to various effects alcohol has on the ability to properly operate a motorcycle.

There are many statistics, both from Illinois (cited in the “Illinois Motorcycle Riding After Drinking” page mentioned above) as well as nationally, that suggest that a large percentage of fatal motorcycle accidents involve motorcyclists who ride while impaired by alcohol.

This “riding after drinking” is not new – nor are its tragic consequences.  The Hurt Report, published in 1981, found that almost half of fatal motorcycle accidents involved alcohol consumption before riding.

Excess Speed And Reckless Driving

Many motorcycle accidents are caused by loss of control due to excessive speed and reckless driving.  On modern-era motorcycles, it is easy to reach speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, and do so quickly.  As such, some are tempted to ride at high speeds.  However, doing so presents an elevated risk profile, as such speeds make quick speed reduction, accident avoidance, and other facets of motorcycle control much more challenging – if not impossible.

Reckless motorcycle riding has been cited in a number of fatal Illinois motorcycle accidents, many of which have been discussed on this site.

Riding Too Fast For Conditions

Riding too fast for conditions involves riding a motorcycle at a speed that is too high given prevailing roadway and/or weather conditions.  In doing so, the motorcyclist risks losing control.

There are various conditions that may dictate riding a motorcycle at a lesser speed, or not riding at all.  While there are many such conditions, one example would be riding during heavy rainfall, in which visibility can be highly impaired.  Other adverse consequences, such as hydroplaning, may also result.


The above discusses various reasons for a motorcyclist’s possible loss of control of the motorcycle.  Due to the dynamics of a motorcycle, such loss of control can lead to instability, which often leads to accidents, some of which are fatal.  Being aware of the above factors that may lead to loss of control is essential for safe motorcycle riding.

Should you be injured in an Illinois accident, there are a variety of steps you should take to both protect your health and your legal rights, including your rights to monetary recovery for your accident injuries.  From a legal perspective, it is highly recommended that you speak with an Illinois personal injury lawyer soon after an accident.  There are various steps you should take to protect your legal rights and to help maximize your potential to attain compensation for your accident injuries and other harm that may have resulted due to the accident.

If you were injured in an accident, call Tony Elman at (773) 392-8182 to discuss the accident and see what legal actions may be taken.  This legal consultation is provided free of charge and is confidential in nature.

Elman Joseph Law Group, LLC handles cases on a contingency basis…you will not be charged legal fees unless and until there is a monetary recovery.