How to Prevent Motorcycle Accidents

If you live in a metropolitan area with congested rush hour traffic, you may have on occasion observed a lone motorcyclist patiently weaving in and out of lanes choked with slow-moving vehicles.  He is assured to arrive at his destination in much less time than you – sitting in your metal behemoth. You may have reflected upon how dangerous this lane-splitting practice is for the motorcyclist saying to yourself, “That person is going to end up in an accident someday.” And sadly you easily could be right.

In 2017, 5,172 motorcyclists died in crashes according to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). The motorcyclist is 27 times more likely than a passenger car occupant to die in a crash. “Crashes involving motorcycles and other vehicles account for 56% of motorcycle accident deaths. In the vast majority of these accidents, the car strikes the motorcycle from the front – 78% of the time,” according to Nolo, one of the internet’s leading legal websites. Often, he or she is catapulted into the air and flung a far distance. It goes without saying the motorcyclist is much more vulnerable. For this reason, a jury may rule in favor of the motorcyclist even if he/she did not have the right of way.

42% of motorcycle accidents occur when a vehicle is turning left in front of the motorcycle and the driver of the car does not register your presence, the motorcyclist, either due to the driver being high, drunk, distracted, or just plain careless. The brain does not process smaller vehicles and pedestrians, and therefore the driver may not even “see you. ” The motorcycle proceeds straight through the intersection, and wham! FYI – use of a hand- held mobile phone while driving is also a major factor in vehicle accidents these days, and contributes to the cause of the accident in 25% of cases.

Having said all that, motorcycle driving is generally safe if you follow all rules, educate yourself and become informed with knowledge and facts.

To prevent all of the following kinds of accidents, one rule obviously applies – DRIVE DEFENSIVELY!

  • Car doors opening in front of you.
  • Unsafe lane changes.
  • Speeding (insane behavior, especially on a motorcycle).
  • Lane splitting (sharing a lane with a vehicle, or driving along the white line demarcation)
  • Sudden stops.
  • Sudden left turns.
  • Dangerous road conditions.

Following the “four R’s” will go a long way in ensuring you stay safe as a motorcycle driver:

  • Read the road ahead – Increase your awareness of your surroundings, scanning continuously
  • Drive to the Right – On a two-lane road ride a little to the right of the center of your lane
  • Reduce your speed – Slow down when you perceive danger
  • Ride off the road – When confronting an approaching vehicle or a problem, smoothly steer out of the path of potential impact, even if you might drive off the road.

Wearing a DOT- (Department of Transportation) certified helmet will protect your head and brain in case of an accident. A DOT-approved, legal helmet will have a painted symbol on the rear of the helmet.

And whatever you do, never, never drink alcohol or ingest any other mind altering substances before you hit the road.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers a highly-recommended set of motorcycle safety courses for riders of all levels.

Above all, enjoy the road!

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, our experienced attorneys at PSKB can help. Call 505-982-5380 today for a free consultation.

New Mexico Must Prepare as Future of Autonomous Vehicles Coming Soon

Semi-autonomous vehicles are already operating on New Mexico roads! This article by Matthew Reichbach, published in the NM Political Report goes into New Mexico’s preparations for the Inevitable driverless takeover.   Senator James White, Republican, of the New Mexico State legislature will be introducing legislation that will bring New Mexico up-to-date in the self-driving space.  California has already passed a law that goes in effect April of this year that allows remote, driverless vehicles on the road, for now with a remote operator “behind the wheel.”

Autonomous vehicles are coming. Soon — and New Mexico needs to be ready.

That was the message from a recent summit on autonomous, or driverless, vehicles organized by the state Department of Transportation. Local officials, technology experts and even industry representatives all agreed legislators need to understand the technology before changing laws or other policies.

Earlier this year, Sen. James White, R-Albuquerque, introduced a memorial asking NMDOT to organize the summit and get New Mexico ready for autonomous vehicles.

While some predict widespread use of fully autonomous vehicles is decades away, White said it could be closer to 5-to-10 years away. And in fact, some semi-autonomous vehicles are already on the road today.

“The industry is fast defining what we do here in this realm,” Charles Remke, director of New Mexico Department of Transportation ITS, told attendees.

Tyler Svitak, the Connected and Autonomous Technology Program Manager at the Colorado Department of Transportation, said states need to define what they want and need from autonomous vehicles — before the fast-growing industry does it for them. Industry is open to partnerships with states, he said, but states must first establish goals and lay out a strategy.

MORE: New Mexico lawmakers discuss self-driving cars

While commercially available vehicles that can safely drive without any human interaction are years away, semi-autonomous vehicles are already on the roads, including on New Mexico’s highways. Automated semi trucks cruise across Interstate 10 in southern New Mexico on regular trips between Los Angeles and El Paso.

Jonny Morris is the Head of Public Policy at Embark, the company which operates those trucks to deliver air conditioning equipment.

“The industry is fast defining what we do here in this realm.”

Charles Remke, director of New Mexico Department of Transportation ITS

He explained that the company uses the automated systems from “exit to exit” on highways, though human drivers still navigate surface streets in cities. Even when automated, those trucks still have CDL-licensed drivers who are required to have their hands on the wheel at all times and to take over if there is a problem.

The SAE, an organization of scientists and engineers in the automotive industry, has five levels of automation with cars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which adopted the standards, Level 1 includes vehicles with automatic braking and cruise control. Level 2, or partial automation, cars assist with steering or acceleration, but the driver must stay engaged.

RELATED: Staying ahead of the robot apocalypse

The next big leap is to Level 3, conditional automation, where a driver is needed and expected to jump in and take over. This includes currently available products like “autopilot” modes in cars like Teslas. At Level 4, the vehicle can drive itself under certain conditions, with no input from the driver. The driver would have the option to take over and control the vehicle themselves. At Level 5, the vehicle can drive itself under all conditions — and might not even have the option for the human to take over.

Levels 4 and 5 are what most people think of when picturing fully automated, driverless cars.

It isn’t necessarily personal vehicles where automation will occur first on the roads.

Cruising I-10 already

Like Embark, other trucking companies and manufacturers are already exploring automated vehicles. Budweiser used “Otto,” a self-driving truck, to deliver beer in a highly promoted public relations act.

But in New Mexico, it’s the I-10 corridor that could see big advances in automated trucks. And already, something called “platooning” is being used to make hauling cargo by truck more efficient.

Steve Boyd, the founder and vice president of external affairs for Peloton Technology, talked about the technology that would allow semi trucks to communicate with each other and “draft.” While drafting, trucks sync with those in front of them, allowing them to match the acceleration and braking of the lead truck. Drafting increases fuel mileage and may decrease accidents.

MORE: Many unprepared for the automated world to come

This can already take place on New Mexico’s highways without any needed upgrades to existing systems.

The infrastructure automated vehicles need is in line with what many human drivers want already.

“We need well-maintained roads, well-marked roads,” Embark’s Morris said.

Ed Bradley, a program manager with Toyota agreed and added that connectivity with systems put in place along roads would “help, but it’s not required.”

Colorado is already working on connectivity and has a $72 million connected vehicle network in the works, in partnership with Panasonic. The system will run from Golden to Vail on I-70, 90 miles of the most dangerous road in the country, and will eventually help automated vehicles more safely travel the area by interacting with the vehicles.

The most costly part of this is the new infrastructure — and its digital technology is “invisible” when compared to infrastructure like roads and bridges.

The deadly collision between an Uber autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian near Phoenix is bringing calls for tougher self-driving regulations (March 20) AP

Safety concerns

Shortly before last week’s meeting, an autonomous vehicle from Uber killed a pedestrian it failed to detect crossing the street. The incident hung over the meeting, and a representative from the company, scheduled to speak about Uber’s trucking efforts, canceled.

Still, experts anticipate that accidents will decrease when fully automated cars are on the roads.

“If we have autonomous vehicles programmed to follow the law, what the hell are we going to do?” State Police Chief Pete Kassetas joked.

He said that a reduction in accidents would reduce the work for state police.

Kassetas also said drug traffickers using autonomous cars might no longer be pulled over for traffic violations, such as speeding.

“But the tradeoff is good,” Kassetas said.

RELATED: Tesla working on Autopilot radar changes after crash

Not all accidents would be eliminated. Which brings up its own series of questions: Who would pay for a serious injury or death when an autonomous vehicle hits a pedestrian? And how would liability for crashes between two autonomous vehicles differ from current law?

Those are questions that Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Robert Peterson studies. And there are no real answers yet.

Right now, 94 percent of crashes are due to human error or judgement, he said. That would change with autonomous vehicles, as would the liability for manufacturers. Currently, accident claims go through auto insurance. In the future, they may go against the manufacturer — which has higher caps than auto insurance claims. And damages to equipment would also be more expensive, since expensive equipment would be placed behind the bumper, causing potentially thousands of dollars of damage in relatively minor accidents.

Despite the negative attention from the fatal Uber accident and the uncertainty facing the technology’s future, White doesn’t see any opposition to legislation that comes from the summit and other meetings before next year’s legislative session.

“This is kind of a bipartisan issue,” he said. “Usually the pushback comes from social issues and not technology stuff like this, improving safety. “

White expects to introduce legislation in next year’s legislative session to bring New Mexico into the autonomous vehicle future.

Matthew Reichbach writes for the The NM Political Report.