Left Turn Motorcycle Accident

January 2, 2024
By Michael Padway

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Among all types of motorcycle accidents, collisions with a vehicle turning left are the most common. In fact, of the nearly 2,600 fatal motorcycle collisions recorded by the NHTSA in 2017, 1,098 were with a vehicle turning left while the motorcycle was going straight, passing or overtaking. That represents 42% of all fatal motorcycle crashes.

Likewise, data from the Department of Transportation shows that 53% of crashing path collisions occur during a left turn, while only 6% are caused by right turns, nearly a 10-fold difference.

What is a left turn accident?

A left turn motorcycle accident occurs when oncoming or passing motorcycles are struck by a vehicle turning left. There are three possible scenarios:

  • The most common case is a turning vehicle that hits a motorcycle going straight through an intersection.
  • The turning vehicle strikes a motorcycle waiting at the adjacent corner.
  • A driver disregards the stop sign at an intersection while turning, and collides with a crossing motorcycle.

Primary causes of left turn accidents for motorcycles

Simple negligence – In a lot of cases, the turning driver fails to adequately check the intersection or corner before making the turn.

Visibility – The driver doesn’t see the oncoming or crossing motorcycle until it’s too late. This can be caused by road obstructions, blind spots, or environmental conditions.

Distraction – The driver may be distracted or multitasking during the turn, and fails to account for the motorcycle’s presence.

Speeding – The vehicle plows through a stoplight or stop sign.

Impaired driving – Research shows that drunk or impaired drivers have lower vigilance, often forgetting to signal before turning, and are less aware of their surroundings, such as an oncoming motorcycle.

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Liability during a Left Turn Accident

  • Stoplight intersections – The vehicle with the green light has the right of way.
  • Uncontrolled 4-way intersections – The vehicle going straight has the right of way.
  • Three-way or T intersections – The turning vehicle must yield to traffic going straight.

Possible Exceptions to Liability

Since turning vehicles must yield, in most cases the driver of the turning vehicle is at fault in case of an accident. However, there are scenarios where the motorcycle rider may share in the fault. These include:

  • Running a red light.
  • Going too fast while crossing, or not following the speed limit for the intersection.
  • The motorcycle rider is impaired.
  • The turning vehicle was more than halfway through the turn when it was struck by the motorcycle.
  • The other vehicle stalled or broke down while turning and was stuck in the intersection, before being hit by a surprised motorcyclist.

In such cases, the turning driver’s liability may be mitigated when proven by camera footage, eyewitness testimony, or the traffic cop report.

How to Avoid Getting into a Left Turn Accident

Left turn accidents are almost always the fault of the turning driver. To lower the chances of being hit by a turning vehicle, it’s a good idea to:

  1. Increase your visibility
    • Wear high-visibility or bright clothing
    • Make sure your riding gear has a reflective design
    • Avoid wearing dark or “stealth” gear during low-daylight hours or low visibility conditions.
  2. Approach intersections with caution
    • Slow down even if the path looks clear of traffic or pedestrians
    • Look both ways even if you have the right of way
  3. Be proactive, not reactive
    • The best way to avoid left turn accidents is to anticipate the driver’s move.
    • Look for telltale signs beyond the turn signal. This can be a driver slowing down to take a corner, the direction of the wheels, or the driver turning his head.
    • Don’t stop too close to the intersection. Allow plenty of space for turning vehicles, especially articulated ones like semis or fifth-wheelers.
  4. Have a contingency plan
    • Know your bike’s stopping distance in case of sudden turners.
    • Before entering an intersection, plot a safe trajectory to swerve into in case you can’t brake in time.
  5. Consult legal help
    • In case of an accident, consult a lawyer that specializes in motorcycle accident cases. They can help you through the legal process and claim just compensation.
    • In case of partial or shared fault, a motorcycle accident lawyer can also help you mitigate liability and claim insurance.

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Michael Padway

Michael Padway uses his expertise in personal injury and motorcycle accidents to represent a broad spectrum of clients dealing with life-changing and permanent injuries for the first time. His offices are located at 235 Montgomery St., Ste 668, San Francisco, CA 94104 and at 3140 Chapman St. Oakland, CA 94601. For more information, please call (800) 928-1511.

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