Motorcycle accidents have become more and more common in Chicago as motorcycle riders compete with cars, trucks, SUVs and buses for a share of streets and highways. Although the motorcycle started out as a bicycle with an engine at the beginning of the 20th Century, the motorcycle of today is subject to the same laws as other types of motor vehicles. Accordingly, bikers must obey the same rules of the road and exercise the same degree of care when operating their motorcycles as expected of other drivers.
Motorcycle ridership has grown in recent years. The roads of Illinois, as with other parts of the country, have experienced an increase in motorcycle ridership. Riders often cite the freedom and exhilaration they experience when traveling the open roads free of confinement by the steel frames of cars and other vehicles. Another contributor to the rise in motorcycle popularity has been the high cost of gasoline. Many people have abandoned their cars and SUVs for fuel-efficient motorcycles during their daily commutes to work.
Illinois requires all motorists, including operators of motorcycles, to exercise reasonable care. Bikers must obey the law on topics such as speed and the safe operation of their vehicles. If a person suffers personal injuries or property damage in a motorcycle accident because another driver was operating his vehicle without exercising reasonable care, the victim may sue for damages based on the other driver’s negligence.
Illinois has a comparative negligence law that applies to all motorists, who include the operators of motorcycles. This law allows a judge or a jury to consider the negligence, if any, of an injured plaintiff who may have contributed to the accident. For example, a jury may decide that a motorcyclist contributed to the causes of an accident by his or her own speeding, if a car struck the motorcyclist at a left turn without yielding the right-of-way. If the jury decides the motorcyclist was 30 percent at fault, the court will reduce the amount of damages awarded to the motorcyclist by 30 percent.
Motorcyclists do not have the benefit of airbags or steel passenger compartments. Many bikers do wear helmets to protect themselves from serious injury or death, but unlike many other states, Illinois does not require helmets for motorcycle riders or passengers. A person can limit injuries to himself or his passenger by avoiding and preventing motorcycle accidents as much as possible. To increase his or her chances of avoiding or surviving a motorcycle accident, a motorcylist should:
- Be aware of his or her location in relation to other vehicles on the road.
- Be visible to other vehicles and avoid riding in another vehicle’s blind spots.
- Wear a properly fitted motorcycle helmet.
- Assume that other motorists cannot see the motorcycle ride.
- Obey all traffic laws, particularly those pertaining to speeding and to yielding the right of way.
- Take a motorcycle safety course to improve basic skills and emergency avoidance techniques.
Common sense and adherence to the rules of the road can help to ensure a safe and enjoyable motorcycling experience.