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Motorcycle Accident Attorneys O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley represent motorcyclists who have suffered serious injuries as a result of other's negligence on California’s roads and highways.

Motorcycles can be a useful and enjoyable means of transportation but, they can also be incredibly dangerous. The facts discussed in this article are based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is part of the Unites States Department of Transportation.

Recent History

In 2015 the number of motorcyclists killed in crashes in the U.S. totaled 4,693. This number had been on the decline since the early ‘80s, but started increasing again in 1998 and this increase lasted through 2008. Of all the fatalities that occurred in motor vehicle accidents, 13% were among motorcyclists. This figure was more than twice the number that occurred in 1997.

Among those motorcyclists killed in 2015, figures show that 27% were operating their motorcycle without a valid license. This surpassed the percentage of unlicensed drivers of passenger vehicles who were killed in traffic accidents in 2015, which was 15%.

Of the motorcyclists killed in 2015, 41% were involved in single-vehicle collisions, while 59% of these fatalities resulted from multiple-vehicle collisions. These percentages have remained pretty much the same since the ‘80s.

Walnut Creek Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Walnut Creek Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Age & Gender

Beginning in the early ‘80s the percentage of motorcyclists killed who were 50 years of age and older, started to rise, going from 3% of all rider fatalities in 1982 to 13% in 1997, and increasing to 35% in 2015. Whereas, 30% of the motorcyclists killed in 2015 had not yet reached their 30th birthday, compared to 80% in 1975.

Of all the motorcyclists who were killed in 2015, a whopping 91% were males.

Of the female motorcyclists killed in 2015, 61% were passengers and these deaths accounted for 95% of the passengers killed that year. The overwhelming majority of male motorcyclists killed in 2015 were drivers.

Use of Helmets

Of the motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, 61% were wearing a helmet. For passengers killed while riding on motorcycles, 47% were wearing a helmet.

In states with laws in 2015 that mandated helmet use for all riders, 92% of those killed were wearing a helmet, whereas only 27% were wearing a helmet in states without laws requiring helmet use for all riders. In states with laws only requiring helmet use for some riders, 41% of motorcyclists killed were wearing a helmet.

Type of Motorcycle & Engine Size

The sizes of the engines on the motorcycles of drivers who were killed in collisions have substantially increased. In 2015, 31% of the motorcycle drivers who were killed were driving a motorcycle with an engine of more than 1,400 cc in size. In 2000, the comparable figure was just 9% and in 1990, less than 1%.

Among the motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, a whopping 88% were driving touring bikes that had engines of more than 1,400 cc in size, whereas just about all supersport bikes were equipped with engines that were 1,000 cc in size or smaller.

Among the motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, 85% of those riding a standard or cruiser motorcycle were 30 or more in age, as were 96% of those driving touring bikes. Whereas, 57% of those killed driving off-road bikes and 61% of those killed driving super sport bikes in 2015 had not yet reached their 30th birthday.

Among those killed in 2015 driving supersport motorcycles, helmet use was 77%, which was the highest. Approximately 50% of drivers killed on touring motorcycles, standard motorcycles or cruisers were wearing helmets

When & Where They Were Killed

In 2015 the majority of motorcyclist deaths (60%) happened during the months of May through September.

Fatalities were at their highest in July and at their very lowest in February.

In 2015 nearly half (49%) of deaths on motorcycles happened on weekends, and they were more apt to occur in the evening hours after 6:00 PM, compared to during the week.

In 2015 nearly half (48%) of deaths on motorcycles happened on major roads, but not freeways and interstate highways. There were more deaths (49%) that occurred in urban areas than happened in rural areas (41%).

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Elevated Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Among those killed driving a motorcycle in 2015, 28% were found to have a BAC at or over 0.08%. This figure rose to 42% among those in single-vehicle collisions.

Among motorcycle drivers in 2015 who lost their life at night from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM, 49% were found to have had BACs of 0.08% or higher.

All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

ATV riders are being killed on public roads at a rate nine times more than in 1982, which was when they were first identified in FARS. The percentage of ATV riders 40 years of age and older who were killed rose from 9% in 1982 to as much as 43% in 2015. The percentage of ATV riders killed who were younger than 20 went from 54% in 1982 down to 19% by 2015.

In 2015, 80% of those killed riding ATVs were wearing helmets.

Among those killed riding ATVs in 2015, 75% lost their lives in crashes where no other vehicle was involved, whereas 48% of occupants killed in passenger vehicles were in crashes that involved no other vehicle(s).

In 2015, of the ATV riders who died in single-vehicle crashes, in 62% of these accidents, the ATV rolled over in the crash. This percentage was similar to fatal accidents involving large trucks and SUVs, but higher than for deaths in similar accidents involving cars, which was 44%.

The deaths of ATV riders on public roadways during 2015 peaked in July, with 56% of the deaths occurring during the months of May-September that year.

Of the ATV riders who lost their lives on public roadways in 2015, 73% were driving on rural roads and 63% of those fatal accidents occurred on minor roads.
In 2015, half of those killed driving ATVs on public roadways were found to have BACs at or over the legal limit of 0.08%. ATV drivers who were 40-49 years of age when they were killed made up 63% of that group. 

Motorcycle accident cases are extremely complex, which means you need a highly experienced lawyer with in-depth knowledge in this specific area of the law to handle your case. If a loved one had been killed on a motorcycle due to another's negligence, please contact us. The attorneys at O'Connor, Runckel & O’Malley have a proven track record of prevailing in such cases, both in court and in negotiating maximum settlements. With more than 50 years of trial experience, we are more than willing to take anyone to trial to fight for our client if they have been wrongfully injured or killed.

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

SAN PABLO, CA – A motorcyclist was killed Monday morning in a hit-and-run crash involving a big-rig travelling westbound on Interstate 80 in San Pablo. This was tragically the second fatal collision on the very same stretch of highway that day. The Contra Costa County Coroner was able to identify the victim.

Nicholas Brown, 35, from Fairfield, died in the collision, which was called in at 6:22 a.m. The accident happened on westbound Interstate 80 near El Portal Drive.

Motorcycle Accident
Motorcycle Accident

CHP Officer Matt Hamer said the big-rig truck, which was described as being yellow with a white trailer in back, hit Brown while making an unsafe lane change. Brown then struck another car, and this caused him to be ejected off his motorcycle, throwing him onto the highway. Brown was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Witnesses observed the big-rig driver pulling over and remaining for about five minutes before driving off, Hamer said.

A big-rig matching the description was later pulled over by officers, but that truck is not thought to be the big-rig involved in the crash. Hamer said that the search is still on for the suspected vehicle.

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According to CHP officers, all lanes of the highway were reopened by 7:55 a.m.

Earlier that morning, in a separate crash on the same stretch of Interstate 80, Lindche Tran, 25 from Richmond was killed.

At approximately 4:05 a.m., Tran was driving along in a Honda Accord when suddenly it spun out of control, hitting the center median. The vehicle came to a stop facing the opposite direction and with lights out, Hamer said.

As Tran exited her car, a Dodge Charger was approaching and the driver could not avoid crashing into the Honda and Tran. She was pronounced deceased at the scene, said Hamer.

There were two occupants in the Dodge and both were transported to a local hospital suffering from minor injuries, Hamer said.

The highway remained shut down until about 6:10 a.m., which was less than 15 minutes prior to the collision that took Brown’s life.

Anyone who has information on either traffic accident is encouraged to phone the Oakland CHP Office at (510) 450-3821.

If you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another, you may be eligible to seek compensation. That compensation will include present and future wages, medical expenses, and funeral costs, but it will also include loss of love, guidance and companionship, moral support, and financial support. Protect your rights, contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP.

(Source: KGO)

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

Lane splitting while riding a motorcycle is legal in California as long as it’s done safely. Lane splitting is also known as lane sharing, white-lining or filtering and refers to the practice of a motorcyclist weaving between the lanes of slower moving or stopped traffic or riding between lanes to get to the front of the traffic stopped at a light.

Experienced motorcyclists who want to practice lane splitting should abide by the following safety guidelines:

1. Never travel at more than 10 mph faster than the speed of the other traffic on the road. The faster you go, the more dangerous it is.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting
Photo Credit Eric Schmuttenmaer 

  • If you’re a competent motorcyclist travelling at no more than 10 mph faster than other vehicles on the road, you will have enough time to spot and safely react to the most dangerous driving situations you’re likely to face.
  • The faster you’re going over other traffic, the less time you have to spot and react to danger.

2. When the traffic is going 30 mph or faster, it really is not safe to lane split. As speed increases, so does the danger.

  • When going only 20 mph, in the 1 to 2 seconds it would take you to spot a hazard, you will travel another 30 to 60 ft. before being able to start any evasive maneuvers. To actually break or swerve will take more time and distance.
  • The distance it takes to put on the breaks and stop varies quite and depends on a number of factors including, the rider, the type of motorcycle and the environment. 
  • The faster you’re going, the more severe the crash is.

3. It is usually safer to confine your lane splitting to just the #1 and #2 lanes and avoid doing it between the other lanes of traffic.

  • Others using the road are more used to motorcyclists splitting between the lanes the furthest lanes to the left, which are the #1 and #2 lanes.
  • To be safe you should avoid splitting between lanes near freeway exits and on-ramps. 
  • When you notice another motorcyclist splitting lanes near you, avoid splitting because cars may allow more room for them and in doing so, accidently not leave enough room for you to split between lanes.

4. Before splitting, take in your entire environment, the width of each lane, what size the vehicles are surrounding you, the conditions on the road, the weather and if lighting is likely. 

  • Many roads have lanes that are so narrow that there just isn’t enough room to safely split between lanes. If your motorcycle won’t easily fit through, don’t split.
  • Vehicles on the road these days seem to be getting wider. It is not safe to split near large trucks. If you can’t easily fit by, then avoid splitting.  
  • Know your motorcycle’s limitations. If it has wide bars it would require more space, as would fairing and bags. If your motorcycle is just too wide to easily split, then don’t try it.
  • If you’re on an unfamiliar road, it’s best to avoid splitting since you might run into unsafe road surfaces or other unexpected surprises.
  • Wide or uneven seams in the concrete or pavement between lanes pose a hazard.
  • Impaired visibility, due to the weather or from darkness, makes it harder for riders to spot hazards in the road and for drivers to see motorcyclists.
  • Drivers can see you better if you wear brightly colored clothing and protective gear. If you use your high beams in daylight it makes it easier for drivers to spot you.
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5. Stay alert and expect the unexpected. Anticipate that other road users will change lanes and/or make other quick movements.

  • Be aware of what all the cars are doing around you. If a gap or space opens up in the lane next to you, be ready to react accordingly.
  • Be ready to take evasive action when a car changes lanes.
  • Make up for distracted or inattentive drivers by being overly vigilant.
  • Do not weave in and out of lanes or ride directly on top of a lane line.
  • Avoid lingering in someone’s blind spot.
  • Never ride your motorcycle while impaired, whether by fatigue, drugs or alcohol.
  • Continually scan your environment for possible changes.

The 4 Rs or Rules of Lane Splitting:

Be Reasonable, Responsible, Respectful and aware of the Roadway and traffic conditions.  

  1. Be Reasonable – Never ride more than 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic and never more than 39 mph.
  2. Be Responsible – You are the one responsible for your safety and the decisions you make. Do not put yourself in harms way by avoiding dangerous situations. If you can’t fit between the lanes, don’t split.
  3. Be Respectful – Understand that you must share the road too, that this goes both ways. Loud pipes will not necessarily keep you safe and often startle others. Loud pipes can cause drivers to have a negative view of motorcyclists. Other vehicles on the road have no requirement to make space for a motorcyclist trying to lane split.
  4. Roadways can be hazardous – Traffic on the road is always unpredictable. The pavement can be uneven, drivers get distracted, there are wide trucks to deal with, the weather can change in an instant, the road can dip and curve in unexpected ways, etc. Be careful on the roadway.

When NOT to Lane Split

  • If you won’t fit
  • When lining up at a toll booth
  • When traffic is unpredictable or moving too quickly
  • If the road conditions are dangerous: road under construction, grit or water making the road slippery, metal grates, uneven pavement, etc.
  • If an SUV or van is blocking your view or you otherwise can’t see where you’re going clearly
  • Between wide vehicles like buses, trucks and RVs
  • When going through or around curves
  • When tired or not totally sure of your surroundings
  • If you’re not able to instantly react under changing conditions
  • When you aren’t feeling comfortable about the situation

Safety Tips for Those Driving Other Vehicles

  • Motorcyclists are legally allowed to lane split in California if done prudently and safely.
  • It is not right for a motorist to discourage or prevent a motorcyclist from lane splitting. For a motorist to intentionally impede or block a motorcyclist in a manner that could be harmful to the rider is against the law (CVC 22400).
  • Opening your car door to block a motorcycle is against the law (CVC 22517).
  • Do not get behind the wheel when distracted.
  • Check your mirrors and blind spots before turning or changing lanes
  • Use your turn signal before merging into traffic or changing lanes
  • Allow yourself more following distance, perhaps 3 to 4 seconds, when driving behind a motorcycle so it has ample time to maneuver or even stop if necessary.


  1. These guidelines are designed to keep you safer, but there is no guarantee that they will keep you totally safe because riding a motorcycle can be dangerous in the best of circumstances.
    Inexperienced riders should never lane split. These guidelines are meant for people with a great deal of riding experience and who are very competent riders.
  2. The recommendations provided in these general guidelines do not cover all possible scenarios on the road, as there are too many combinations of variables and situations to imagine.
  3. Every rider is personally responsible for their own decisions with regard to their safety. Riders should at all times, consciously try to reduce their risk of crashing. California law requires that all motorcyclists and their passengers wear a DOT FMVSS 218 compliant helmet.  
  4. Motorcycle riders who lane split are responsible for obeying all traffic laws; otherwise they risk getting a ticket. Regarding any law enforcement action, it is up to the Law Enforcement Officer to decide whether lane splitting is or was being done safely and prudently.

To a motorcycle accident attorney the injuries that can result from motorcycle accidents are routinely catastrophic; including, brain and spinal cord injuries; fractures; abrasions; internal and soft tissue injuries; and severe burn injuries.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident and would like to speak with an attorney, please contact us.


Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) older motorcycle riders are involved in over half of motorcyclist fatalities in this country. In 2013, 55% of the motorcyclists who were killed in accidents were 40 years of age or older, compared with 46% in 2004, which means there was a 39% increase from 2004 to 2013. However, fatalities involving motorcyclists in all age groups rose just 16%. Data from NHTSA shows that the average age of motorcyclists killed in accidents in 2013 was 42, whereas the average age in 2004 was 38.

It appears that older riders become more seriously injured than their younger counterparts. Brown University researchers claimed declines in reaction time and vision, along with older riders favoring larger bikes, which are more prone to rolling over, and the enhanced fragility of people as they get older as causes. 

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