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Road Hazards For Motorcycle Riders

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December 13, 2017
Edward Smith

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Road Hazards For Motorcycle Riders

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Motorcycle Accident Attorney. One of the common causes of motorcycle accidents is road hazards. Small objects, uneven road surfaces, debris, or wet pavement are seemingly minor hurdles on the road for most drivers. While these will often pose little risk for cars, they can and often do result in motorcycle crashes. Motorcycle riders should know what constitutes a road hazard, stay alert for them, and take precautions to avoid them. Here are some typical road hazards for motorcycle riders to watch out for:

Bumpy and Rough Roads

Roads can sometimes be rough or bumpy due to ongoing construction work or resurfacing projects, or may simply be in a state of disrepair. Motorcycle accidents are more likely on such roads. Be sure to slow to a reasonable speed appropriate to any given road condition.

Gravel on the Pavement

One of the trickiest road hazards for a motorcycle rider to navigate is gravel on the pavement. It can be particularly risky if encountered while cornering. Gravel on pavement is usually more commonly seen on winding roads, which require more cornering and which are also more popular with motorcyclists. Accidents caused due to gravel on pavement occur more commonly among motorcycle riders who are either going too fast or do not have the necessary skills to ride in such conditions. Gravel and similar debris on the pavement can cause motorcycles to loose traction- often terminally when encountered during turns.

Edge Break

If two traffic lanes are at varying heights, it is called an edge break. While it is not much of a concern for car drivers, it can be dicey for unsuspecting motorcyclists, particularly when riding at high speeds on the freeway or at night when the subtle gradient is difficult to spot. Always ride at a safe speed for traffic conditions.

Expansion Joints

An expansion joint connects a section of a road with a bridge or two road sections together. These joints are designed to enable the road to contract or expand without cracking. However, their uneven surface may cause a motorcyclist to crash. The surface may also become slick during wet weather conditions.

Open Bridge Joints

An open bridge joint is meant to hold two bridge sections together. Some open bridge joints can be extra wide, which can make it hard for a motorcycle rider to navigate. Mind the gap! This type of obstacle can present issues as riders can both be thrown from the saddle at the impact of the farther edge, and also loose stability as their tires travel over the gap’s span.

Stray Animals

If a motorcycle rider hits a small animal on the road, it can throw them off balance or off the path. The challenge is that it can be hard to anticipate an animal suddenly running into the road. If the motorcyclist swerves to avoid it, it may also cause an accident. Bigger animals, such as deer or livestock, may be a serious road hazard for motorcycle riders in places with a large deer population or agricultural industry.

Slick and Slippery Surfaces

The list of surfaces and objects that are, or may become slippery is quite long. Slick and slippery surfaces are far more risky for motorcyclists than for other vehicle drivers. The two-wheeled bike is essentially unstable by nature and its relatively lighter and smaller size can mean that if it slides on the road, it may lead to a crash. When the motorcycle rider is turning, it makes a slick surface even more dangerous.

The following road surfaces and debris can be highly slippery, particularly when wet:

  • Spilled oil or anti-freeze liquid
  • Manhole covers
  • Leaves
  • Trolley tracks
  • Crosswalk lines and other painted surfaces

A motorcycle rider should also be wary of rain following a dry spell. The first rain or drizzle on a dry road can be difficult to drive on for any vehicle. The oil and mud on the road mix with water to create a slippery layer. The first 30 minutes of a rainstorm might be the most risky time to drive or ride a motorcycle on the road.

Water Puddles

When riding through a water puddle, some motorcycle tires may create hydroplaning effect, putting the rider at a risk of a crash. The presence of water limits the tire’s contact with the road surface, compromising the vehicles traction and stability. In the event that you find yourself approaching a large puddle, it is important to remember that often times a riders momentum will most effectively carry them through the hazard. Aggressive riding and abrupt actions rarely pay off in these situations as limited traction will greatly reduce the bike’s responsiveness.

Ice and Snow

Ice and snow on the road are typically more dangerous for motorcycle riders than for other vehicle drivers. It is generally inadvisable to ride in conditions where ice is on the roadway, but slow riding using the clutch to control speed -in addition to extending ones legs for supplemental balancing- can help riders stay upright.

Railway Crossings and Tracks

If the motorcycle tire gets caught in the railway tracks, it may cause a crash. The railway crossing sites can sometimes have wood or metal between the tracks. During wet conditions, tracks can aslo become very slick. Avoid turning and cross railway tracks in a straight line at a perpendicular (90 degree) angle if possible.

Objects or Debris

Objects or debris on the road, such as items dropped from trucks (boxes, tools, furniture), parts of tire tread, rocks, and branches can be more hazardous for motorcycles than cars. These can not only lead to a motorcycle crash, but also the object itself may hit and seriously injure a rider – certainly if they are going fast.

Protective gear can go a long way to help prevent injuries in the event of an accident. California also mandates that all riders and passengers of motorcycles wear a helmet during operation. Be sure to dress appropriately for the type of riding you plan to do.

More Information from Sacramento Motorcycle Accident Attorney, Ed Smith:

Sacramento Motorcycle Accident Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Sacramento. Motorcycle crashes have some of the most devastating consequences seen in motor vehicle accidents. If you or your family needs the assistance of an experienced lawyer with a personal injury or wrongful death claim, I can help.  Please do not hesitate to contact me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly, and compassionate advice. Alternatively, you can also reach me through my website,

I have been practicing law in California since 1982, helping many injured people and their families with their recovery efforts. Feel free to take a look at their reviews posted to: Yelp, Avvo, and Google.

The Million Dollar Advocates Forum recognizes trial attorneys who have won million-dollar awards for their clients. You can browse a selection of case summaries on my Verdicts and Settlements page.

Photo Attribution: Wikimedia Commons, Debris and Water on Road by Jocelyn Augustino. Public Domain

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