The Left-Hand Turn: A Common Cause of Motorcycle Accidents

November 3, 2015


On January 21, 2014, a 28-year-old Colorado Springs motorcyclist died after being struck by a commercial van turning left from Nevada Avenue onto Winters Drive.


Unfortunately, the circumstances of this accident are quite common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, 36 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle turning left in front of a motorcycle. Left-hand turn collisions often occur when:

  • A motorcyclist is trying to go straight through an intersection

  • A motorcyclist is attempting to pass a car

  • A motorcyclist is attempting to overtake a car

Compared to four wheeled vehicles, motorcycles have a diminutive presence on the road. A bike's smaller size makes both it and the rider less visible on the road and, therefore, more vulnerable. This is not to say that motorcyclists are at fault when they get in a left-hand turn accident. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In most cases, the left-hand turning vehicle involved in a collision with a motorcycle is found at fault for the accident.


There are, however, some exceptions to this rule. If the motorcyclist was speeding or if they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then they might be considered to be at fault. Other exceptions include if the motorcyclist drove through a red light or if the car or truck was in the middle of completing a safe turn and, for some unexpected reason, had to reduce speed or stop moving.


How to Avoid Left-Hand Turn Accidents

Regrettably, beyond using good judgment and wearing proper protective equipment, there is not much that motorcyclists can do to avoid this type of accident. The onus to reduce the number of left-hand turn motorcycle injuries and fatalities falls more on automobile drivers than motorcyclists.

In order to avoid left-hand turn related accidents, car and truck drivers should follow some basic rules:

  1. Leave enough space: Many drivers assume that motorcycles, because they are smaller than cars, need less room on the road. But because motorcycles are smaller, they often need to change lane positions in order to avoid road debris and respond to wind and other vehicles.

  2. Always look twice: Make sure the lane you are turning into is clear; this means checking and double checking your blind spots.

  3. Avoid distractions: Raise your hand if you did one of the following things while driving to work today: text messaged; made or received a phone call; handled a child in the back seat.

These are all common distractions that most motorists encounter on a daily basis. Although we may take it for granted that everyone uses their phone while driving, it doesn't change the fact that using a phone takes a driver's manual, cognitive, and visual attention away from the road. The topic of distracted driving is something that we will return to in future blog posts. Until then, whether you are driving a bike, car, or truck, ride safely.

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