Houston has a less-than-stellar reputation among motorcyclists. Check out the Houston motorcycling threads on any internet message board and you’re almost guaranteed to encounter warnings about the hazards of riding here. Traffic on the I-10 can be terrible. The loop can be flat-out dangerous during rush hour. Debris litters highways and smaller arterial roads. Cell phones distract downtown drivers who pull out in front of you. The list goes on and on.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many bikers in Houston also have stories about wrecks that injured them or killed a fellow rider. Motorcycle accidents happen constantly in Houston, and they inflict serious physical, emotional, and economic pain on riders, their families, and their communities.
We would like to make Houston a safer place for motorcyclists, and safety starts with understanding the potential hazards of the roads around here. That’s the purpose of this blog post: to explore the causes of Houston-area motorcycle accidents in hopes of educating riders about why wrecks happen, where they happen most often in Houston, and what an experienced Houston motorcycle accident lawyer can do to help injured bikers—and the families of those who tragically died in a preventable crash—obtain the compensation they deserve.
The Data on Houston Motorcycle Crashes
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) maintains an online database, called the Crash Records Information System (CRIS), detailing motor vehicle (including motorcycle) accidents throughout the Lone Star State. We queried the database for records of motorcycle crashes in Houston and compared them to statewide statistical reports also available on the TxDOT website. Here are the numbers:
- In the most recent reporting year, 671 motorcycle crashes happened within the Houston city limits. That is roughly the same number as in every year over the past decade.
- Of those 671 crashes, 36 resulted in a fatality, 130 caused serious injuries, 185 involved minor injuries, and 215 were reported as involving “possible injury.” Just 91 Houston motorcycle crashes did not cause an injury (although 14 were reported as “unknown”).
- Put another way, 85% of Houston motorcycle wrecks in a recent year resulted in at least a “possible” injury, and just over half caused a known injury.
- In that year, motorcycles were involved in about 14% of all fatal traffic crashes and 11% of serious injury accidents in Houston, although motorcycles accounted for fewer than 2% of motor vehicles registered in the state.
- Statewide, 482 motorcycle riders and passengers died in accidents in Texas in that year. 49% of those who died were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash.
This data proves Houston motorcyclists face serious accident risks whenever they take to the road. The rate of fatalities and injuries in motorcycle accidents far exceeds the proportion of motorcycles to other vehicles on Houston highways and byways. By all indications, riding a motorcycle in Houston subjects riders to a risk of serious or fatal injury that is five-to-seven times higher than that faced by drivers and passengers in cars and trucks.
Houston Motorcycle Accident Hot Spots
By plotting CRIS data on a map of Houston, we can visualize where Houston motorcycle accidents happen. To start, they happen everywhere. You cannot ride a motorcycle anywhere in Houston without riding on or near a road where a rider has crashed and suffered injuries. With that being said, Houston also features some notable hot spots, where multiple motorcycle accidents happened in a single year.
These areas include:
- The vicinity of the I-45 and I-69 interchange, where no fewer than eight motorcycle accidents occurred in a single year, all involving at least possible injuries.
- I-610 (The Loop), where it crosses over Westheimer Road to the west of downtown. This was the site of five motorcycle accidents in one year.
- The vicinity of the I-69 and I-610 interchange, to the north of downtown, was the location of five motorcycle accidents, two of them fatal.
- The vicinity of the I-45 and I-610 interchange, also to the north, and also the location of five motorcycle accidents, with two fatalities.
- I-610 near North McCarty Street, the site of four motorcycle accidents.
- I-45 and the Hobby airport access road, where eleven motorcycle accidents happened that year, including one fatal crash.
- The intersection of Shepherd Drive and Memorial Drive near Buffalo Bayou, where three motorcycle crashes occurred.
It probably won’t surprise local motorcyclists to read that the most dangerous spots for motorcycle wrecks are on the highways that surround and cut through downtown Houston. Still, the frequency of accidents at highway interchanges, in particular, highlights the risks riders take whenever they merge into traffic on The Loop or any other multi-lane freeway in and around Houston.
Common Causes of Houston Motorcycle Crashes
Now that we have established the numbers and locations of motorcycle accidents in Houston, let’s examine the common causes of those accidents. CRIS data does not specifically identify a “cause” of each crash recorded in the database, but it does frequently cite at least one contributing factor for the crash. From those factors, we can infer some of the most common causes of accidents involving motorcycles in the Houston area.
Failure to yield
Motorcyclists know one significant danger they face on city and suburban streets is how drivers of cars and trucks sometimes turn or pull out right in front of them. In particular, a car turning left across a lane of oncoming traffic or entering a busy thoroughfare from a side street frequently causes a collision with an approaching motorcyclist.
Why does this happen? The relatively small visual profile of motorcycles and their riders—compared to other motor vehicles—plays a significant role. Drivers turning left, pulling out into traffic, or otherwise crossing the path of an approaching motorcyclist often fail to see the motorcycle until it’s too late. This can happen even when the driver of the car or truck looks in the direction of the motorcycle.
Scientists refer to the phenomenon of looking at an object like an oncoming motorcycle without “registering” it as inattentional blindness. This contributes to many motorcycle crashes.
Of course, just because a driver falls victim to a trick of the mind does not excuse the driver’s actions in causing a harmful motorcycle crash. Car and truck drivers who fail to yield to motorcyclists can still bear the blame for the injuries and losses they cause.
Blind spots and improper lane changes
Car and truck drivers also frequently cause motorcycle accidents in Houston by merging into a traffic lane that already contains a motorcycle. These accidents resemble failure-to-yield crashes, in that drivers often fail to see or recognize a nearby motorcycle. Drivers may forget to check their blind spots, or they may “see” a motorcycle in their rearview mirrors without actually registering that it is there and taking steps to avoid it. In either event, pulling into a lane already occupied by a motorcycle can result in a deadly crash in which the larger vehicle sideswipes the motorcycle, the motorcycle rear-ends the vehicle, or the motorcycle gets forced off the road.
Houston motorcyclists who post on internet forums frequently complain about driver distraction as a major hazard on area roads. Distracted driving consists of any behavior behind the wheel of a motor vehicle that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off the task of safe driving. In recent years, car and truck driver use of cell phones—and in particular texting-and-driving—has caused major trouble for Houston motorcycle riders and their passengers. Using a smartphone while operating a motor vehicle causes all three types of distraction (visual, manual, and cognitive) at once!
While drivers use devices behind the wheel, their vehicles frequently drift out of their lanes and into the path of other motorists, including motorcyclists. Using a device also increases the odds that a driver will not see or register a motorcyclist in an oncoming lane or a blind spot.
Speeding and other aggressive driving
Motorists have a troubling tendency to treat motorcycle riders and passengers as second-class citizens on area roads, even though motorcyclists have the same rights to use roads and occupy lanes as anyone else. Houston is no exception. Ask any motorcyclist about aggressive drivers, and they will inevitably have a tale to tell about a car or truck that tried to squeeze past them in a single lane, speed up to or tailgated them, or even used their vehicles to intimidate or force a rider off the road. Any of these dangerous, aggressive behaviors behind the wheel of a car or truck puts motorcyclists’ lives at risk. It is illegal and reckless, and it causes deadly motorcycle accidents. Respect everyone who shares the road; never let them be an afterthought!
Dangerous road conditions
CRIS reports also contain mention of Houston motorcycle accidents that occurred on roadways with uneven or unsafe surface conditions. Gravel, grooved payment, and debris in the roadway might not put cars and trucks at too much risk, but they can wreak havoc on a motorcyclist’s ability to maintain control. Every year, at least a handful of motorcycle accidents in Houston happen because the road surface has not been maintained in a safe condition, or (at a minimum) because municipal road crews failed to post warnings to riders about potentially hazardous surfaces.
How Lawyers Can Help Houston Motorcycle Accident Victims
A motorcycle crash in Houston can cause severe trauma that disrupts a rider’s life, and the lives of that rider’s family and community. Injured motorcyclists frequently find themselves in dire physical, emotional, and financial conditions after a crash. They need support to help them regain their health and get back in the saddle.
By surveying the CRIS data cited above, we can see that a significant number of motorcycle accidents in Houston happen because of the careless or dangerous actions of someone other than the motorcyclist. In those cases, Texas law generally permits the injured rider to take legal action demanding compensation for the injuries and losses the rider sustained in the wreck.
A motorcycle accident injury lawyer represents injured motorcyclists, and the families of riders who tragically died from their injuries, in those legal actions.
An attorney for motorcycle crash victims in Houston can help with tasks like these:
- Investigate the circumstances of the motorcycle accident to determine liability and figure out exactly how it happened.
- Identify the party or parties whose careless, reckless, or intentional actions contributed to the cause of the accident, and evaluate which of them has the financial resources available to pay compensation to the injured rider.
- Evaluate the scope of the injuries and losses the rider suffered in the wreck, including financial setbacks and expenses, as well as impacts on the rider’s quality of life and relationships.
- Explain the injured rider’s/grieving family’s options for taking legal action seeking damages for their losses, and answer their questions in plain, straightforward language.
- Prepare, file, and litigate insurance claims and lawsuits demanding fair compensation from the at-fault parties.
- Negotiate settlements of motorcycle accident injury claims with insurance companies and defense lawyers, if possible.
- Argue motorcycle accident injury claims in Houston area courts when necessary to achieve a favorable and fair financial outcome for an injured rider or family mourning the loss of a loved one.
- Collect and distribute the money owed for the damage done by a Houston motorcycle accident.
Every motorcycle crash case in Houston has its own unique facts, of course; but in general, by taking legal action, injured riders and their families can often recover compensation to pay for medical and other expenses, lost wages and income due to the crash, and the rider’s pain, suffering, and impaired quality of life.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a Houston area motorcycle accident, do not wait to seek assistance from a skilled, knowledgeable Houston motorcycle accident injury lawyer. You may have a limited amount of time to act before you could lose your legal rights. Don’t miss out on the money you deserve.
To learn more about the process of obtaining compensation after a Houston motorcycle crash, no matter what caused it, contact an experienced motorcycle accident injury lawyer today. We’re here to help you get through this stressful time.