I love bikers but sometimes they talk a lot of BS. Many times they contact my law office with myths they have heard that they swear is gospel. In this article I will address some common myths. One of the answers I give is wrong. Try to guess which one. The answer is at the bottom of the page.
True or False
The state has never been successfully sued
If you hit a deer on your motorcycle you can bring a claim against the state for failure to manage its deer herd.
False. The state cannot be sued because you hit a deer. If your friend told you he did he was full of deer pellets. The state has never been successfully sued for this. The state has strict rules on whether or not they can be sued. I have successfully brought actions on behalf of bikers for improper roadways, improper signs, and negligent police vehicle operation. Rules for these claims are governed by strict time limitations. If you think you have a claim against any state, county, or local municipality, contact a lawyer right away or your claim may be time barred.
A police officer cannot make you remove your helmet to inspect it.
False. I know of no case law that allows you to disregard a police officers request to remove your helmet so that he may inspect it. I know somebody out there will say they heard that there shall be no unreasonable search based upon unreasonable suspicion. An argument can be made that a stop cannot be made upon a suspicion of a improper helmet because a helmet cannot give rise to reasonable suspicion to make the stop in the first place. That is not the argument I am addressing. I am simply stating that if the stop is legal the helmet can be inspected.
If you think you are going to have a motorcycle accident, lay the bike down.
False. A motorcycle will not stop any faster sliding along it’s side than it will with the brakes applied properly. I know of no studies that show it is safer to slide a bike when in an emergency stopping situation.
In an emergency stop never use the front brake.
False. The most effective braking is to apply both brakes together. According to some experts, 70% of the stopping power of a motorcycle is in the front brake. Since many beginners use the rear brake too much they sometimes find themselves in a fishtail. Remember if you do find yourself in a rear wheel skid situation, do your best to ride it out. Releasing the rear brake alone may put you into a “high side” incident with a complete loss of control where the bike flips sideways throwing the rider. If you are in an emergency situation and make a mistake in response to that emergency, under New York law you can still bring a claim if you were not the one that caused the emergency. Contact an experienced attorney after an accident to discuss your rights relative to the other vehicles on the road.
It is safer to ride on a highway than on local streets.
False. With greater speed comes greater risk. Cars often switch lanes and not seeing motorcycles, and causing high speed wrecks. Getting on and off of highways creates additional hazards for the rider, whether beginning or experienced.
An experienced rider can stop more quickly with conventional brakes than with anti-lock brakes.
False. Extensive testing with experienced riders has shown repeatedly that anti-lock brakes on wet as well as dry riding surfaces are more effective in stopping a motorcycle in a shorter distance.
If a car pulls over it is permissible under Vehicle and Traffic Law to go around it in the same lane.
False. While it seems reasonable, a lot of accidents happen this way. It is illegal in most states to share lanes. Unless a car pulls completely out of your lane you cannot pass it. Pulling over is often a prelude to a wide turn injuring the motorcycle rider in the process. Nonetheless my office has been successful in representing rider injured in this situation. You are still better off not having the accident than having to call me because you were injured on your motorcycle.
In states where helmet use is not legally mandatory, most riders will opt not to wear a helmet.
False. According to NHTSA data in 2009, in states without mandatory helmet laws, use of helmets complying with FMVSS 218 was 55%. Most riders wear helmets whether there is a mandatory helmet law or not.
Young riders account for the highest percentage of deaths on the road.
False. While this was once true recent statistics show the majority of motorcycling fatalities involve riders over the age of 40. Of course many of these accidents are avoidable and were the fault of automobile driver’s failing to obey traffic rules. If you suspect a loved one or a friend was killed because of circumstances not entirely their fault, you should contact an attorney familiar with motorcycle accidents immediately. Personally, I have lectured to attorney groups across the United States and even Canada on how to handle a motorcycle accident case. I have also been published in trial lawyers association journals on motorcycle accident litigation.
Rider education has never been tested to determine its effectiveness in crash prevention.
False. Although evidence of rider education on crash reduction is mixed, several studies have shown that trained riders tend to have fewer crashes, less severe crashes, and overall lower cost of damages resulting from crashes (Billheimer, 1998; McDavid, Lohrman and Lohrman, 1989; Mortimer, 1982) So have you guess which answer is wrong? Question Five above has the wrong answer. More accidents happen on local streets than on highways. The different access points, vehicles coming in different directions, left turning vehicles all create hazardous conditions for the rider. So if you relax when you get off the highway and slow down, maybe you should be more careful. You never know when somebody will do something stupid to put you at risk.
Mitch Proner is a recipient of the Silver Spoke Award from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists for his legal work. He rides a 1993 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail. He is Director Emeritus of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and practices personal injury law.