close-up of front wheel on motorcycle disc brakesMotorcycles on the road require heightened awareness, not only for those who operate them but for other motorists who share the road with these bikes. Though motorcycles are smaller than cars, they need just as much distance to stop suddenly as a car does. This has to do with road speed and force involved in making a sudden stop rather than just the size of the vehicle. But unlike cars, motorcycles are much more susceptible to potentially tragic consequences as a result of “panic braking” suddenly when an incident occurs on the road.

How Motorcycle Brakes Work

On a car, the brake pedal controls the vehicle’s entire braking system, but on a motorcycle, there are typically two components: a handle on the right handlebar controls the brake for the front wheel, while a foot pedal controls the brake for the rear wheel (though some right handlebar levers control both). The right handlebar location is a quicker, easier location for the driver to activate, and it’s designed that way for a reason.

Motorcycle riders have to go through special licensing and usually take classes to understand how to safely operate these vehicles, but it’s important for everyone on the road with them to understand how they work.

Most of the brake load on a motorcycle is delivered at the front of the bike. In normal traffic, motorcycle braking and slowing down the bike is around a balance of 70% load to the front wheel and 30% to the back wheel. But in an emergency stopping situation, the front brakes may take up to 90% of the load, creating the potential for a rider to be thrown. This is why wearing a motorcycle helmet is so important for rider safety. Leaving adequate distance in front of motorcycles and knowing how to safely apply both brakes is crucial to avoiding this outcome.

Whatever the configuration, whether all or most of the braking action happens through the right handlebar lever, closing this lever pinches the brake pad on the wheels, creating heat through friction, which slows the bike.

Panic braking occurs when a rider puts too much force too quickly on the front brake, which can cause it to lock, propelling the rider over the front of the bike. Some modern motorcycles come with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) similar to those on cars, but these systems are relatively new on bikes and don’t offer a guarantee that the force of braking won’t vault the operator over the handlebars. No ABS can prevent every accident.

Sharing the Road With Motorcycles

Because of the additional distance needed for motorcycles to safely stop in case of an accident, traffic stoppage, or object in the road, motorcycles should be given a wide berth on the road. To avoid an accident, drivers should do the following:

  • Never cut directly in front of a motorcycle when changing lanes.
  • Leave ample space beside you if you are riding next to a bike.
  • Always pay attention to traffic—especially during traffic congestion—to avoid sudden braking.
  • Always check twice before changing lanes to make sure there isn’t a bike in your blind spot.

If You Are Hurt in a Motorcycle Accident

If you or a loved one has been hurt or killed in a Virginia motorcycle accident, you should always call the police to file a report and seek medical attention, even if you think you haven’t been injured. Adrenaline after an accident can mask symptoms you otherwise would feel after a crash.

As soon as possible, contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer who can seek compensation for all of your losses related to the incident, including lost wages from missed work, reimbursement for medical expenses and vehicle repairs, and more. Your lawyer will handle details of your personal injury case, such as collecting all of the evidence, statements, and records related to the accident, taking depositions from people in the accident or witnesses who may have seen it, conversations with insurance companies, and negotiations for a settlement. They will represent you in court if necessary, fighting for what you deserve so that you can focus on healing.

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