The California motorcycle traffic fatality rate rose 23 percent and a shocking 49 percent in Los Angeles County between 2003 and 2012. The number of deadly bike crashes dropped off statewide for two years, after hitting a high point in 2008, and then resumed climbing. Analysts, from bike mechanics to law enforcers, have differing opinions about the spike in fatal accidents.
Some observers believe motorcycle ridership is up, particularly among recreational bikers, who suspended riding for pleasure during the nation's tough economic times. Records indicated not many new bikes were added to traffic. County bike registrations were up only 5 percent between 2010 and 2012.
Other Southern California analysts think there's a strong tie between high gas prices and motorcycle use. Reports stated the motorcycle accident rate shot up during 2008 and 2011 in Los Angeles County, during times when the price of a gallon of gas hit or exceeded $4. Traffic officials simply don't have enough information to pinpoint reasons for the state and county increases in crashes and deaths.
Authorities learned the rate of motorcycle accidents is headed in the opposite direction of crash rates for other types of vehicles. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of motorcyclists' deaths grew 59 percent in Los Angeles County. Most county motorcyclist deaths in 2012 were the result of broadside collisions -- the most common broadside crashes occurred when a bike or other vehicle was turning left across traffic.
Bikes hitting objects was responsible for two dozen county motorcycle fatalities in 2012. Twelve riders died after rear-ending another vehicle, an occurrence common among motorcyclists who lane split or ride between vehicles. Lane splitting is often criticized, but it is not illegal in California.
Statistical trends can show how motorcycle accidents happen, but not why they happen. Accident attorneys are familiar with the extraordinary losses suffered by victims and help plaintiffs file claims against negligent drivers.