It is motorcycle month of May at our firm, and we are campaigning to educate
and guide all motorists in motorcycle safety. The past few weeks we have
motorcycle accident statistics, and we have provided motorcycle safety and guidelines. This week we are
going to be discuss statutory law (law by the legislature), and how it
can apply to motorcyclists and other motors by creating liability for
Like any other motor vehicle, if one wants to ride a motorcycle within
the legal norms set by our society, one must understand the law itself.
First and foremost, one must be aware of how the law defines what a motorcycle
is and which other vehicles fall within the legal category of motorcycles.
The law sets forth many requirements for equipment a motorcycle is required
to have, and many requirements of what a motorcycle needs to be “street
legal.” These requirements are not just for the proper functioning
of the motorcycle, but many of these requirements actually have safety
in mind to prevent unnecessary harm. Failing to comply with these statutes
can result in liability or comparative fault.
New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 123, a motorcycle is defined as as, “every motor vehicle having a seat
or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more
than three wheels in contact with the ground, excluding tractors. Therefore,
mopeds or scooters are considered to be motorcycles, as do ATVs. It matters
little if the motorcycle has a maximum speed of 20, 30, or 40 miles per hour.
Not only does the law define what types of vehicles are motorcycles, but
there are also laws regarding equipment. There may also exist specific
liability concerns for motorcyclists. Just like any other motorist, motorcyclists
owe a duty to other people on the road.
New York Laws about Motorcycle Equipment:
Four-plus wheeled vehicles require headlights and taillights, and motorcycles
do as well. Specifically, motorcycles must have one head lamp (two if
the bike has a sidecar) and one red tail lamp. The license plate must
be illuminated as well. Of course, these lights must be in operation from
dusk until dawn.
Motorcycles must also be equipped with mufflers, unaltered, so that excessive
noise is not produced by the bike. The exhaust system must not be modified
in such a manner as to increase the noise made by the motorcycle. Riders
with straight pipes should take note of this rule.
Also note that no more than two motorcycles can ride side by side in the
same lane, nor may riders ride in between lanes or pass other vehicles
in the same lane.
Motorcyclist Rights, Duties, and Liabilities:
Motorcyclists have the same rights and duties as do other types of drivers.
They need not use a higher level of care simply because they are in a
more vulnerable position; motorcyclists must only use ordinary care when
riding, as would any other prudent rider under similar circumstances.
In short, motorcyclists,
car drivers, and
truckers all have the same duty to use reasonable care so that foreseeable and
preventable harm does not arise to other riders, drivers, and/or pedestrians.
People should also not entrust another with a motorcycle if it is known,
or should have been known, that the person so entrusted was not capable
or competent to handle a motorcycle.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents:
There are countless ways in which
motorcycle accidents are caused; nonetheless, there are still common causes. Quite often, motorists
drift to the left when a biker is trying to pass the vehicle. This is
a known and regular occurrence that causes a motorcyclist to crash. Other
vehicles routinely swerve in front of motorcycles. On the other hand,
riders turning their head to talk to a passenger is a known common cause
of motorcycle crashes. Excessive speed and a failure to yield the right-of-way
is also a common cause of accidents, both on the part of motorist and
motorcyclist alike. Riding, or permitting one to ride sidesaddle, is also
an event that will give rise to liability or that which could preclude
or reduce one’s ability to recover damages in a lawsuit.
Every year without fail, motorcycle accidents occur as soon as riding season
commences. Some even occur as early as March or April here in New York.
In fact, just last month, a Glenville man died in a motorcycle accident.
Also in April, a Dutchess County man was injured in a motorcycle accident
in Putnam County. At around the same time in Binghamton, New York, a motorcyclist
was taken to the hospital after being involved in a serious accident.
Just several days ago, a Queensbury motorcyclist was
seriously injured after a crash with an SUV. Several days before that, a Kingston motorcycle
killed in a motorcycle crash; the operator was injured as well. Serious injuries
and death should not occur in daily life, but unfortunately they do.