Avoiding Three-Wheeler Accidents

PA Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Advice

I wrote just a couple of weeks ago at my New Jersey legal blog about purchasing a three-wheeler (AKA a “trike”) for my wife, the lovely Mrs. Cycle Attorney. After having ridden for years on the back of my own bike, she’s definitely caught the biking bug, but wasn’t sure she was ready to dive right in with a standard two-wheeler.

We decided a trike would be the way to go, because we felt that this type of motorcycle offers a unique combination of safety and ease of riding, without sacrificing the most important factor of all – fun. So we did some research and ultimately chose the Can-Am Spyder.

But despite the relative safety of three-wheelers, as a Pennsylvania motorcycle accident lawyer who’s deeply concerned with the well-being of my biking community (and of course Mrs. Cycle Attorney), I felt it was important for me to get up to speed on trike safety and on how to avoid three-wheeler accidents.

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Tips to Avoid 3-Wheeler Accidents

I know from long experience that there are dozens of factors in any motorcycle accident claim, and many of them are completely out of the rider’s hands. But adhering to some basic safety rules should go a long way towards keeping you from my firm.

Obviously, some of these rules will be pretty similar to the safety basics of any motorcycle, so I won’t spend much time telling you to wear a helmet, leathers, and eye protection. That’s just common sense. I think our time will be better spent discussing the characteristics of three-wheel motorcycles that make owning and riding them different from a standard bike.

Handling Characteristics – First of all, 3-wheelers do not handle like 2-wheelers. That third wheel changes the lean characteristics of the machine, which can take more getting used to than you might imagine. So practice somewhere other other than a public road to acclimate yourself to the operational and and handling characteristics specific to your new toy. You want to feel confident and in control when you head out onto the open road.

Turns – This is when those handling characteristics really heighten the danger of a 3-wheeler accident. Turning a trike is much different from turning a bike, and while the additional wheel gives you additional stability, it also changes the inertia of the machine from what you are likely used to, so you have to fight the handlebars a bit to make a safe turn.

The most important thing to remember is that the low center of gravity and 3rd wheel make it necessary for you to slow down before you enter a turn, because you can’t lean into it as you could on a bike. The entire process is facilitated by actually turning the handlebars, so roll off the throttle or brake gently to set a good entry speed that you can hold steady through the turn. Also, because the bike stays level, there is significant centrifugal force toward the outside of the seat, so the rider and any passengers should physically lean into the curve to counteract this.

Passengers – Carrying a passenger is one of best ways to share the sheer joy of motorcycling. The enhanced stability of a motorcycle trike makes this even more appealing, but the additional responsibility of carrying a passenger makes 3-wheeler accident avoidance even more important. I’ve written before on PA motorcycle crash statistics and riding “two-up,” and many of these rules still apply, so I will keep this short.

The handling and braking of your trike changes when you add a passenger, so give yourself extra lead time coming up to traffic signs and signals, as well as additional following distance when you’re in traffic. You’ll also need to apply more pressure to the controls when braking. Instruct your passenger to brace themselves firmly against your waist and to lean back slightly to prevent their weight from shifting forward during braking.

Cargo – In some ways a motorcycle trike resembles a small car, and so it can be tempting to treat them as such, using them for grocery runs, trips to the hardware store, and other mundane errands. If this is you, a couple of common sense rules for hauling small amounts of cargo will help keep you from getting into a three-wheeler accident.

Tie your load to the machine. put it inside a storage compartment, or strap it to the backseat with an elasticized cargo net. Don’t try to balance a bag between your legs, even for a short ride. Anything you carry on the tank or inside the fairing can interfere with the steering. Check your load frequently to make sure it is secure and that nothing is hanging off.

Three-Wheeler Accidents Are Slightly Less Likely Than Two-Wheeler Accidents

According to State Farm, trikes are somewhat safer than bikes; their lower center of gravity, shaft drive and wide rear axle span make them harder to flip or lay down than standard two-wheelers. They have enhanced visibility. And many trikers buy the machines specifically because of the safety factor, so the riders may be more cautious, driving more slowly and less aggressively than bikers, further mitigating their three-wheeler accident risk.

Pennsylvania motorcycle accident attorney Lee Gaber, Esquire is at your service if you’ve been involved in an accident. Consultations are free, so call us immediately at 1-888-292-5352. There’s no fee until we win.

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