Motorcycle Crashes


Reconstructing a motorcycle crash requires specialized knowledge of motorcycle operations, motorcycle dynamics and rider input to determine what actually happened in the crash. Steering and braking techniques set a motorcycle apart from other vehicles. The rider uses different steering techniques depending on speed and may have to independently control the front and rear brakes when stopping. In a crash, both pre and post-impact events will leave unique evidence that can be misinterpreted by an investigator unfamiliar with motorcycles.


Unique aspects of motorcycle reconstruction include:

  • Single track vehicle dynamics and stability
  • Steering and counter-steering
  • Proper riding techniques
  • Front and rear brake usage
  • Lane positioning
  • Hazard avoidance, conspicuity and crash avoidance maneuvers
  • Rider skill, training, experience

Dwayne Owen has been riding motorcycles for over forty years and has investigated hundreds of motorcycle crashes during his career. He has also taught over 100 students through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Rider Course.

Further reading

Laying It Down – Not a Good Option for a Motorcyclist
It is that time of year again and you will be sure to hear “I laid it down” when you are dealing with a motorcycle crash. You will usually hear this phrase from an untrained / incompetent motorcycle operator who will not admit that he or she lost control due to improper operation of the motorcycle. Over-braking, using the rear brake only, will lock up the rear tire. Combine that with a swerve and you will be sure to upset the motorcycle.

A better option is to rely on proper braking and swerving techniques. Braking first will provide more time before reaching an area of impact. Using both brakes will stop the motorcycle in the shortest distance possible. Swerving first may be needed to initially avoid impact with an object in close proximity.

In a crash avoidance maneuver, proper operation of the motorcycle is to separate braking and swerving. Combining braking and swerving will likely cause you and your motorcycle to become a projectile, sliding straight down the pavement, and possibly colliding with the object you were trying to avoid in the first place.

A motorcycle sliding on its side will not decelerate as fast as an upright motorcycle that is properly braked with tires still in contact with the pavement. By being upset and sliding prior to impact, you will crash at a higher speed causing an increase for injury or injury severity.

By properly scanning for potential hazards, predicting what may happen, and executing proper defensive driving tactics, a motorcyclist can often avoid being in a situation where he has to use crash avoidance maneuvers. If a crash is imminent, using proper braking and swerving techniques can save your life. Enjoy the riding season.