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Do police and car drivers have a bias against motorcycle riders?

The short answer: yes.

There don’t seem to be any psychological studies proving scientifically that anti-rider prejudice exists. But most motorcycle riders have experienced it, and every experienced motorcycle injury attorney would tell you that the prejudice is real. There is a lot of speculation about where the prejudice comes from, but it’s all based on personal anecdotes.

A popular theory among riders is that media sensationalism is a big factor. In the 1920s, automobiles became the dominant form of private transportation, and since that time popular culture has depicted riders as careless or reckless people. Fiction, television, and movies often play up the image of the motorcyclist as a rebel who rejects social conventions, a “bad boy” who can’t be trusted. This viewpoint is part of the subconscious reaction most car drivers have to riders.

Another theory is that car drivers resent and fear the maneuverability and mobility of motorcycles. Two-wheeled vehicles are designed to handle more adeptly in traffic than larger automobiles, and some riders take fully advantage of that on the highway. Darting across lanes and between other vehicles isn’t particularly safe, and these maneuvers upset automobile drivers. Some car drivers simply envy riders who can continue to move forward when cars are stalled in traffic congestion. Many, perhaps most, car drivers have had a near-accident that they blame on a rider. The anxiety caused by some rowdy riders tends to spill over as a bias against all motorcyclists.

Another explanation, related to the previous one, is territoriality. A car driver likes to believe that he owns the road—or at least a little bit of it surrounding his vehicle. He becomes very defensive about the territory he has claimed. A driver perceives a highly maneuverable motorcycle that enters the car’s “personal space” to be threatening. A pack of riders traveling together on the highway can intimidate car drivers. These emotions are then projected to apply to all motorcycle riders.

Anti-rider bias and Wisconsin traffic accidents

There’s a direct connection between the bias against motorcycle riders and increased danger on Wisconsin highways. By far the most common reason car drivers give when asked why they collided with a motorcycle is, “I just didn’t see him.” Now, it’s true that a bike has a narrower profile than a car, and that it’s easier for a bike to be obscured in a car driver’s blind spot. But many people think that anti-motorcycle prejudice is probably a contributing factor to many Wisconsin traffic accidents. Car drivers subconsciously assign less importance to motorcycles, because they don’t see riders as deserving equal consideration on the road.

If you have been injured in a collision with a car or truck while biking in Wisconsin, you could benefit from the services of an experienced Appleton motorcycle wreck lawyer from the firm of Hupy and Abraham. Call us today at 920-882-8382 (local) or (800) 800-5678 (statewide toll-free) to get a FREE copy of our book, The Ultimate Guide for Motorcycle Accident Victims, as well as your free riders’ Rights card. Read the book—it’s yours to keep, even if you don’t hire us. Once you are convinced that we know our business, call for a free, no-obligation consultation about your case. You’ll be glad you did.