Early History of Motorcycles

Riding a motorcycle has many well-known benefits, including the feeling of freedom and adventure while riding, superior gas mileage, and a sense of community with other riders. But less well known is the rich history behind the world of motorcycle riding.

The history of the motorcycle began in the nineteenth century, when several early versions were independently created by different inventors. One of the earliest predecessors of the motorcycle was the steam-powered velocipede, created in 1867 by American inventor Sylvester Howard Roper. The vehicle ran on a two-cylinder, coal-fired steam engine.

In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach invented the reitwagen (or “riding wagon”), which combined the general structure of a bicycle with an internal combustion engine. Motorcycles became popular in the late nineteenth century as companies sold motor kits to attach similar engines to regular bicycles. In 1894, Heinrich and Wilhelm Hildebrand and Alois Wolfmüller patented the world’s first production motorcycle, which was sold as a fully motorized bike rather than a kit. Later, in 1903, William Harley and Arthur and Walter Davidson launched the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, one of the most well-known motorcycle manufacturers today.

first female motorcycle rider

(Library of Congress photo: First female to obtain motorcycle license in Washington, D.C. (Sept. 15, 1937): Mrs. Sally Halterman. At the age of 27, she became the first and only female initiated into the D.C. Motorcycle Club.)

World War I and World War II

Motorcycles proved useful in World War I, during which the American and European militaries used them to carry messages and information due to their speed and small size. Demand for bikes boomed for a while after WWI, but dropped during the Great Depression, which saw the demise of many smaller motorcycle manufacturers. Though this era saw a decline in demand for motorcycles, that’s also when bike rallies became popular. Many rallies born during this time are still around today, such as the Daytona Beach Bike Week and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

World War II played a huge role in the creation of modern motorcycle culture. Motorcycles were once again used by American and European militaries. Harley-Davidson grew extremely successful by the end of the war due to its contracts with the military. Japan had also established its own domestic motorcycle market, giving rise to companies such as Honda. After the war, bikes and biker clubs became popular among American veterans, helping to form the biker culture that exists today. Many aspects of today’s biker culture come from military culture, such as wearing patches with certain colors or logos to represent one’s club.

Hollister Riot

The Hollister Riot had a major impact on the reputation of motorcycles and motorcycle clubs. The event began as a simple motorcycle rally in the small town of Hollister, California in 1947. Bikers poured into the town and nearly doubled its population. The town received little damage, but by the end of the event, many streets were littered with beer bottles and there were reports of motorcyclists riding drunk. The event received national media attention and helped give biker culture its reputation for crime and disorder. Today, bikers have fought hard to dispel that reputation.

Are You in Need of a Motorcycle Accident Attorney?

Despite its many benefits and rich history, riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. In fact, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in 2015 alone. If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, schedule a free case evaluation online or call us at:

Motorcycle Accidents and Fatalities: Behind-the-Scenes Look

motorcycle accident statistics

In 2015, motorcycle fatalities in the United States were up 8.3 percent from the previous year, with 4,976 deaths said to occur in that year alone. Motorcyclists, reads an article in Insurance Information Institute, are “29 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured.” Plus, when you look at all traffic fatalities, 14 percent of them are motorcyclists.

A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, though, reveals that the figure of 4,976 was not quite accurate, stating that there were more than 5,000 motorcycle fatalities in 2015 (5,010 people), with figures in 2016 projected to be ten percent higher. This is only the third time in U.S. history that deaths from motorcycle accidents exceeded 5,000.

South Carolina Motorcycle Fatality Statistics

Wondering what states have the most fatalities? When looking at the top five list, that list includes North Carolina (fourth with 185 deaths) and South Carolina (fifth with 184 deaths). Also discouraging is the fact that South Carolina had the third largest increase in motorcycle fatalities from 2014 to 2015, increasing by a whopping 53 percent.

Staying Safe

Insurance.com lists five ways for riders to increase their safety, including the use of a Department of Transportation compliant helmet, even if state laws don’t require one. Bright-colored clothing makes it easier for other drivers to see riders. Never ride a motorcycle when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, drive the speed limit and, when choosing a new motorcycle, select one with antilock brakes.

Antilock brakes (ABS) have been shown to reduce motorcycle crashes for riders from inexperienced to experienced, but especially for newer riders. Inexperienced riders, one study shows, are 30 percent less likely to file accident insurance claims during the first ninety days of ownership, and nineteen percent less likely going forward. Here’s another article sharing how ABS enhance rider safety.

Motorcycle Accidents: Faulty Assumptions

Unfortunately, motorcycle riders don’t always get the benefit of the doubt when there is a crash, with many people assuming the injured biker was at fault. Even a minor accident can lead to significant injuries, even catastrophic ones – from broken limbs to head injuries to fatalities – with onlookers figuring that the motorcyclist must have been careless or otherwise done something wrong to be in this situation.

South Carolina Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

At the Law Firm of F. Craig Wilkerson, Jr., we advocate for injured motorcyclists and for the families who have lost loved ones in motorcycle crashes. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can promptly begin an investigation, preserving evidence and talking to witnesses. Motorcycle crashes can occur because of:

  • Cars pulling out or turning left into a biker who has the right of way
  • Motorcyclists hit while parked on the shoulder
  • Riders sideswiped or forced off the road
  • Drivers following too close to stop
  • Roadway defects
  • Items falling from vehicles causing a crash

We can also review insurance policies – yours, the other driver’s and any other third parties – to cover losses.

Crashes can be devastating. Let our motorcycle accident lawyers represent you by contacting us online or calling:



Eight More Motorcycle Safety Tips

more motorcycle prevention tips

Riding a motorcycle comes with risks. In 2014, motorcyclists were killed 27 times more frequently in crashes than other drivers. But there are steps you can take to make riding safer. If you ride a motorcycle or are considering buying one, here are some tips to stay safe on the road.

  1. Wear bright colors.

Black is the color of choice for many bikers, but it can make motorcyclists nearly invisible on the road. Riding conspicuously means riding safely. When choosing riding gear, opt for bright colors like red or yellow instead of black.

  1. Proceed through intersections with caution.

Intersections are particularly dangerous to motorcyclists. Drivers sometimes make careless left turns and pull out in front of motorcycles, causing a T-bone accident that could be fatal to the rider. Because of this, motorcyclists need to be extra careful when going through intersections. Keeping your headlights on at all times, even during daylight hours, will help keep you visible to oncoming traffic. Stay in the most visible lane position, usually near the middle of the road, and be ready to brake suddenly as you move through the intersection.

  1. Avoid speeding around corners.

Taking a turn too quickly can cause a rider to lose control and fall off the bike. This is often a problem for new riders, but even experienced riders can fall due to speeding around turns.

  1. Pass vehicles quickly and with care.

On a motorcycle, you’re much smaller and harder to spot than other vehicles on the road. This can make passing dangerous, as drivers may not see you when you’re in their blind spots. Give drivers plenty of time to see your turn signal before passing, and double-check the passing lane to make sure it’s clear before you move. As you pass, stay in the middle of the lane, where you’re most visible, and move through the driver’s blind spots as quickly as possible without speeding.

  1. Stay vigilant while being passed.

When another vehicle is passing you, stay in the center of the lane to avoid blind spots. Also be prepared for a gust of wind from the passing vehicle and look out for obstacles such as large mirrors that could hit you or trash thrown out of windows.

  1. Position yourself safely in heavy traffic.

Heavy traffic makes it difficult to avoid blind spots. Ride in front of or behind other vehicles, not side-by-side, to make yourself visible. Remember that lane-splitting is legal only in California.

  1. Communicate with passengers before riding.

Make sure passengers wear as much safety gear as you do, including a helmet, jacket, pants, gloves, and boots. Tell your passengers to sit forward, hold your waist, use the footrests, and lean into curves as you do. Also, keep in mind that the weight of a passenger will make the bike slower to respond, so drive slower and be especially cautious.

  1. Avoid uneven surfaces.

Riders need to pay close attention to the road ahead to avoid obstacles like potholes or roadkill. Some uneven surfaces, such as railroad tracks and speed bumps, can’t be avoided. Try to ride over these obstacles straight on, not at an angle. As you approach the obstacle, slow down and lift yourself off the seat slightly. Then stay on the gas as you cross to keep control of the bike.

You can find more motorcycle safety tips on our blog and in these articles:

Our Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Advocate for You

No matter how carefully you ride, accidents are always a possibility. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a motorcycle crash, we can help you receive compensation. Contact our motorcycle accident attorneys online to schedule a free case evaluation or call us at:

Five Motorcycle Safety Tips

motorcycle accident prevention

Motorcyclists are much more vulnerable than drivers on the road due to size, lack of safety features, and exposure of the rider. When accidents occur between motorcycles and larger vehicles, the motorcyclists nearly get the worst end of the situation. Here are some tips on sharing the road with motorcycles. If you’re a rider, consider sharing this post to spread the news.

  1. Avoid abrupt stops when being followed by a motorcyclist.

Stopping abruptly in front of a motorcycle and forcing the rider to suddenly brake can have disastrous consequences. Most of a motorcycle’s stopping power is in the front brakes, and pulling these brakes too hard can lock the front wheel, potentially throwing the rider off the bike. Brake slowly and signal any turns far in advance to give the rider enough time to brake.

  1. Maintain adequate following distance when driving behind a motorcyclist.

For a motorcyclist, being rear-ended by a car is extremely dangerous, even at low speeds. Be sure to leave at least four seconds’ worth of space between you and the rider in front of you. Also be aware of upcoming traffic lights or stop signs to avoid an accident.

  1. Pay particular attention at intersections.

Intersections are especially dangerous for motorcyclists. One of the most common types of accidents involving motorcycles and larger vehicles involves drivers turning left at an intersection in front of motorcyclists who are driving straight. When approaching an intersection, always come to a complete stop, look carefully at approaching traffic, and proceed with caution.

  1. Pass motorcycles with care.

If you need to pass a motorcycle, make sure you signal your pass well in advance to alert the rider. As you pass, try to give the motorcycle at least three feet of clearance. Even if the motorcycle is riding towards one side of the lane, do not try to pass in the same lane. Riders need room to maneuver around potholes and other obstacles in the road. Also be aware that the wind from your vehicle can push a rider off balance and potentially cause an accident. After you pass, wait until you are several car lengths ahead of the motorcycle before moving back into your lane.

  1. Look around before changing lanes.

Many drivers attempt to change lanes without checking their blind spots or signaling their move. If a motorcyclist happens to be near a car that changes lanes without warning, the results can be fatal. Always signal lane changes well in advance and be sure to check blind spots before moving. Motorcycles are significantly smaller than cars, which can make them easy to miss, so make sure you check your blind spots thoroughly before changing lanes.

Find more motorcycle safety tips here.

Need a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?

Have you been involved in a motorcycle crash? If so, the Law Office of F. Craig Wilkerson, Jr. can help you receive compensation. Our motorcycle accident attorneys specialize in civil litigation and personal injury and are dedicated to getting you the settlement you deserve. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation online or call us at: