As has been widely reported, motorcycle use is on the rise in this country. In fact during the last decade, motorcycle ridership has increased over 50%. No longer are motorcyclists limited to the “Easy Rider” stereotype that we have seen on roadways for decades. In fact, it is estimated that now almost 10% of all motorcycle owners are women. Harley-Davidson has also developed a strong following among Baby Boomers and retirees. As a result, the number of fatalities and serious injuries involving motorcycle riders has increased steadily. More motorcyclists were killed last year than in any year since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began collecting fatal crash data in 1975.

Many of the injuries and deaths are caused by defective bikes and/or the motorcycle’s unsafe components. Aprilia, Big Dog, BMW, Buell, Decati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha all instituted safety-related recalls of their motorcycles last year. Some of the defects commonly found with motorcycles include defective tires, swing arms, forks, throttles, kick stands, wheel spokes, crash bars, brake systems and helmets.

One of the primary safety issues facing motorcyclists are defective tires. Like passenger tires, motorcycle tires are susceptible to design and manufacturing defects which lead to failure. While a tire failure can cause a passenger vehicle to be uncontrollable, a motorcycle is much more likely to suffer a loss of control should its tire fail. Severe injuries and death are almost a certainty in these types of wreck caused by tire failures. For example, our firm is currently handling a case where our client was seriously injured when the rear tire, a Dunlop D402, failed while he was riding his Harley-Davidson Screaming Eagle. The failure caused his motorcycle to go out of control.

The Dunlop 402 is made by Dunlop specifically for Harley-Davidson. These tires are experiencing numerous failures in the field and are responsible for several deaths and numerous injuries. Recently, one of the motorcycle world’s leading safety advocates lost his life when a Dunlop 402 on his Harley experienced a sidewall blowout.

The defect with Dunlop 402 is in the bead seat area of the tire. This is the area where the rubber of tire essentially fits to the rim. Because there are design and manufacturing defects in this area of this tire, the tire can and does experience a sudden loss of air which leads to a catastrophic failure. When this tire fails, its loss of air pressure can be so sudden and severe that the sidewall actually blows out. When that happens, the tire looks like it was shot with a shotgun from the inside out.

Goodyear, Dunlop and Harley have been aware of the issues with the 402 tires for a long time. Yet, they have failed to take any corrective actions such as a recall or a change of design with the tire. If you need more information on this subject, contact Rick Morrison, a lawyer in our Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rick.Morrison@beasleyallen.com. Rick has successfully handled a number of cases for clients involving motorcycles and bad tires.

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