Drivers of passenger vehicles are warned to watch out for the motorcycles that share the road with them. Drivers are urged to check their blind spots for motorcyclists and to always give them plenty of room on the highway. However, auto drivers aren’t the only ones who need to be careful -- operators of motorcycles should also use caution both alone and in traffic.
Because motorcyclists are so vulnerable to other vehicles on the road, they carry a far greater risk for serious injury or even death. In 2013 only, 4,668 people died in motorcycle crashes, representing 13% of all motor vehicle crash deaths that year. The problem only seems to be getting worse: the 2013 fatality figure is double what it was in 1997.
So how are all of these accidents caused? While it may seem like a motorcyclist would need another driver present to cause a crash, a significant portion of them are even at risk on their own.
•In 2009, 1,791 of all motorcycle deaths for the year involved only the motorcyclist. The two most common causes for the accidents were speeding and driving while intoxicated. An estimated 48% of motorcyclists who died were traveling above the speed limit, and 42% that year had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08% or higher.
•Motorcycles are also more likely to be involved in fatal crashes with fixed objects, such as telephone poles, bridge underpasses, road partitions, and other public property. In 2012, 22% of fatal crashes involving motorcycles were with fixed objects, as opposed to just 18% of fatal crashes for passenger cars.
However, even two-vehicle crashes can be deadly, and it’s not always the fault of the car driver.
•Data from recent years shows that 42% of two-vehicle fatal motorcycle accidents involved a vehicle turning left while the motorcycle was going straight. On its own, that kind of crash could place the driver of the vehicle at fault. However, in many cases, the motorcyclist was passing or overtaking another vehicle, leaving the car’s driver with limited visibility.
•Additionally, 75% of two-vehicle crashes involving one motorcycle occurred when the motorcycle driver collided with the back of a passenger vehicle. Under normal circumstances, all vehicles on the road have to leave ample room ahead in case the vehicle before them stops suddenly, so these crashes place the blame on the rear vehicle rather than the one ahead.
There are also other risk factors involved in riding a motorcycle. According to 2012 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists are about 26 times more likely to die in a crash than passenger vehicle occupants. They were also five times more likely to be injured in said collisions. This probability increases with every unsafe action that motorcyclists take, such as speeding or driving while under the influence.
What’s one of the biggest ways in which motorcyclists put themselves in danger? Not wearing a helmet! A motorcyclist without a helmet is 40% more likely to die of a head injury than those who do wear helmets.
If you’re preparing to take your motorcycle out this summer, remember to exercise caution on the road at all times. Always wear a helmet, maintain a safe distance from the vehicles in front of you, and pay attention to which vehicles have the right of way. Be sure to brush up on these and other safe driving tips, so you don’t risk a serious -- or even fatal -- injury.