Motorcyclists Almost 30 Times as Likely to Die in an Accident
October 3, 2021
As compared to closed vehicles like passenger cars, vans, buses, and trucks, motorcycles are significantly less crashworthy and far more dangerous. It should come as no surprise, then, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that motorcycle riders are overrepresented in the agency’s fatal traffic crash data every year. Luckily, there are effective precautions that passenger vehicle drivers and motorcycle riders alike can take to inhibit crash risks and help everyone to get home safe.
What Hazards do Motorcyclists Face?
According to the NHTSA’s most recent numbers, 5,014 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2019. Although the number showed a slight decrease from the year before, motorcyclists were still 29 times more likely than motor vehicle occupants to die in crashes and were four times more likely to sustain bodily injuries. Motorcyclists face certain challenges that motor vehicles drivers do not, such as:
- Motorcycles are far smaller than other vehicles on the road, which renders them particularly vulnerable to impact hazards
- Drivers have a harder time seeing motorcycles than larger vehicles on the road
- Common riding practices, like weaving through traffic and downshifting gears. Since motor vehicle drivers are generally unfamiliar with motorcycle riding practices, it makes it more difficult for them to anticipate what a motorcyclist will do
- A motorcycle’s two-wheel design makes them inherently less stable than passenger vehicles. For example, uneven road surfaces, potholes, and debris can cause a devastating motorcycle accident. The two-wheel design also makes motorcycles harder for riders to control during braking and cornering
- Less protection in the event of a crash. Even if a rider wears proper safety gear, the motorcycle itself affords no protection to the rider during a crash. This leaves riders especially susceptible to sustaining severe bodily injuries like road rash, spinal cord injuries, bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and other types of head injuries, neck injuries, and whiplash
- Motorcycles are difficult to maneuver. Even the slightest change in a driver or passenger’s weight distribution can lead to an accident
- Helmet use. Although helmet use rates have been steadily increasing since 2015, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that only 71% of motorcyclists wore helmets in 2019. Thousands of motorcycle accident victims would still be alive today if they were wearing a helmet at the time of a crash
Because of the unique risks that motorcyclists face, every state requires that riders have a motorcycle license endorsement, which is different than an automobile driver’s license. Most states require motorcyclists to pass a written and on-cycle skills test, and some states even require that riders take a state-sponsored rider education course. The goal of these requirements is to promote road readiness and safety. Whether your state has the maximum or minimum requirements for obtaining a motorcycle license endorsement, the NHTSA recommends that everyone complete a motorcycle rider education course in order to ensure having the correct instruction and experience that it takes to safely ride a motorcycle. To find a motorcycle rider-training course in your area, simply contact your state’s motor vehicle administration to determine availability.
Safety Tips for Motorcyclists and Motor Vehicle Drivers
Both motorcyclists and drivers can take steps that help limit preventable and deadly roadway accidents from happening. The NHTSA recommends that motorcyclists observe the following precautions:
- Wear a helmet that meets the DOT’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. Look for the DOT symbol on the back of the helmet
- Make sure you are properly licensed to operate a motorcycle. The agency reports that 30% of riders who were killed in fatal crashes in 2019 were riding without valid motorcycle licenses
- Practice operating your motorcycle in a controlled area before taking it into traffic. Also be sure that you are comfortable operating your motorcycle in a variety of conditions, like during inclement weather or when encountering various roadway hazards, such as debris, potholes, and slick surfaces
- Check your motorcycle’s tire pressure and tread depth, headlights, signal indicators, fluid levels, and hand and foot brakes before every ride
- Ride responsibly. Not only does this include observing local traffic laws like speed limits, lane marking, traffic lights and signs, but it also means being alcohol and drug free
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, or PennDOT, has the following tips for motorists who are sharing the road with motorcycles:
- Always keep an eye out for motorcyclists. Motorcyclists are particularly difficult to see because they are much smaller than passenger vehicles. Before changing lanes and at intersections, be sure to check your blind spots and mirrors. Also remember that larger vehicles on the road can block motorcycles from a motorist’s view and that motorcycles sometimes appear out of nowhere
- Give motorcyclists a greater following distance
- Always signal your intentions before you change lanes or merge with traffic
- Treat a motorcycle as a full-size vehicle with the same rights and privileges as everyone else on the roadway
- Give motorcyclists a full lane width of space to ensure that the rider has enough room to safely maneuver his or her vehicle in all types of road conditions
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?
Because injuries are often severe or fatal in motorcycle accidents, the physical, emotional, and financial costs are often high to injured victims and their loved ones. There may be painful surgeries followed by long recoveries, physical therapy, and other ongoing medical treatment. The financial impact of a motorcycle accident can also devastate a victim due to lost wages, hospital costs, medical bills, and prescription costs. If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident, someone at our firm can help. To learn more, contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Motor Vehicle Accident Victims Since 1947
Galfand Berger LLP has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.