Fatal motorcycle accidents claimed the lives of more than 5,286 people in 2016, according to the most recent data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The warmer weather states, such as California, Florida, and Texas, saw the highest numbers of fatalities. However, Colorado was home to more fatal motorcycle accidents than most states, with 125 people dying in such crashes in 2016.
Fatal motorcycle accidents not only profoundly impact the families and loved ones of the deceased, but are also traumatic experiences for anyone else involved in the collision. This is especially true for other drivers, no matter who was at fault.
By taking the right steps, both motorcyclists and others on the road can reduce the number of fatal motorcycle accidents in the US.
Helmets Reduce Number of Fatal Motorcycle Accidents
Many riders live — literally remain living — with the motto “all the gear all the time”.
The saying basically states that every time a rider gets on their bike, they should be wearing protection from the tips of their toes to the top of their heads. Even if you’re not one of those riders, you should still be wearing a helmet.
Helmets reduce the risk of death on a motorcycle by 37%. It was estimated that 1,859 lives were saved in 2016 alone because riders were wearing helmets. If every single person who got on a motorcycle had worn a helmet that year, it’s estimated that 802 more people would have made it to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The risk a rider takes by not wearing a helmet goes beyond increasing their chances of being in a fatal accident. It’s estimated that the US could save more than $1 billion in economic costs if all motorcyclists wore helmets. Additionally, riders are putting those in other vehicles at risk of being involved in a fatal motorcycle accident that could have been avoided by a more responsible rider.
Despite all the facts pointing toward the personal and communal benefits of motorcyclists wearing helmets, those 18 and over in Colorado are not required to do so. However, some form of eye protection is absolutely required.
Seeing Motorcycles Saves Lives
More than 50 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle. Most often, the driver of the other vehicle (be it a truck or car) is at fault, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
In the US, there are simply more cars, trucks, and SUVs on the roads than motorcycles, and drivers often don’t see motorcyclists.
“When motorcycles and other vehicles collide, it is usually the other (non-motorcycle) driver who violates the motorcyclist’s right of way,” according to the NHTSA. “There is a continuing need to help other motorists’ think’ motorcycles and to educate motorcyclists to be aware of this problem”.
By being aware that you share the road with motorcyclists, you can decrease your chances of being in a fatal accident with one. Already, many motorcyclists do what they can to increase their visibility — many giving up on black and brown riding gear for brighter colors. Though it might not be as sharp of a look, neon nylon mesh vests with reflective taping can be a lifesaver for a motorcyclist.
Both motorcyclists and others on the road should be aware that because of motorcycles’ narrow profiles, they can easily end up in a car’s blind spot or be masked by fences, bushes, and so on. An extra moment checking for motorcycles when pulling into an intersection or changing lanes could be all it takes to save a life.
Don’t Smoke and Drive
It should go without saying that driving a motorcycle drunk is not only illegal but significantly increases a person’s chances of being in a fatal motorcycle accident. However, in 2016, about 25% of riders killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes were alcohol-impaired, according to NHTSA.
“In addition, there were 355 (7%) fatally injured motorcycle riders who had lower alcohol levels,” the NTSA report states.
What is less realized by many are the implications of driving after smoking marijuana.
Insurance Information Institute said that there are indications that states with legalized recreational marijuana are seeing increases in accident rates, noting that collision claim frequency in 2018 was 12.5% higher in Colorado than nearby states where recreational use wasn’t legal.
“Marijuana impairs psychomotor skills and cognitive functions associated with driving, including vigilance, time and distance perception, lane tracking, motor coordination, attention to tasks and reaction time,” according to the 2017 report “Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State”.
Such negative effects can have a severe impact on motorcyclists who need to be more vigilant and reactive when driving.
Increase Following Distance
Though the stopping distance for motorcycles and cars is nearly the same, road conditions can more severely impact the effectiveness of motorcycles’ breaking. Wet roads, as well as roads with debris on them, increase the stopping distance for a motorcyclist. Additionally, attempts to stop on such surfaces rapidly can lead the motorcyclist to more easily lose control of their bike and crash.
To counter this known hazard, motorcyclists and other drivers should increase their following distance. Creating larger buffer zones around motorcyclists can significantly improve their abilities to navigate a dangerous situation and prevent a fatal motorcycle accident.
The rule of thumb is to increase your following distance by three or four seconds.
Drivers should also be aware that motorcyclists occasionally slow by downshifting or easing off the throttle, neither of which activates their brake lights. This is important to remember when approaching an intersection with a motorcyclist ahead of you, as they may be slowing without any visual warnings.
Defensive Driving Keeps People Alive
Defensive driving is always a good idea — no matter what kind of vehicle you’re driving. By driving defensively, you create situations that are less dangerous and allow for others on the road to make mistakes without them becoming fatal.
For motorcyclists, defensive driving is even more critical because of the vulnerability that comes with being on a bike. One of the best tips regarding defensive driving for motorcyclists is the idea of always having an escape plan.
“When I come to a signal and stop, I stay in gear and watch the traffic coming up behind me. I will always leave room for an escape route,” said Tigra Tsujikawa, a Powersports industry professional and enthusiast
Final Thoughts: 5 Ways Riders and Drivers Can Avoid Fatal Motorcycle Accidents
By wearing helmets, driving defensively, being aware of other vehicles on the road (especially motorcycles), increasing following distances, and not driving impaired, you can decrease the chance you end up in a fatal motorcycle accident.
Unfortunately, even if you take all of these precautions as a motorcyclist — or some of them when you’re driving a car or truck — the reality is that motorcycle accidents happen. And, sometimes, they’re fatal.
If you or a loved one was part of a fatal motorcycle accident, having the right lawyers can provide some recourse after the tragedy. The last thing anyone wants to deal with after such a tragic incident is an uncaring, unhelpful insurance company. The truth is that more often than not with car accidents, claims for collisions involving motorcycles are denied.
If your claim has been denied or you feel that your insurance company is acting in bad faith, contact Manning Law to get what you deserve.