It’s dangerous out there! Just in case you need proof, here are the latest available statistics on motorcycle crashes. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS):
- In 2009 (the latest year data are available), 4,281 people died in motorcycle crashes, down 16 percent from 2008 but still accounting for 13 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2009.
- 56 percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers were wearing helmets.
- People over 40 now account for over half of all motorcycle deaths (54 percent).
Causes of motorcycle crashes
It’s important that motorcyclists understand the causes of most motorcycle accidents, so he or she can watch for these situations and take special precautions to reduce their level of risk. We also note some liability issues involved with different accident causes.
- Crashes between motorcycles and other vehicles account for 56% of motorcycle accident deaths. Nearly 80% of the time, the car strikes the motorcyclists head-on or from the side. Only 5% of the time does the car strike the motorcyclist from behind.
- The single most dangerous situation for a motorcyclist is when cars are making a left- hand turn and 1) the motorcycle rider is going straight through an intersection, 2 is) trying to pass the car, or 3) is trying to overtake the car. Usually, it’s the driver who is found at fault for not noticing the motorcyclist. However, if the motorcyclist is speeding or in the wrong lane, he or she legally may share the blame.
- Motorcycles try to pass cars within the same lane, which can startle drivers.
- Splitting lanes (driving between lanes of cars), which greatly reduces maneuverability of the motorcyclist and surprises drivers. If an accident occurs, liability depends on whether that state permits lane-splitting, what the police officer and judge think about lane splitting, and what the vehicle and the motorcyclists were doing right before the accident occurred.
- Motorcycle speeding & alcohol use is involved in about half of all motorcycle accidents. A motorcycle rider who has been drinking or speeding will find it hard to argue that anyone else was at fault in an accident.
- Collisions between motorcycles and fixed objects account for about 25% of motorcycle deaths.
- Supersport and sport motorcycles both tend to attract younger drivers, who also tend to have more accidents. The death rate among riders of supersport motorcycle accidents is four times that of riders of conventional motorcycles. The death rate among riders of sport motorcycles is two times that of conventional motorcycle riders.
Motorcyclists are far more vulnerable to serious injury and death than anyone in a vehicle. We urge you to take these simple steps can help reduce that risk:
- Do not drink and ride
- Do not speed
- When approaching an intersection, stay out of the left-hand lane
- Approach cars as if you were invisible to them
- Focus attention 100% of the time on what is around you (which means, don’t ride when you are tired, angry or distracted)
- Take a defensive driving course for motorcyclists every few years to stay sharp