Motorcycles have become more and more popular over the years with thousands of riders taking to the streets either for sport or recreation. While the thought of feeling the wind on your face while riding a motorcycle is appealing to many people, riders are faced with many risks every time they step on the bike, especially when other motorists fail to see them on the road. Ultimately, understanding the reasons why motorcycle accidents occur can help both drivers and motorcyclists make safer decisions when sharing the road.
There are a few common causes of motorcycle accidents in Indiana and nationwide. Some of these include failure of drivers to see motorcyclists, drivers violating the motorcyclist’s right of way, vehicles turning left in front of motorcyclists at intersections and motorcyclist error. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes in 2008, there were 5,290 motorcycle accident fatalities with 96,000 more injuries. 119 of these fatalities occurred in Indiana alone.
Because motorcycles are much smaller than passenger cars, light trucks and large trucks, many drivers often don’t see a motorcyclist until it’s too late. Two-vehicle crashes accounted for 2,554 (47%) of motorcyclist fatalities in 2008. Motorcyclists also do not have the advantage of a metal frame to protect them in the event of a crash, so in almost all two-vehicle crashes involving a motorcycle, it is the rider who will suffer the most damage.
Intersection crashes where a vehicle turned left in front of a motorcyclist accounted for 985 fatalities. In most cases, the motorcyclist was going straight or passing another vehicle. 666 fatalities resulted from both the vehicle and the motorcycle traveling straight. When motorcyclists have the right of way through an intersection, they may be traveling at a higher rate of speed, which plays a role in the severity of injuries sustained in an accident. If a rider is traveling at 40mph and a vehicle turns left in front of him or her, causing the motorcycle to hit the vehicle, the chances of catastrophic injury or death rise significantly. Drivers should always be alert and watch for motorcyclists when turning at any intersection.
Nearly two-thirds of motorcycle accidents occur because of rider error. In many cases, speed and rider inexperience contribute to single-vehicle crashes. Some riders may also purchase the wrong motorcycle for their experience level, opting for a bigger engine with more power such as a 900cc instead of a 250cc or 600cc. Because bigger bikes are heavier, they may be more difficult for a smaller or inexperienced motorcyclist to control. Statistics show that motorcyclists are more likely to be involved in a crash with a fixed object such as a tree or lamp post, compared to 19% of passenger vehicles, 14% of light trucks and only 4% of big rigs.
As stated earlier, motorcyclists don’t have the advantage of a metal frame protecting them in the event of an accident like occupants of passenger vehicles do. There are steps that motorcyclists can take to prevent motorcycle accidents and injury to their person which include, but are not limited to:
- Choosing the proper sized motorcycle for the rider’s stature and experience level.
- Always wear a helmet, protective eye gear, jacket, pants and riding boots. In the event that a rider is hit and slides across pavement, better that the protective gear get ruined instead of the rider’s body.
- Obey traffic rules and share the road. Don’t speed or weave in and out of traffic. As much as other drivers need to look out for a rider, the rider should show other drivers the same courtesy.