Many men today – and a rapidly increasing number of women – would be thrilled at the chance to hop on a motorcycle, rev-up that handlebar throttle, and speed off into the horizon. Motorcycles can be fun to ride and are also great on gas mileage. The experience of riding in the open air with the pavement rolling by very quickly a few exposed inches below the rider’s feet can be invigorating, but it does not come without some risk.
This article will outline the most common reasons motorcycle accidents happen, typical accident injuries, and how to prevent both.
Reasons for Motorcycle Accidents
There are a vast number of events that can cause a motorcycle to take a dive. These range from a small bump in the driveway to a full speed disaster. Whatever the case, there are many things a rider should be aware of before taking to the streets.
Low speed, minor injury situations happen all the time. A patch of gravel or a sharp turn can end in a dent in the gas tank and some serious bumps and bruises. An inexperienced rider may not recognize all of these perils or know how to navigate them safely. It is important to understand the conditions surrounding the motorcycle and the proper technique for handling the situation. These small accidents are frequent and can happen in a split second.
In accidents involving serious injury, an extremely low percentage are caused by factors outside of either the motorcyclist’s or other drivers’ control. For example, in accidents in which a serious injury was sustained, vehicle failure is the cause in only an average of 3% of the accidents and poor road conditions are only responsible for around 2% of incidents. This means that even though a rider should still be aware of his or her environment, just watching the status of the weather, the bike, and the road is not enough to stay out of harm’s way.
According to almost every source, the main cause of all motorcycle accidents is an error from another driver on the road. This includes drivers who are not paying attention, those who never saw the motorcycle, and those who did not see the motorcycle in time to prevent an accident. Because motorcycles are so much smaller than other vehicles on the road, the chance that they may get lost in a driver’s blind spot are greatly multiplied. This is the factor that leads to the most common accident configuration: the motorcycle going straight with the automobile turning left in front of the oncoming motorcycle. It is vital that a motorcyclist constantly monitor the actions of vehicles around them.
Typical Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Just like there are a vast number of ways in which a motorcyclist can get in an accident, so there are a variety of different types of injuries that can be sustained when in an accident. Also, because there is so much exposure while riding a bike, virtually all motorcycle accidents end up in some sort of injury. The head, arms and legs are the most often injured. This can come in the form of head injuries, broken limbs, and road rash.
Motorcycle accidents are also often more complicated than auto accidents. For example, according to insurance data, 23% of claimants have injuries to multiple locations, and 18% of head injuries result in some sort of permanent disability. Limbs are often broken, either from the impact of a fall, collision with another vehicle, or entanglement in the rider’s own motorcycle. On top of such serious injuries, any rider who is not wearing full protective gear is almost guaranteed to suffer road rash to any part of their body that meets the pavement.
One of the most shocking facts about motorcycle accident injuries is this, reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: per mile driven, motorcyclists are 32 times more likely to die in a crash than a passenger car occupant. Although in 2004 this amounted to only about 4,000 fatalities out of roughly 76,000 reported injuries, it is still a significant number of deaths. There are precautions that can be taken to limit a rider’s chance of death, and that will be covered in the next section.
How to Prevent a Fatal Motorcycle Accident
The number one rule without a doubt is to wear a helmet. Most accidents that result in death are caused by a head injury, and there is only one way to help avoid these while riding a motorcycle. All serious injuries are greatly reduced both in severity and in frequency by the simple act of putting on a helmet. In fact, more than half of motorcycle fatalities in 2003 were unhelmeted at the time of the accident. There are several different types of helmets, including full-face helmets, ¾ helmets and half helmets. Full coverage is the best option because it affords protection for the entire head and face, instead of just a part of the head.
Even though wearing a helmet is the best advice for staying alive, there are other tips that can help. Almost half of motorcycle accident fatalities involve some sort of alcohol. Whether or not a rider is past the legal limit, motorcycles require a lot of skill and attention to operate safely. Any amount of alcohol can impair judgment enough to be dangerous.
Another key element to motorcycle safety is experience. This encompasses many different elements. The first and most important is the amount of time spent on the bike. The more riding time a motorcyclist has under their belt, the better he or she will understand the different perils of the road and how to avoid them. Next is responsibility. Realizing that owning a motorcycle does not nullify traffic laws is important to understand. Merely following the law will help take much of the risk out of riding a bike.
As mentioned in a previous section, the main causes of accidents are other motorists and the rider’s environment. Vigilance is the key to safety here. A rider should constantly monitor their surroundings. When near other vehicles, a motorcyclist should assume that other drivers cannot see them and ride accordingly. He or she should also analyze all other conditions with the mindset that a dangerous obstacle is just around every corner. Understanding and remembering all of these tips can go a long way in keeping any rider’s bike and life intact.
Bringing It All Together
When ridden safely, motorcycles are a great option for transportation. They are fun, fast and fuel-efficient. The key to making sure any rider’s experience stays enjoyable is to respect the road and the rules. Being vigilant and wearing the right equipment will go a long way in helping prevent the bumps and bruises or worse that accompany any accident. So stay sharp and be safe and you and your motorcycle will have many more miles ahead to feel the pavement underneath roll on by.