Cruising down America’s highways on a motorcycle, the air whipping past and the feel of total freedom is nirvana for those who ride. Unfortunately, the two-wheeled icon of adventure can also be a cause of death for those very same free spirits who ride.
In 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available, motorcyclists made up 14 percent of the total of traffic fatalities in the United States, according to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That is a staggering figure considering that, of the total number of registered vehicles in the United States, less than three percent are motorcycles.
Worth repeating: motorcycles make up only 3% of vehicles on the rode, but represent 14% of all fatalities!
“Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 27 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash, and 5 times more likely to be injured,” according to the Department of Transportation’s Web site. “In 2015, 4,976 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle crashes – an 8 percent increase from the 4,594 killed in 2014. More than 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes.”
In an effort to lower such statistics and in recognition of May’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, the agency has spearheaded several campaigns, one of which is “Share The Road.” The campaign’s message is aimed at drivers – drivers involved in more than half of the accidents.
“Motorcyclists are inherently at more risk than motor vehicles because they lack many of the same safety features of automobiles,” according to the campaign. “From a statistical perspective, motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in a crash than other motorists. NHTSA has a vested interest in addressing the types of motorist behaviors that pose a risk to motorcyclists. In years past, and enshrined in statutory language, these efforts have been bundled under the moniker of “Share the Road.”
RideApart, a Web site dedicated to motorcycle enthusiasts, is promoting Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. It points out that most motorcycle accidents occur when drivers are turning left in front of riders.
“Motorcyclists have all the same rights and privileges as any motor vehicle driver on the roadway,” according to RideApart. “This means they are entitled to their space on the road, no matter the size of their ride. This also means that they must follow the same road laws as other vehicles, including keeping a safe distance from other vehicles. During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May – and during the rest of the year – drivers of all other vehicles are reminded to “share the road” with motorcyclists, and to be extra alert to keep motorcyclists safe.” (emphasis added).
Here are some top tips for preventing motorcycle accidents:
- Let riders have the full width of the lane in which they are traveling. Never, never share lanes.
- Be observant. Look for motorcycles on the road. They are much smaller than four-wheeled vehicles and more difficult to see. Even if they are seen, it might be hard to determine how far away they are and how fast they are going.
- Use turn signals when changing lanes and merging. That way, if the motorcyclist is not seen, he or she will at least know the driver’s intentions.
- Know that turn signals on motorcycles do not automatically go off after a turn is made like they do in cars. Riders often forget they are on and might not actually be turning. Remember that brake lights usually do not come on when a motorcycle is decelerating.
- Pay attention to things such as gravel, potholes, slippery surfaces and uneven pavement. They pose more of a hazard to motorcycles than cars, and riders frequently will adjust their location and speed to avoid them.
- Stay at least five seconds behind a motorcycle when following one.
- Slow down when approaching and crossing intersections so there is more time to check the area for motorcyclists.
“If someone you know drives a motorcycle, tell him or her to always wear a helmet – even if the law doesn’t require it,” according to the Department of Transportation.
An Allstate blog titled “Get Prepared During National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month” agrees.
“When purchasing a new helmet, look for the “DOT” sticker so you know it meets the Department of Transportation’s safety standards,” the blog states. “Do not buy a used helmet, as it can be difficult to tell if the helmet has sustained any damage. According to the Snell Memorial Foundation, you may also want to replace your helmet if it is more than five years old, as helmets degrade over time. Making sure you have the right gear and proper training can help prepare you for a safe motorcycle season. When you make safety a priority, you may have more peace of mind while you’re riding down the open road.”