Although motorcycles make up only 3% of the registered vehicles on the road, they account for more than 13% of all traffic fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more than 5,000 motorcycle fatalities and more than 100,000 motorcycle injuries a year.
Motorcycle riders are 27 times more likely to die in a crash than passengers in a motor vehicle. This is mostly based on the obvious fact that motorcycle riders have no protection surrounding them if they are in a collision with another vehicle or in a single-vehicle accident.
Motorcycles in Single-Vehicle Crashes
Motorcycles have a significantly higher number of single-vehicle crashes than drivers of other vehicles. In fact, 34% of motorcycle crashes involve only the motorcycle rider, compared to 19% of car crashes involving only the driver of the car.
The main cause for single-vehicle crashes involving a motorcycle is the biker’s failure to reduce their speed when navigating a curve. And of all crashes in which motorcycle riders are significantly injured or killed, 50% are crashes that involve only the motorcycle and no other vehicle. In 2018, the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed that in one year, there were more motorcycle fatalities from crashes with stationary objects than there were with any other type of vehicle.
Motorcycles in Crashes with Other Vehicles
When motorcycles are involved in crashes with other vehicles (passenger cars and trucks), there are several common causes for these crashes. Some are caused by the vehicle drivers and some are caused by the motorcyclists:
- Unsafe lane changes. Many motorcycle accidents occur when drivers fail to properly check their mirrors and signal when changing lanes.
- Speeding. According to NHTSA, 33% of motorcycle crash fatalities involved riders who were speeding, compared to only 19% of passenger car fatalities, 15% of light-truck fatalities, and 7% of large-truck crash fatalities. Driving at excessive speed reduces the opportunity to see danger and avoid accidents. Excessive speed also results in greater impact in a collision and, consequently, more significant injuries.
- Driving while intoxicated. Twenty-five percent of motorcycle fatalities involve riders under the influence of alcohol; this is the highest percentage of fatalities among all types of vehicles.
- Lane Splitting. “Splitting” lanes (driving in between two lanes of traffic) is a significant risk for accidents, especially for inexperienced motorcycle riders.
- Sudden stopping. Motorcycles following too closely to vehicles and rear-ending them when they come to a sudden stop is a common cause of motorcycle crashes.
- Inexperience on the road. Approximately half of all motorcycle accidents involve riders with under 5 months of riding experience. Surprisingly, 27% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes do not have a valid license.
- Failure to yield the right of way. One of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents is drivers of passenger vehicles failing to yield the right of way to motorcyclists.
- Road conditions. It is commonly thought that poor road conditions are a major cause of motorcycle accidents, but statistics show that this is not a significant factor.
- Mechanical failures. Mechanical failures can be a cause of some motorcycle accidents, but these mechanical failures often are not the fault of the manufacturer but, rather, the failure of the motorcyclist to properly maintain the motorcycle.
Who Is Usually at Fault for Motorcycle Crashes with Other Vehicles?
It may surprise many people to know that in motorcycle crashes involving a motorcycle and a passenger vehicle, the driver of the passenger vehicle is more often the cause of the accident than the driver of the motorcycle.
In a study conducted at the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research, researchers concluded that “[m]otorists driving cars and trucks are mostly at fault, often failing to yield the right of way to the smaller [motorcycles].” There are several factors that contribute to this:
- Motorists are not expecting to see motorcycles. Because there are many fewer motorcycles on the road than there are cars and trucks, especially because in many parts of the country, motorcycle riding is seasonal, motorists are not often expecting to see motorcycles on the road. When they are not expecting them, they often do not see them.
- Motorists are often not aware of motorcycles. Not only are motorists not expecting to see motorcycles on the road, but motorists who are not familiar with motorcycles are also less likely to be aware of them on the road and, therefore, are less likely to see them. In a survey taken by the Florida Department of Transportation, subjects were asked how often they see motorcycles on the road. Respondents whose driver’s license included a motorcycle endorsement reported seeing motorcycles all the time, whereas those driving in the same area that did not have motorcycle endorsements on their license reported seeing motorcycles only occasionally.
- Motorcycles have smaller profiles. The greatest difficulty for seeing motorcycles is in situations in which the motorcycle approaches vehicles from the front because motorcycles are so much smaller in scale compared to other vehicles.
- Motorists misjudge the speed and distance of motorcycles. Because motorcycles are so much smaller in scale, drivers tend to misjudge the rate of speed at which motorcycles are traveling and how far away motorcycles actually are, so drivers are more likely to turn in front of a motorcycle than they are to turn in front of a truck traveling at the same speed.
Have You Been Injured in a Kansas City Motor Vehicle Accident?
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