The motorcycle is a uniquely American icon. For many people it is a symbol of freedom – the freedom to go where you want and when you want, unhindered by everyday responsibilities. It is a symbol of the open road. It is ideal for a culture that is always on the move. It represents the romance of movement and the possibility of discovery. A motorcycle is a way to see what’s over the next hill, around the next bend, and just down the road.
In spite of all the romance and the symbolism, a motorcycle is a powerful machine that’s capable of causing injury and death if not operated correctly. In this article, we’re going to look at some little known motorcycle safety facts. These facts are meant to engage your interest and educate you so that you’re going to be a little more aware of some of the things that you can do to make your next trip on your bike a little safer.
The chances are that if you’re involved in a motorcycle accident, it will involve a car. Nearly 75% of all motorcycle accidents involve a collision with an automobile. In over 60% of these accidents, the driver of the car is at fault, usually by violating the motorcycle’s right of way.
This means that if you want to stay safe and avoid an accident, you need to constantly be aware of the vehicular traffic around you while you’re riding.
When the driver of a car violates a motorcycle’s right of way, it is usually because the driver failed to see the motorcycle, or saw the motorcycle when it was too late to take corrective action. This means that as a motorcycle driver, you need to be aware of other vehicle’s blinds spots. You need to avoid these blind spots whenever possible. When avoiding a blind spot isn’t possible, then you need to spend as little time as possible in the spot.
Less than 25% of all motorcycle accidents are solo collisions, that is, the motorcycle colliding with a stationary, non-vehicular object like the roadway, a pole. or a wall. Nearly 70% of all solo collisions are caused by operator error, things like letting the bike slide out and falling, or excessive speed causing under-cornering during a turn. Less than 10% of all solo collisions are caused by equipment failure, like a tire blow out, or by roadway obstructions, like potholes. This means that if you want to stay safe, you need to make sure that you are observing a safe speed for the road conditions that you encounter.
The majority of motorcycle accidents occur within five miles of the victim’s home, usually on short trips involving errands, or pleasure drives with family or friends, and usually occur within minutes of leaving home. This means that you have to take the most care on your motorcycle when you are most comfortable and in the most familiar surroundings. Oftentimes, being close to home on a route that you know well can cause you to drop your guard and become less vigilant. This lack of vigilance is what causes the accident.
Most motorcycle accidents occur at low speeds. The average speed of a motorcycle prior to an accident is less than 30 mph and nearly 20 mph at the time of impact. Very few accidents occur at high speeds.
This means that you need to more aware of traffic conditions and the road when you are traveling slowly than when you are traveling at a higher rate of speed. Just as you can get complacent when close to home because it’s comfortable, you can also get complacent about safety when you’re moving relatively slowly. The slower speed lulls your mind into thinking that conditions are safe. This, in turn, causes your guard to drop and an accident is the result.
Almost one half of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve alcohol. This means that you can never drink and safely operate a motorcycle. Alcohol causes the same lapses in the judgement of distance, in reaction time, and in coordination to a motorcycle rider as it does to the driver of a car. In addition, alcohol also affects balance which is essential to being able to control a motorcycle. Drinking and driving a motorcycle is a good way to end up as a statistic in more ways than one.
Motorcycle accidents of all types usually result in injuries. Ninety-eight percent of accidents involving another vehicle resulted in injuries to the motorcycle operator. Ninety-six percent of solo motorcycle accidents also resulted in injuries to the operator. In nearly 50% of both types of accidents, the injuries were severe.
Furthermore, the percentage of injury severity increases with speed, engine size, and alcohol use. This means that you always have to be aware that a motorcycle places the operator in a more vulnerable position when it comes to an accident than the driver of a car. A motorcycle operator is more exposed and therefore suffers greater trauma when a collision occurs.
The use of a helmet is the most important safety step any motorcycle operator can take. Riders without helmets are 40% more likely to suffer fatal head trauma and three times more likely to suffer brain injuries from accidents than riders with helmets.
In addition, most fatal injuries that result from a motorcycle accident involve the head and neck. The use of a helmet greatly reduces head and neck injuries. As a result, fatalities from these injuries are also greatly reduced. This means that you should never get on a motorcycle without a U.S. Department of Transportation certified helmet.
Not surprisingly, motorcycle operators who do not have a license or are driving on a revoked license are more likely to be involved in an accident. So are operators who have not participated in some type of motorcycle safety program. This means that it is in your best interest to take a motorcycle safety program to learn how to reduce your risk of accident as a part of obtaining your motorcycle license.