May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, when the public is reminded of safe driving and riding practices to help increase awareness of accident risks and improve motorcyclist safety. Every year, thousands of motorcyclists die and suffer serious injuries in preventable collisions. This month, do your part to reduce the odds of a motorcycle accident by learning a few essential safety tips.
Motorcycle Accident Facts and Statistics
Motorcycle safety awareness starts with understanding how frequently these collisions occur. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,579 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents in 2020. This represented an 11 percent increase from 2019. Motorcyclist deaths accounted for 14 percent of all traffic accident deaths in the U.S. in 2020.
Motorcycle accidents are often deadly for the rider due to a lack of protection from catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries. Research shows that motorcyclists are about 24 times more likely to die and 4 times more likely to be injured in accidents than other motorists. This makes it all the more important for the public to be proactive in protecting motorcyclists and preventing accidents.
Share the Road
As a motor vehicle operator, you should always be respectful of motorcyclists and share the road with them. This includes giving them enough space to safely maneuver. If something goes wrong, a motorcyclist may need to lay down his or her bike to prevent a collision. Leave ample following room to avoid running over the biker in case this happens.
Leaving enough room can also prevent a rear-end collision, which could be fatal for a vulnerable motorcyclist. If you are driving behind a motorcycle, leave at least one car-length worth of space between the front of your vehicle and the bike. Always be aware of motorcycles around you while driving. Track their movements to help avoid a collision.
Always Check Twice for Motorcycles
Motorcycles are smaller and slimmer than standard passenger cars, and are therefore more difficult to see on the road. This is why it is important to always check not once, but twice for motorcycles. This is especially important when entering a road or highway, making a left-hand turn or merging. Checking twice could allow you to see an oncoming motorcycle that you previously missed. Be aware that a motorcycle could be in your blind spot. Carefully check your mirrors and look over your shoulder for a motorcycle before changing lanes.
Although this is a good tip for driving in general, avoiding distractions is especially important when trying to prevent motorcycle accidents. Motorcycles are already difficult enough to spot when a driver is not distracted by a cell phone, fast food, personal grooming, a passenger or a daydream. Drivers should always pay close attention to the road and keep both hands on the wheel. They should be ready to slow down or stop at a moment’s notice for changing roadway situations, such as a motorcycle entering the lane or coming to a sudden stop.
Never Operate Under the Influence
No motor vehicle operator should ever be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These substances can impair a driver or a motorcycle rider’s ability to operate the vehicle. A drunk driver may behave erratically and engage in dangerous behaviors, such as speeding, wrong-way driving, reckless driving, and swerving in and out of a lane. An intoxicated motorcyclist may also make these mistakes and lose control of his or her bike during a ride. Keep yourself and others safe by staying sober if you plan on driving or riding.
While many motorcycle accidents in Kansas City are caused by driver error, some are the fault of the motorcyclist. If you ride a motorcycle, take steps to enhance your safety this Motorcycle Accident Awareness Month. Become a more responsible rider with these tips:
- Choose the right motorcycle for your level of skill and experience.
- Practice operating your motorcycle in a safe, controlled area before taking it on a public road.
- Before every ride, inspect your motorcycle and check the weather forecast.
- Always obey posted speed limits and drive at a safe speed for the conditions.
- Do not lane split, as this is illegal in Kansas and Missouri.
- Stay in one lane except when passing.
- Do not carry a passenger unless your motorcycle is specifically equipped to do so.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and be prepared to react to a hazard at all times.
- Avoid riding at night, as research shows that many fatal accidents occur late at night and very early in the morning.
- Be drug and alcohol free if you plan on operating a motorcycle.
It is a good idea to brush up on motorcycle safety by enrolling in a safety course. No matter how long you have been riding a motorcycle, taking a refresher course can reaffirm what you can do to prevent accidents and protect yourself from injury. You may also learn new information if it has been a long time since you’ve been to a motorcycle safety course.
Even the most careful and experienced motorcycle rider could fall prey to a negligent or reckless driver. It is critical to prepare for the possibility of getting into a motorcycle accident by protecting yourself with the right safety gear. You should always wear a helmet, whether or not the law in your state requires you to do so. A motorcycle helmet reduces the risk of a serious head injury by approximately 69 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traumatic brain injuries are a top cause of motorcyclist deaths.
State law requires you to have eye protection when riding a motorcycle, either in the form of a helmet with a visor or eye goggles. You should also invest in other protective equipment for your safety in the event of an accident. This can include tough outer clothing such as a leather jacket or riding jacket, as well as long pants and over-the-ankle boots. This gear can help protect your skin from road rash and severe lacerations or abrasions in an accident.
If you get injured in a motorcycle accident in Kansas City, the attorneys at Dickerson Oxton are here to help. Contact us for a free case consultation. We stand with motorcyclists.