According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the only transportation activity more dangerous than operating (or being a passenger on) a motorcycle on our streets and highways is to be a pedestrian. The Council puts the odds of a motorcyclist being involved in a fatal accident at one in 770, placing them just slightly behind pedestrians (one in 647). That’s one of many reasons why the Council designates May as National Motorcycle Safety Month. The goal is not only to encourage motorcyclists to ride safely, but to make drivers of larger vehicles more aware of motorcyclists on the road. They’re harder to see, often making them “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s no secret that riding a motorcycle is risky. On a per-capita basis, deaths from motorcycle accidents occur 27 times more frequently than those in other vehicle accidents, based on annual crash data from the Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), there were 5,286 motorcyclist accident fatalities in 2016 — 4,603 riders of traditional “street bikes” and 319 of their passengers. The balance (364) were sprinkled throughout other types of bikes, such as ATV, off-road BMX, three-wheelers and mopeds. That same year in Kentucky, 107 street motorcycle riders and four passengers were killed on our streets and highways.
Causes of Motorcycle AccidentsThe most common cause is the failure of other drivers to see motorcycles in traffic. Others include either the motorcyclist or drivers in other vehicles doing the following:
- Unsafe lane changes – Often occur when a driver fails to check his or her blind spot or to signal before changing lanes.
- Car doors – A driver opens the door of their parked vehicle in the path of an oncoming motorcycle without first checking their mirrors.
- Speeding – This involves the motorcyclist, another vehicle, or both.
- Driving under the influence – By either or both
- Lane-splitting – Driving between two lanes of traffic.
- Sudden stops – Either vehicle driver or biker can stop short and get rear-ended.
- Inexperienced drivers – Whether behind the wheel or on a bike, inexperienced drivers tend to make unsafe moves, often suddenly, that endanger the safety of those with whom they share the road.
- Left-turn accidents – Right-of-way errors or misjudgments of distance while making a left turn are common causes of injury and death to motorcycle riders.
- Dangerous road conditions – Degraded pavement, loose gravel, potholes, debris, and lack of signals or signs – especially at intersections – make it more difficult for motorcycle riders to control their bikes.
- Passenger car drivers should increase their following distances behind a biker.
- All drivers and riders should be extra cautious at intersections.
- Drivers should never try to share a lane with a motorcycle. Let them have it.
- Whenever possible, motorcyclists should avoid riding in poor weather.
- Motorcyclists should try to avoid drifting into a driver’s blind spot.
- Motorcyclists should get in the habit of using turn signals for every turn or lane change.