A compilation of car or motorcycle accident statistics always reveals some expected results and some surprising revelations.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) published a study that shows that motorcycle sales reaching a 30 year high in 2006. Affluent baby boomers tapping into the equity in their homes to buy expensive bikes and younger adults attracted to sport bikes by movies like “The Fast and the Furious” account in part for the dramatic increase in popularity of motorcycles recently. Sadly, the rate of motorcycle fatalities in the US has reached a twenty year high as well. Older riders, ages 40 and over contribute more than expected to this statistic.
People who would not normally consider riding a motorcycle have also purchased bikes for economic reasons, like being able to get over twice the fuel economy riding a motorcycle which costs less than half as much as a small car. Commuting by motorcycle can put people in more dangerous traffic situations than those faced by the casual recreational rider. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) posted the number of motorcycle deaths for 2007 at 5,154 and injuries at 103,000.
The most common causes of motorcycle accidents overlap those for accidents involving small cars in a few categories:
- Motorcycles are less stable than autos on rural roads where maintenance is neglected and asphalt may give way to gravel and dirt.
- Driving while impaired on alcohol or drugs is much more dangerous on a motorcycle.
- Due to poor rider visibility of the road and automobile drivers not easily seeing motorcyclists, night driving accounts for 60% of motorcycle fatalities.
- Undivided highways are a hazard for any vehicle, but the survivability of a head-on crash puts the rider in a deadly disadvantage.
- Driving a motorcycle requires skill in balancing and precise timing when negotiating a curve, which for a novice rider should require hours of practice before tackling unfamiliar roads and highways.
- The faster you go on a motorcycle, the quicker your reflexes and sharper your perception needs to be. Driving above the speed limit can put the rider in situations that the motorcycle cannot accommodate, with unforgiving consequences.
The Insurance Information Institute implores all motorcycle owners to take any precautions necessary to prevent a fatal motorcycle accident, including the following tips:
- Equivalent to the auto occupant wearing a seatbelt, the motorcyclist and rider need to always wear helmets. 41% of motorcycle fatality victims were not wearing helmets.
- Check with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and other agencies to get proper training and always obtain a valid license before riding a motorcycle. Defensive driving classes are invaluable for motorcycle riders and automobile drivers as well.
- Drive sober. Even if you feel fine, do not operate any vehicle if you have been drinking or using drugs.
- Minimize night driving to remove you from a high risk environment that puts the motorcycle rider in a severe disadvantage.
The latest subcompact cars, such as the Smart Car have passed the necessary crash tests, but offer little more protection to the driver than that of a motorcycle. Smaller cars and motorcycles are at a disadvantage sharing the road with 5000-lb SUVs and need to keep a safe distance from them.