Motorcycle Safety Guide by Titlemax
Written By: Bonnie Gringer
Riding a motorcycle has some advantages. Motorcycles are less expensive to own and operate, and they are easier to maintain than a car. Motorcycles can be more flexible in traffic situations, enabling the rider to weave through even stopped traffic with comparative ease. Along with these advantages, however, come some inherent safety risks for the rider. Motorcycle riders have less protection, so the potential for serious injury from an accident is high. Learning and following motorcycle safety guidelines can help keep riders safer.
Approximately 8.5 million motorcycles are on roadways and highways as of 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. With the increasing popularity of motorcycles, accident statistics are sobering. In 2013, 4,668 people died as a result of motorcycle accidents, according to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. During the same year, about 88,000 motorcycle riders were injured in accidents.
- In 2012, motorcyclists were approximately 26 times more likely than car drivers or passengers to die in an accident for every vehicle mile traveled. Motorcyclists are five times more likely to be hurt in an accident.
- In 2013, motorcycle deaths made up 13 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities.
- Although motorcycles contributed to less than 1 percent of all vehicle miles on the roadways in 2010, they made up 14 percent of traffic fatalities.
- The number of motorcycle deaths that occurred in 2009 is twice the number of deaths that occurred from air, train, boating, and pipeline accidents in 2009. (PDF)
Some accidents are common with motorcycles, so motorcyclists might learn about typical accidents to learn how to avoid them. Common accidents include those that involve car drivers not seeing motorcyclists on the road. As a result of the reduced visibility, a vehicle might turn left in front of a motorcycle or change lanes into a motorcycle. Cars may also hit motorcyclists from behind when drivers don’t see the motorcycles.
- A common issue with motorcycles is that drivers don’t see them. Motorcyclists can take steps to improve their visibility by wearing bright clothing or clothes with reflective stripes or patches.
- The Federal Highway Administration is conducting a crash causation study to examine accident causes and rider demographics. The FHWA expects to finalize this report in 2016.
- Over 50 percent of motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle.
- Motorcyclists making left turns and changing lanes in traffic are common causes of accidents.
- More than half of motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle occur at intersections.
Defensive driving is one key to avoiding and preventing motorcycle accidents. Car drivers may not see motorcycles on the road, which can create a dangerous situation for motorcyclists. A motorcyclist using defensive driving tactics will be constantly vigilant for possible dangers while riding. Increasing the distance between motorcycles and cars is one defensive driving strategy. Paying careful attention to the road and avoiding distractions are additional methods of defensive riding.
- The Search Evaluate Execute strategy, nicknamed “SEE,” helps motorcyclists remember to constantly remain vigilant while riding. (PDF)
- New motorcycle riders can take specific steps to prevent common accidents. Some steps include buying a motorcycle that fits the rider, honing skills to learn how to handle the bike, and using defensive driving tactics.
- Motorcyclists should always keep their headlight on while riding, even during the daytime. (PDF)
- Riders should expect potholes and be constantly vigilant to avoid them. Even with heightened vigilance, however, motorcyclists should expect and anticipate potholes to avoid serious accidents.
- A rider has to be strong enough to both push and pick up a motorcycle if it falls over. If a motorcycle is too big for the rider to push or pick up, it’s not safe to ride it.
- Weather conditions and road configurations can reduce visibility while riding. Anytime a motorcyclist cannot see adequately, it’s important to slow down.
- Motorcyclists should inspect their bikes before each ride to ensure that it’s operating correctly.
A common myth among motorcyclists is that helmets reduce their field of sight; however, experts have found this to be false. Some motorcyclists fear that helmets will reduce their ability to hear while riding, but this is an unfounded concern, as well. Helmets are exceedingly important gear for motorcyclist safety. Head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents due to the unenclosed position of motorcycle riders.
- Helmets have a 37 percent effectiveness for preventing the deaths of motorcycle riders in accidents. (PDF)
- Motorcyclists should participate in a hands-on off-road training course to learn the skills necessary for safe riding. (PDF)
- Improper licensing is an issue with motorcyclists. An estimated 20 percent of all motorcyclists do not have proper motorcycle licenses, and 40 percent of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve a motorcyclist without a proper license.
- Protective clothing can reduce injuries from motorcycle accidents. Protective clothing includes items such as motorcycle jackets, pants, gloves, and boots. (PDF)