It’s no secret that motorcycles can be incredibly dangerous, especially if not handled properly, but exactly how dangerous are they? Turns out that fully 14% of all fatalities on America’s roads involve a motorcycle. In 2017, that added up to over 5,000 motorcyclists who lost their lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
What are the main causes of these deadly accidents on our nation’s highways and byways? Let’s take a closer look.
Driving While Impaired
Again, it should come as no surprise that drinking alcohol and taking drugs — even legal ones that have been prescribed to the rider — do not mix with riding a motorcycle. Any substance that causes impairment should be avoided when operating any kind of vehicle, motorcycles included.
In fact, nearly a third of all fatal accidents involving motorcyclists occur after the riders have been drinking.
Whether you are getting behind the wheel or a set of handlebars, stay sober. If you do happen to indulge in a couple of beers or smoke a little weed, find someone who is sober to take you back home again. Call an Uber or a taxi, then get your bike the next day. Taking the risk of riding after imbibing can result in tragedy.
While you’re at it, make sure you are well rested, too. Exhaustion and fatigue can mimic intoxication and lead to accidents.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) says that a quarter of motorcycle fatalities can be chalked up to the rider trying to avoid an obstacle in the road, such as another vehicle or a large animal, like a deer. This is one occurrence that the rider can’t control — but they can prepare for it and take steps to lessen the danger.
The first and most logical step is to slow down. When you are driving or riding at a high rate of speed, you have less reaction time. If a car swerves into the lane ahead of you or a deer bounds out of the woods on the side of the road, you won’t have any choice except to hit it or swerve to avoid hitting it — and that’s when the accident occurs. Riding more slowly gives you those precious few seconds of reaction time that can mean the difference, literally, between life and death.
If there is traffic, be sure to leave plenty of room between your bike and the vehicle ahead of you. Should that vehicle come to a sudden stop, you will be better equipped to stop in plenty of time or be able to maneuver safely around it.
Lastly, pay attention. Yes, the exhilaration of cruising down the open road on your chopper is fantastic, but never let yourself get so caught up in it that you are distracted. Your senses should be firing on all cylinders so that you are always aware of what is happening on the road around you.
Poor Weather Conditions
Here’s another cause of collisions that isn’t entirely unavoidable. Depending on the area of the country where you’re traveling, and the climate thereof, a sudden storm can crop up while you’re out on your bike. Both rain and snow storms can be dangerous, even deadly, for motorcyclists. So too can strong winds, especially if they blow debris into your path or make it difficult to keep your bike steady on the road.
Before you head out for a ride, take a look at the weather. Don’t take unnecessary chances — follow the old maxim of “better safe than sorry.” And if inclement weather arises while you are already on the road, find someplace safe to pull over and wait out the storm if at all possible.
Stick to the Speed Limit
Yes, we know how tempting it can be to open ‘er up and see how fast you can go, especially on a beautiful day. But resist the temptation. According to the Denver accident attorneys at Lampert & Walsh, fully 32% of fatal motorcycle accidents involve speeding. While you should never exceed the posted speed limits — they aren’t arbitrary, after all — use your judgment and feel free to go slower if you feel it is safer or more comfortable. Don’t let other riders or drivers pressure you into speeding up if it is unsafe.
With a little common sense, you can still enjoy your bike to the fullest and stay safe! Resist becoming a tragic statistic by following these tips; stay sober, slow down, only ride when conditions are good, and be alert at all times.