Countless individuals have discovered the thrill and excitement of riding a motorcycle. Unfortunately, however, they and their loved ones must contend with the stark realities of motorcycle safety. A good way to begin riding safer is to become more aware of the risks involved. And a great way to begin doing just that is to examine what the causes of motorcycle accidents are.
Most of us are aware that the risk of fatalities is higher for those who ride motorcycles than for those who are occupants in a passenger car. But the primary cause of motorcycle accidents (approximately 70%) is due to the failure of other motorists to be aware of motorcycles in heavy traffic or at night. About two thirds of accidents involving a motorcycle and another motor vehicle are cause by the other vehicle turning into the lane of the motorcycle. And in collisions between motorcycles and automobiles, some studies suggest that the likelihood of the motorcyclist dying is 27 times higher than that for the occupants of the car.
Speeding is another major cause of motorcycle accidents. Whether it is by an inexperienced rider not aware of his or her limitations, or by a more experienced rider seeking the thrill of "pushing the envelope", in about half of all fatal accidents the motorcycle operator was speeding. For one, excessive speed can displace the motorcycle's alignment causing the front end to "wobble", making it more difficult for the motorcycle operator to maintain control. In any case, the lack of barrier between the motorcyclist and the road leaves him or her vulnerable, thus speeding, not surprisingly, has numerous detrimental effects on the rider in an accident.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is another important cause of motorcycle accidents. The intoxication level of motorcycle operators who have been in fatal accidents, in fact, is actually higher than that of drivers of other motor vehicles involved in fatal accidents.
Other important causes of motorcycle accidents include bad road conditions, unskilled operators, undivided roadways, defective or poorly maintained motorcycles, and aggression against motorcyclists by drivers of other vehicles. Factors that contribute to motorcycle accident fatalities include not wearing a helmet, riding at night, and fuel leakage and spills after a crash which may introduce a fire hazard.
Some safety lessons learned include:
- Ride defensively (especially at night)
- Do not drink or drug and ride
- Use safety gear such as a helmet and neck protector
- Properly maintain your motorcycle
- Check your motorcycle for loose screws, leaks, etc. prior to riding
- Check the weather and road conditions prior to riding