The Hows And Whys of Motorcycle Safety

Motorcycle crashes aren’t necessarily more common than car crashes or accidents in other vehicles, but they still caused as many as 4,976 fatalities in 2015. Perhaps the most important statistic when it comes to is motorcycle accidents is that when they do happen, the potential for damage is much higher. 2015, motorcyclists were 29 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured. As a result, those of you choose to ride a motorcycle need to pay extra attention to safety, as the stakes are higher. Here are some things you can do to avoid getting in these accidents and mitigate damage if you do.

What Should I Avoid?

The best practice in surviving a motorcycle accident is not being in one on the first place, and while this may sound like obvious advice, breaking down the numbers around motorcycle fatalities shows some interesting things why busting common myths. For example, some of the things that you may think are behind many crashes are actually minimal. For example, vehicle failures are very rarely behind accidents, only play a role in 3% of them. When this happens, it’s generally a single vehicle accident when control is lost due to a puncture flat. Roadway defects and animals account for even smaller percentages of accidents.  On top of this, single vehicle accidents are only ¼ of all motorcycle accidents, generally caused by rider error over anything else.

As many expert motorcyclists will tell you, sometimes the most dangerous things on the road are your fellow drivers, especially passenger automobiles. This is due to the fact that a motorcycle doesn’t have nearly the amount of protecting that a passenger automobile has, so no matter who is at fault in the accident, the person on the motorcycle has the highest likelihood of being injured or even killed.

At the moment, the single most dangerous situation for a motorcyclist is when a car is making a left turn, accounting for 42% of all accidents involving a motorcycle and a car. The most common instances of this are when the motorcycle is:

  • going straight through an intersection
  • passing the car, or
  • trying to overtake the car.

This happens to other cars as well, but the smaller size of the motorcycle means that it is even more likely that an accident can occur. Another common instance that can lead to accidents is lane splitting, when a motorcycle runs through two lands of stopped or moving cars. The laws on this vary, but since you have limited space to move, the cars are closer, and they may not expect you, there may be an accident. Use your best judgement to determine if lane splitting is a good idea as the situation arises.

What Can I Do?

Sometimes, accidents are inevitable. You can do everything right, but a motorist may not notice you, or one of the less likely instances we mentioned earlier can happen.  In this case, the safety precautions you take can make all the difference, and it starts with wearing a helmet. CDC statistics show that helmets saved an estimated 1,772 lives in 2015, and if all motorcyclists wore helmets, another 740 could have been saved. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a full-faced helmet is a bad idea, either. Department of Transportation standards ensure you have at least a 210-degree field of view.

For first time bikers or those who haven’t used one in a while, you may be surprised at the amount of power these vehicles pack.  As a result, you want to make sure you have one that isn’t too powerful for you. As a rule of thumb, a smaller model with a 250- to 300-cc engine can make a great starter or commuter bike. If you plan on doing a lot of highway riding, you might want one with an engine in the 500- to 750-cc range. Make sure you have one that fits you properly as well. When seated, you should easily be able to rest both feet flat on the ground without having to be on tiptoes.

There’s plenty of reasons to choose a motorcycle as your vehicle of choice, but any hobby with a chance of injury carries with it several responsibilities, not just your own, but that of other motorists on the road. By being mindful of the situations that are most likely to lead to injury as well as keeping yourself adequately protected, you can enjoy your ride while minimizing your potential for harm.