If you drive a motorcycle, there is probably nothing more exhilarating than a beautiful, cool, sunny day, when you can hit the open road and enjoy your bike. Unfortunately, if you end up in a crash on your motorcycle, your chances of serious injury or death increase. Statistics from the NHTSA show there were over 4,500 motorcyclists killed and 81,000 injured during 2011. In fact, motorcyclists were more than 30 times more likely to die and five times more likely to be injured in a crash than those in passenger cars. And, because motorcyclists have less physical protection than those in other types of vehicles, the injuries can be more severe.
In 2011, there were more than 8.4 million registered motorcycles in the U.S. This is a 69% increase over the number registered in 2002. The number of passenger cars registered in the country only increased 3% during this time period. The increase in the number of motorcycles is attributed in part to the higher gas mileage they get; there has also been an increased interest in motorcycles, and a trend toward older drivers.
So if you are a motorcycle enthusiast, how can you protect yourself? Here are a few tips that may help:
- Wear a helmet and have any passengers you take along wear one, too. While North Carolina and Georgia both require safety helmets, South Carolina only requires their use by drivers under age 21. Estimates show helmets are 37% effective at preventing fatalities in crashes, meaning that for every 100 people killed in a motorcycle crash who were not wearing helmets, 37 would have lived had they been wearing one.
- Don’t drink and drive. In 2011, 30% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. This is a higher percentage than car drivers. Don’t risk it.
- Drive defensively and don’t speed. Leave plenty of space around you and be aware of your surroundings. Drivers of passenger cars and trucks often cannot see motorcycles or are simply not looking for them. In crashes involving motorcycles and another vehicle, 75% of the motorcycle riders struck the back of the other vehicle; many of these crashes occurred when the car turned left in front of the motorcycle.
- Take a class. Even if you owned a bike when you were younger, if you haven’t driven in a while, you should take a refresher course. You may also want to take a class if you don’t drive frequently. Of the 4,612 drivers killed in motorcycle crashes in 2011, 56% of them were 40 or older. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what you are doing.
- The motorcycle laws and regulations vary widely by state, so if you will be taking a road trip, check the laws for the state(s) you will be visiting.
Despite taking all safety precautions, you may be injured in a motorcycle crash caused by another driver. If this happens to you, or if a loved one is involved in a fatal motorcycle crash that was caused by another person’s negligence, you should speak to an attorney to learn your rights. Contact the Columbia injury lawyers at Solomon Law Group for a free consultation.