It’s not only bikers who need a reminder to drive with caution during Motorcycle Safety Month. Each May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration promotes the event, a special observance that resonates with the families of riders across the country. Motorcyclists still suffer injuries at an alarming rate and are 35 times more likely to die from their crash-related injuries than car accident victims, Live Free Ride Alive reported. Motorcycle collision injuries have been on the rise in recent years (from 120,000 injuries in 2001 to a whopping 175,000 in 2008), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of motorcycles currently in use in the U.S. has continued to climb, but the number of appropriately-trained riders has not – and that means a greater potential for accidents to happen every single day.
Photo Credit: Flickr.
Safety on a motorcycle requires everyone to share the road. Unfortunately, as many riders would confirm, other motorists on the road often don’t drive cautiously enough around motorcycles. In the case of many collisions, drivers report that they didn’t even see the motorcyclist until the accident occurred. They may tailgate, with or without realizing it, or they may intentionally or accidentally cut off motorcyclists. Sadly, no biker can predict what another driver may do, especially if that driver does not even notice them.
So many variables that can lead to an accident are beyond a motorcyclist’s control. That’s why it’s imperative that bikers take control of the situation as much as possible – and it all starts with the right training.
Training Matters – Before You Ever Get on a Bike
More people than ever are showing interest in motorcycle safety courses – and not a moment too soon. In the past several years, motorcycle injuries and fatalities have increased significantly across the United States. In the cases of both fatal and non-fatal injuries, young riders have historically been the most at-risk, with the 20- to 24-year-old group sustaining the most injuries, the CDC reported. The next youngest age group, 25- to 29-year-olds, comes in second in terms of likelihood of suffering injuries.
What’s startling is that so many of these injured victims were not qualified to be riding these bikes at all. As many as 21 percent of motorcycle operators involved in collisions have no license to drive a motorcycle, according to the infographic “How Dangerous Are Motorcycles, Really?” “All bikers… should have either a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s licenses or separate motorcycle licenses,” reported NorthJersey.com, but “of New Jersey’s 6 million licensees who ride big bikes, roughly 5 percent have such credentials.” Though most of us probably wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car without being appropriately licensed, motorcycles are seen as such a recreational vehicle that many regard it as perfectly sensible to take a joyride, even knowing that it’s a class of vehicles associated with collisions and death.
Photo Credit: Flickr.
This is where training programs come into play. From learning the basics to honing existing skills and developing new abilities, these classes strengthen an individual’s capabilities to allow for a safer ride. Working with qualified instructors helps riders retrain themselves to avoid bad habits and offers a chance to connect with fellow bikers of a similar skill level. Training programs are both hands-on and informative, and the confidence these courses instill in riders and their families is priceless. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers classes beginning with Learning-to-Ride and going all the way up.
Teaching an Old Hog New Tricks
Don’t think it’s just fresh-faced kids who need to worry about motorcycle safety. Even experienced riders could stand to drive a little more safely – in fact, seasoned bikers may be especially vulnerable to suffering fatal injuries in a collision. “There has been a dramatic jump in the number of deaths among motorcycle riders age 40 and older in recent years, reported TrafficSafety.org. Older motorcycle riders, who account for an increasingly larger proportion of all motorcyclists, now account for about half of all motorcycle rider fatalities.”
Perhaps this change is due to the physical aging process, with eyesight and reaction time often decreasing and physical resiliency becoming ever more difficult to find. Perhaps it’s a case of believing that experience alone is in some measure protective, when in fact neither skills nor sheer experience is enough to prevent an accident from occurring when hazardous circumstances occur. Regardless, research published in journal Injury Prevention shows that, “older adults involved in motorcycle crashes are prone to more severe injuries than younger adults” – and that means it is even more important for these experienced riders to prevent accidents from occurring.
“We all know that our motorcycles run best with an occasional tune-up,” wrote the American Motorcyclist Association. “Well, the same is true for riders. Whether you’ve been riding two years or more than 20, it doesn’t hurt to get some safety training so you’re prepared to handle hazards.” The organization encourages even the most proficient bikers to refresh their skills during a single-day class through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Experienced RiderCourse for advanced riders.
Easiest Way to Stay Safe on a Motorcycle
Learning to ride a motorcycle can be a challenge. Navigating the streets safely from your bike isn’t always easy, especially when you’re surrounded by vehicles that far outweigh yours. The one easy part is wearing the proper safety gear, especially on your head.
Who says motorcycle helmets can’t look cool? They can be almost as individual as you are. Just make sure your helmet is approved by the Department of Transportation. Photo Credit: Flickr.
Helmets are probably the most important piece of safety gear you can wear. Protecting your head is of the utmost importance. A helmet can make the difference between dying from head trauma and surviving a brain injury and recovering to continue living your life. Modern helmets do not limit a rider’s vision or hearing, according to the NHTSA, and some states require their use while riding. Wearing helmets can save lives.
Safety Is Everyone’s Business – and Everyone’s Responsibility
Why do (or should) motorists care if bikers wear helmets? Why should states be allowed to pass laws mandating protective headgear? Because at the core, safety on the road is everyone’s responsibility.
Approximately 80 percent of all motorcycle accidents result in injuries, according to TrafficSafety.org. That’s a scary statistic, especially when you consider that the rate of injuries in car accidents is only one-quarter of that number, at 20 percent. Anyone involved in a motorcycle crash has a significantly higher likelihood of being injured or killed than they do of walking away unscathed – and that very possibility may be enough to give riders and their spouses, parents, children, siblings, and best friends nightmares. A motorcycle accident is nothing short of a trauma for everyone involved.
Whether or not cyclists wear helmets isn’t a personal choice that impacts an individual alone, but instead a larger concern that can create loss within a community and drain taxpayers’ bank accounts. Each year, the financial cost of motorcycle collisions reaches an average $12,000,000,000, the CDC reported. When a victim doesn’t have sufficient insurance to cover the cost of treating the type of acute injuries that are unfortunately all too common in motorcycle accidents, that emergency care to save (or attempt to save) the victim’s life must still be paid for – and the cost often comes out of public funds, at least in part. Helmets decrease the severity of brain injuries, which are among the most expensive injuries to care for, and by this virtue alone, they have the potential to save every taxpayer from spending additional, hard-earned money.
Economic costs are not, of course, the primary concern. Over the duration of a nearly 20 year career, I’ve seen the damage accident victims sustain and the life-changing effects these injuries have on my clients’ futures. I know how serious the consequences of an accident can be for individuals, families, and communities. It doesn’t matter if one motorcyclist says that he or she knows the risks of riding without a helmet, or riding while intoxicated, or riding without proper training and licensure – no individual reserves the right to create unnecessary dangers on the roadways.
This May, make it a point to drive a little more cautiously out of awareness for Motorcycle Safety Month and respect for those who have lost their lives in a motorcycle collision. Whether you drive a motorcycle, a passenger car, or a truck, you have the opportunity to make your community a safer place to drive. Wear your safety gear, whether that means a helmet or a seat belt. Share the road. Give other vehicles plenty of space, and stay alert. It doesn’t matter what seat you’re sitting in – you have the opportunity to “look twice, save a life.”
As a beloved international pastime, motorcycles have a special place in our history, our media, and – for those who ride or love someone who rides – our lives. Sadly, it’s not all about the feel of the wind in your hair (especially since you’re supposed to wear a helmet). Motorcycle riding can be a hazardous mode of transportation and exceptionally dangerous hobby, but by reminding both motorcyclists and operators of other motor vehicles how important it is to drive with caution, organizations and agencies hope that they can reduce the number of injuries and fatalities not only during Motorcycle Safety Month, but all year long. If you have been hurt in a motorcycle accident, call (800) 813-7033 today for help securing the compensation you deserve and getting your life back on track.
A motorcycle collision can cause some of the most serious injuries possible, from head trauma to spinal cord damage, severed limbs to internal organ injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered in a motorcycle crash and you believe someone else’s careless behavior contributed to the collision, get the help you deserve. Call Console & Hollawell’s motorcycle accident attorneys today at (800) 455-2746 for a free consultation.
Sent by Nina Nowalkowski