Your Complete Guide to
Share the Road, Save a Life
ARE MOTORCYCLES REALLY DANGEROUS?
Would you be surprised to learn that motorcycles are involved in far fewer accidents than cars each year? But there is a catch. Motorcycles may get into fewer crashes, but motorcyclists still have a higher rate of injury than the average driver since they are virtually unprotected on the road, with the exception of a helmet.
A number of people ride motorcycles for the pure passion—the thrill of the open road. Other motorcycle riders are motivated by economics—motorcycles are generally much cheaper than cars and cost less to fuel up.
THIS DOESN'T MEAN THAT
MOTORCYCLES AREN'T A RECOMMENDED MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION.
Whatever your reason may be, it helps to go into motorcycle riding with both eyes open. You can also explore the true dangers of riding a motorcycle for further education if you have any riders in your family.
IN THE GREAT DEBATE BETWEEN MOTORCYCLES AND
CARS, TRAFFIC SAFETY STATISTICS SHOW THAT:
Motorcycles were involved in 4,309 fatal crashes in 2010, compared to fatal car crashes at 22,263.
Motorcycles have a rate of 35 crashes per 100 million miles traveled, compared to cars at 1.7 crashes per 100 million miles traveled.
37% of motorcycle accidents are caused by speeding, compared to cars at 23%.
One in three motorcycle accidents are caused by alcohol, compared to one in four car accidents.
21% of motorcycle accidents involve an invalid license, compared to 14% of car accidents.
80% of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death, compared to 20% of car crashes.
To sum it up, yes, motorcycles are involved in far fewer fatal crashes, but there is a much higher risk of injury and death while riding.
Motorcycle accidents are often related to carelessness or dangerous driving behaviors, like alcohol or speeding. If a motorcyclist does get into a crash, there is an 80% chance it will end in injury or death compared to only 20% in a passenger vehicle.
¼ collide with fixed object
¾ collide with another vehicleMotorcycle death (by age)
33% over 50
26% under 29
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN EVEN FURTHER.
Today, roughly 7.7 million motorcycles drive on roadways throughout America. Only 2% of these riders have been involved in an accident. Unfortunately, this doesn't take away from the high risk factor when involved in said accident
You're 39 times more likely to die in a motorcycle accident
And eight times more likely to be injured compared to a car accident.
There are important and necessary precautions that can be taken to increase your chance of survival in a motorcycle crash. Wearing a helmet will increase a motorcyclist's survival rate by a minimum of 37% in an accident. We will talk more about the importance of helmets and corresponding helmet laws in the next section.
Riding a motorcycle can be done safely to reduce the risk of a serious or fatal accident. However, when a motorcycle crash happens, injuries are almost a given. Some of the most common injury sites can be seen below:
MOTORYCLE INJURIES(IMPACT: WHERE IT HURTS)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association found that 1.829 lives were saved in 2009 by helmets. If all the riders that crashed had been wearing helmets, over 800 more lives could have been saved.The Wallet
It can cost as much as $500 a year just to hold an insurance policy with some providers. Experience, driving records and the bike’s maker are taken into consideration. Use our calculator to compare.Incapacitation
Nearly a third of non-fatal motorcycle crashes end up having incapacitating effects on the driver. Cyclists are three times more likely than the average motorist to be severly injuried.
The bottom line is this—motorcycles have the potential for greater injury, but car crashes still kill more people each year.
Smart motorcycle riding is key by driving the speed limit, avoiding alcohol, and maintaining constant awareness. Safety gear is pivotal to protect the defenseless motorcyclist from traumatic brain injury and even death.
The importance of the motorcycle helmet is inarguable—it protects the most vulnerable point on a rider. Nonetheless, motorcycle helmet laws vary greatly throughout the US. Motorcycle helmet laws are decided at the state level and may be broken down in two separate categories:UNIVERSAL LAW
All motorcycle riders and passengers are required to wear helmets whenever riding on a motorcycle.PARTIAL LAW
Helmet requirements may be restricted to certain groups of people when riding, such as a set age limit.
The CDC confirms that 19 states, as well as the District of Columbia, had universal helmet laws as of May 2012. 28 states still enforce partial helmet laws; three states don't have helmet laws in effect. The controversy of helmet laws once again depends on the state. Some states have strengthened motorcycle helmet legislation, while others have weakened restrictions in past years.
THE CDC PROVIDES RESEARCH THAT SUPPORTS SEVERAL
KEY FACTS ABOUT STATEWIDE HELMET LAWS:
When a universal helmet law is enacted, motorcycle helmet use rises significantly.
When a universal helmet law is repealed, motorcycle helmet use drops significantly.
When a universal helmet law is repealed, motorcycle injuries and fatalities increase.
While these facts may seem obvious, they are worth pointing out—especially to those that argue against wearing a motorcycle helmet with each ride.
To provide a clearer example, before a universal helmet law was enacted in Louisiana in 2004, there was 60% helmet use. This is compared to 99% helmet use now reported in Louisiana under universal helmet law.
THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF WEAKENED MOTORCYCLE HELMET LAWS CAN BE SEEN BELOW BASED ON RATE OF HELMET USE: (year of repeal)
UNDER UNIVERSAL LAW
UNDER PARTIAL LAW
THE SIMPLE ACT OF WEARING A HELMET WHILE RIDING A MOTORCYCLE CAN REDUCE THE RISK OF A FATAL ACCIDENT BY 37%
Wearing a motorcycle helmet can decrease the likelihood of brain damage by 67% in an accident. When you compare a helmeted rider to a non-helmeted rider, the choice is clear—a non-helmeted motorcyclist has a 40% greater chance of fatal head injury and a 15% greater chance of nonfatal injury than a helmeted rider.
THE UNIVERSAL, PARTIAL, AND NONEXISTENT MOTORCYCLE HELMET LAWS BY STATE AS OF MAY 2012 CAN BE FOUND BELOW:
At first glance, partial helmet laws may seem like more than enough to keep motorcycle riders safe. After all, if specific groups are protected, such as riders under the age of 21, shouldn't it be enough to cut down on unnecessary motorcycle injuries and fatalities?
In the CDC case study of partial helmet laws in the state of Florida, we see that this couldn't be further from the truth.
In 2000, Florida repealed the universal helmet law in the state. Helmet legislation was dropped down to partial protection, only requiring those under age 21 and with less than $10,000 in medical insurance coverage to wear helmets on motorcycles.
The statistics were hard to argue with just 30 months after the universal helmet law in Florida was repealed, compared to 30 months prior to the repeal. Motorcycle deaths increased 55% across the board. This number was far higher than any legislator anticipated as a result of the helmet law repeal.
Even riders under 21 were greatly affected by the new partial helmet law put in effect—deaths among non-helmeted riders under age 21 increased by 188%. While this specific age group was supposed to be protected by the partial helmet law, compliance was difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.
The total cost of treating motorcycle related injuries under partial helmet law in Florida doubled, costing $44 million.
THE PRECAUTIONARY USE OF A MOTORCYCLE HEtLMET REQUIRED BY LAW SAVES LIVES AND MONEY.
The CDC provides detailed statistics for the number of lives saved by helmet laws per 100,000 registered motorcycles by state, as well as annual costs saved per registered motorcycle by state in 2010. As an example, North Carolina is a state with a universal helmet law that saved close to 80 lives per 100,000 registered motorcycles in 2010 alone. In the same year, North Carolina's universal helmet law saved $1627 per registered motorcycle.
With these intriguing statistics in mind, it isn't a stretch to say that motorcycle safety should be a top concern for a rider. Motorcycle license requirements will vary by state, although some form of training and education is necessary to legally hit the road on a bike.
According to DMV.org, a state like California has two different motorcycle license classes available: M1 and M2.
An M1 license allows you to ride any type of motorcycle with an attached motor, including a motorized scooter.
An M2 license can be used to drive a motorized bicycle, moped, bicycle with an attached motor, or motorized scooter.
Motorcycle riders must first obtain a learner's permit to practice riding before taking a driving test. In the state of California, motorcycle permit applicants under the age of 21 are also required to complete a state-approved motorcycle safety course. Riders over 21 in California must complete a motorcycle rider training course or schedule a motorcycle driving test through the DMV.
Before you legally receive a motorcycle license in your state, you should be well-versed on the basics of motorcycle safety. Nonetheless, it's still important to stay refreshed on all motorcycle safety information as a rider to maintain awareness and protection every time you hit the road.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT STANDARDS IN MOTORCYCLE SAFETY TO REMEMBER FOR NEW AND EXPERIENCED RIDERS ALIKE:
Wear a helmet that meets federal safety standards, displayed on the helmet DOT label.
Check that headlights work before every ride, day or night.
Add reflective strips and decals to both your clothing and motorcycle.
Become familiar with your specific model of motorcycle and heed its limits.
Always use turn signals and follow traffic safety laws.
Stay aware of car and truck blind spots, especially when changing lanes.
Keep your distance behind other motorcycles and vehicles—no tailgating!
Don't hesitate to use your horn if a vehicle doesn't appear to see you.
Pay attention to speed changes and follow the posted speed limit.
Make it a habit to flash your brake light when slowing down or coming to a stop.
SEE strategy: Search, Evaluate, and Execute.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) encourages every rider to live by the simple SEE strategy: Search, Evaluate, and Execute. This strategy should be used on every ride to evaluate the road for potential dangers and changing conditions. Although you may consider yourself an exceptionally vigilant motorcyclist, you can't control other cars on the road. The SEE Strategy can be used to increase awareness in a number of potentially treacherous circumstances—inclement weather conditions, careless or aggressive drivers changing lanes, or vehicles that come to a sudden stop in traffic.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation also urges all riders to invest in the right safety gear to be worn on every ride. For many riders, motorcycle safety gear is considered frivolous and costly. Riders may opt to skip necessary safety gear altogether to save a buck or two.
However, the MSF points out that, "Proper gear is essential to safe riding."
THE RIGHT SAFETY GEAR CAN IMPROVE COMFORT WHILE RIDING AND COULD ALSO SAVE YOUR LIFE.
Serious brain injury
Severe skin loss
Hand and finger damage
Severe skin loss
Helmet with eye protection
Built-in shoulder protection
Abrasion resistant jacket
Built-in elbow protection
Built-in back protection
Motorcycle gloves (reinforced and padded)
Leather pants (abrasion resistant)
Built-in knee pads
Motorcycle booots (light, secure and reinforced )
MSF RECOMMENDED SAFETY GEAR INCLUDES:
To be worn at all times, even when riding around the block and regardless of partial or nonexistent state helmet laws. Protective helmets must also have the proper fit.
A windshield or windscreen on a motorcycle does not count as proper eye protection. Even a small pebble or piece of glass can fly into a bare eye while riding and cause serious damage. Proper eye protection, like goggles or shatterproof glasses, must be worn with each ride.
A motorcycle jacket may look cool, but it has protective benefits as well. A motorcycle jacket should be constructed from sturdy, resistant materials—like leather, corduroy, denim, or nylon.
Pants for riding should also be made from heavy-duty materials, like leather or thick denim. Motorcycle pants are designed to resist abrasion and offer protection in a skid.
Gloves should be worn in all seasons to protect hands from rocks or glass thrown up by other cars on the road.
Motorcycle boots should extend over the ankle and may be made of leather; rubber soles are preferred for better tread.
Don't get caught in a rainstorm on a motorcycle without the proper rain protection. A full body rain suit with rain-covers for boots and gloves is recommended.
Ear protection may be necessary over a long, fast ride to prevent permanent hearing loss, even when wearing a full helmet.
It's your job as a rider to make sure other cars see you at all times. Bright reflective gear on clothing and on a motorcycle is a must to improve visibility, day or night.
Increasing motorcycle awareness to save a life is just as important for drivers.
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration points out that more than two thirds of car-motorcycle accidents are actually caused by drivers, not motorcyclists. Of course, the motorcyclist will be much more affected and at a higher risk for injury or death in such a crash.
Motorcycles are hard to identify on the road and can easily move into the blind spot of a driver, especially a large vehicle. Drivers are more likely to look for other cars as they are turning or changing lanes, instead of a compact motorcycle. Many drivers also have difficulty estimating the speed of a motorcycle and may inadvertently cut it off and cause a serious accident.
"I DIDN'T SEE IT."
AFTER A HORRIFIC ACCIDENT THAT INJURES OR EVEN KILLS A MOTORCYCLIST, DRIVERS ARE LIKELY TO SAY ONE THING: "I DIDN'T SEE IT."
DRIVERS CAN DO THEIR PART TO IMPROVE MOTORCYCLE SAFETY AND AWARENESS ON THE ROAD WITH THESE HELPFUL TIPS:
Respect a motorcycle as you would a regular vehicle—give a motorcyclist a full lane to ride in.
Overestimate a motorcycle's speed and allow extra room—a small motorcycle may look farther away than it actually is.
Watch for a motorcycle or scooter in your blind spot when turning or changing lanes.
Look out for motorcycles on a busy road that may be difficult to see.
Use signals correctly when driving near a motorcycle.
Don't ever drive aggressively behind or next to a motorcycle.
Maintain your visibility by driving cautiously and honking, if necessary.
Give a motorcycle plenty of space on the road, especially in traffic or bad weather conditions.
When driving behind a motorcycle, watch carefully for sudden braking or lane changes.
Always be courteous and respectful of a motorcyclist—the rider could be your friend or family member.
Motorcycle safety can make a world of difference in reducing the risk of accident and injury. Riders and drivers can work together to bring awareness to motorcycles on the road by learning to share the road safely and respectfully.
Even so, the burden of motorcycle safety still depends on the rider. We'll leave riders with these 5 important rules of the road to live by for your next journey:
Don't leave home without a helmet.
We've covered the importance of helmet safety backwards and forwards. Make a commitment today to reduce your risk of traumatic brain injury by wearing a protective helmet that meets DOT standards on every ride.
Understand the No-Zone.
The No-Zone is also referred to as the blind spot of a truck or large vehicle. Never spend time in this dangerous blind spot; pass quickly and maintain visibility at all times.
Focus on the driver, not just the vehicle.
Maintaining awareness hinges on anticipating a driver's careless or sudden movements that could cost you your life. Watch drivers' head movements in windows and side mirrors to alert of sudden lane changes.
Plan your course carefully.
Simple driving mistakes can endanger a rider. Plan your course to your destination carefully so that you don't risk sudden turns or last-minute highway exits that could cause a serious accident.
Get ready to react.
Quick reflexes are a must for a motorcyclist. Always keep a finger on the brake lever and a toe near the rear brake pedal to stay vigilant in traffic.