Are motorcycles safe?

 

There are over 6.2 million motorcycles registered in the United States. The popularity of this mode of transportation is attributed to the low initial cost of a motorcycle, its use as a pleasure vehicle, and, for some models, the good fuel efficiency.

Motorcycle fatalities represent approximately 11 percent of all highway fatalities each year, yet motorcycles represent approximately 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States. One of the main reasons motorcyclists are killed in crashes is because the motorcycle itself provides virtually no protection in a crash. For example, approximately 80 percent of reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death; a comparable figure for automobiles is about 20 percent.

An automobile has more weight and bulk than a motorcycle. It has door beams and a roof to provide some measure of protection from impact or rollover. It has cushioning and airbags to soften impact and seat belts to hold passengers in their seats. It has windshield washers and wipers to assist visibility in the rain and snow. An automobile has more stability because it’s on four wheels, and because of its size, it is easier to see. A motorcycle suffers in comparison when considering vehicle characteristics that directly contribute to occupant safety. What a motorcycle sacrifices in weight, bulk, and other crashworthiness characteristics is somewhat offset by its agility, maneuverability, ability to stop quickly, and ability to swerve quickly when necessary.

A motorcyclist should attend a motorcycle rider-training course to learn how to safely and skillfully operate a motorcycle. A motorcyclist has to be more careful and aware at intersections, where most motorcycle-vehicle collisions occur. Motorcyclists must remain visible to other motorists at all times. Don’t ride in a car’s “No Zone” (blind spot). Anticipate what may happen more than other vehicle drivers may. For example, anticipate that drivers backing their cars out of driveways may not see you; and place greater emphasis on defensive driving.

Motorcyclists also must be more cautious when riding in inclement weather, on slippery surfaces, or when encountering obstacles on the roadway. They must place greater reliance on their helmets, eye protection, and clothing to increase riding comfort and to reduce the severity of injury should they become involved in a crash.

Approximately half of all fatal single-vehicle motorcycle crashes involve alcohol. A motorcycle requires more skill and coordination to operate than a car. Riding a motorcycle while under the influence of any amount of alcohol significantly decreases an operator’s ability to operate the motorcycle safely.

On average, 25 percent of motorcycle operators killed in traffic crashes are not licensed or are improperly licensed to operate a motorcycle. By not obtaining a motorcycle operator license, riders are bypassing the only method they and State licensing agencies have to ensure they have the knowledge and skill needed to safely and skillfully operate a motorcycle.


Major causes of motorcycle crashes:

•lack of basic riding skills

•failure to appreciate the inherent operating characteristics

•failure to appreciate the limitations of the motorcycle

•failure to use special precautions while riding

•failure to use defensive driving techniques

•lack of specific braking and cornering skills

•failure to follow speed limits