As the weather gets warmer and more inviting for motorists, many motorcycle drivers will find themselves cruising for bruising
Warmer weather, longer days, more accidents
In a recent post, we have explored how warm weather affects conditions on the roads and how it is reflected in the accident statistics across the US. We have noted that although spring and summer, generally speaking, feature conditions more conducive to safety and produce fewer accidents than winter months, there is a positive correlation between higher temperatures and the number of fatal accidents. As spring and summer months also see an increase in the number of motorcycles on the roads, this article will analyze statistics related to motorcycle accidents as well as some unique challenges and dangers motorcycle drivers will face as the weather conditions become more favorable to taking a ride on a two-wheeler.
Less is more – but not for motorcyclists’ safety
On the whole, driving a motorcycle seems to be inherently more dangerous than driving a car. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, accidents involving motorcycles proved 27 times more fatal than accidents involving other vehicles. In 2014 alone, this translated into 4,856 fatal motorcycle crashes and about 92,000 injured motorcyclists. Moreover, motorcycle-related deaths have increased by 55% since 2000, even though the number of car-crash fatalities has been declining since 1999. In 2015, motorcyclist deaths surged by a striking 10% in comparison to the previous year.
What are some of the specific circumstances that make motorcycle-driving considerably more dangerous than driving a car? Obviously, motorcycles offer drivers less protection than cars do. However, this is not the only safety disadvantage motorcycle drivers are exposed to. Motorcycles are much more difficult to spot in a busy traffic and are more likely to be blocked out of other drivers’ vision by other vehicles or landscape features. They are also more susceptible to road hazards such as unevenness of the surface, structural failures, or foreign objects. Besides, driving a motorcycle is a more demanding skill than operating a car – a fact that many drivers, especially young ones, do not seem to appreciate enough.
Unsurprisingly, motorcycle accident rates are rising with the onset of warm weather, with most accidents happening in June, July, and August. In many cases, the accidents are related to the quality of the surface of the road which may still be damaged by winter storms, floods, or plows. Similarly, motorcyclists may neglect the maintenance of their machines during winter months thus running the risks of unexpected mechanical failures. For example, a common danger is to fail to notice low tire pressure which in turn may affect traction, control, and handling. Another contributing factor is that in the spring and summer, there is more traffic on the road – and as noted above, motorcycles are harder to spot in a heavy traffic.
Moreover, it is also interesting to note that according to NHTSA, 43% of motorcyclists who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2014 were driving under the influence of alcohol – and the BAC levels of all drivers are found to be higher than average on 47% of days during the summer period; thus, although no official statistics are available on the matter, increased alcohol consumption on some days throughout June, July, and August may be correlated with accidents involving motorcycle riders.
Take precautions, enjoy your ride
What safety precautions should motorcycle riders take in order to enjoy safe rides during the summer months? Here are some useful tips:
- proper maintenance is vital – therefore, motorcyclists should take time and care to prevent any mechanical problems; NHTSA advises to check tire pressure, tread depth, brakes, indicators, and fluid levels; motorbikes should be inspected for oil or gas leaks as well
- the importance of protective gear should never be taken for granted; as head injury is the most common type of damage sustained by motorcyclists, a DOT-compliant helmet is indispensable even on short rides – according to some statistics, helmet reduce the risk of death by 37% and the risk of head injury by 69%
- motorcycle riders will also do well to remember that arms and legs must be completely covered with clothes made of resistant materials such as leather
- wearing brightly colored clothing will make a motorcyclist more visible to other drivers and thus increase their safety on the road too
- although the practice of splitting lanes, that is, riding the motorcycle between lines or between rows of slowly moving traffic is legal in the state of Kentucky, it is extremely dangerous and illegal in many other states including Tennessee.
- drive alcohol free
Although motorcycle accidents can entail truly devastating injuries or even death, the bottom line is – they can be avoided, even during what has come to be known as trauma season.