Riding a motorcycle is undeniably thrilling, offering a sense of freedom and excitement that many enthusiasts find irresistible. The open road, the wind in your face, and the nimble maneuvering of a bike add a unique charm to the experience. However, this exhilarating pursuit comes with inherent risks that should not be underestimated. Motorcycles lack the protective barriers of traditional vehicles, leaving riders more vulnerable in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, a significant number of motorcycle accidents result in fatalities, making it crucial for riders to understand the risks that come with riding a motorcycle. It is also equally important for other drivers on the road to be more aware of the smaller vehicles around them.
The startling statistics of motorcycle accidents
Looking at information provided by The National Safety Council (NSC), motorcycle accidents, though constituting only a small fraction of the total registered vehicles and miles traveled in the United States, cast a disproportionately grim shadow on road safety. In 2021, motorcyclists accounted for a staggering 14% of all traffic fatalities and 17% of occupant fatalities, highlighting the heightened risks faced by those on two wheels. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that “a total of 6,084 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2021.”
Notably, the influence of helmet use on fatality trends is significant, as revealed by a troubling 8% increase in motorcycle rider and passenger deaths from 2020 to 2021. Over the past decade, fatalities have surged by 19%, accompanied by a disconcerting 29% increase in death rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Despite a 38% rise in registered motorcycles since 2007, a concurrent 8% decrease in vehicle miles traveled implies a nuanced backdrop to these alarming statistics. The data says 59% of fatalities involved riders wearing helmets, pointing to the multifaceted nature of motorcycle safety challenges that extend beyond the use of protective gear.
What are the common risk factors of fatal motorcycle accidents?
While there are many causes of motorcycle accidents, fatal motorcycle crashes have a few common characteristics. It is important to note that many accidents with motorcycles involve other vehicles, where the accident was caused by neglect from the other driver.
Factors that can increase the likelihood of a fatal outcome in a motorcycle accident include:
Lack of helmet
Wearing helmets is a crucial aspect of motorcycle safety that significantly contributes to saving lives in the event of accidents. Helmets provide a protective barrier for the head, safeguarding motorcyclists from severe head injuries and traumatic brain damage. In the unfortunate event of a crash, the helmet absorbs and disperses the impact force, reducing the risk of fatal head injuries. Studies consistently show that helmet use is associated with a substantial reduction in the likelihood of death and serious injuries among motorcyclists.
The NSC reports that “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that, from 2002 to 2017, more than 25,000 lives have been saved by wearing motorcycle helmets. More recent estimates are not available. Motorcycle helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle operators and 41% effective for motorcycle passengers.”
Head injuries are the most common types of injuries sustained by motorcyclists, with the NHTSA stating “Head injury is a leading cause of death and serious injury in motorcycle crashes, which is why helmets that meet or exceed federal safety standards should always be worn.”
It’s no secret that alcohol consumption and driving are a dangerous combination, significantly impacting cognitive functions, motor skills, and decision-making. Impaired focus, coordination, and judgment result in delayed reactions, compromised driving skills, and poor decision-making. This increases the risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities on the road.
Beyond how it affects your driving, alcohol can also affect your chances of surviving an accident. If you are in an accident, especially on a motorcycle when you are not protected from the outside environment, you are likely to suffer an injury that leaves you bleeding, whether externally or internally. According to VeryWellHealth, “‘Coagulation’ is a term used to describe the process of blood cells known as platelets sticking together. When a person experiences an injury, those platelets travel to the area to form together into a blood clot to stop the bleeding.”
Alcohol affects the blood’s ability to form clots, thinning your blood. If you are injured, bleeding, and inebriated, your injury is going to continue to bleed for a longer period of time and at a higher rate (alcohol increases the amount of cortisol your body releases, which in response, increases your heart rate, meaning that you are pumping more blood) than it would if you were not under the influence of alcohol. This can be a serious, life-threatening problem especially if you are unable to get help immediately.
Speed is a major contributor to motorcycle accidents, with around 31% of fatal crashes in the United States involving speeding, as per a 2017 NHTSA study. These accidents can result from factors like inappropriate speed for weather conditions, road features, or personal skill levels. Despite data suggesting an average impact speed of approximately 30 mph, recorded after emergency maneuvers, the dangers of excessive speed are evident.
Engaging in speeding extends beyond a mere legal violation, encompassing a spectrum of far-reaching consequences. It elevates the risk of losing control over the vehicle, diminishes the effectiveness of your protective gear, extends your stopping distance once you spot a sudden obstacle in the road, and intensifies the severity of crashes, resulting in more severe injuries.
Motorcycle accidents in Washington state
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, in the past decade, there has been a drastic rise in fatal motorcycle accidents in our state. In 2013, there were a reported 71 fatal crashes. Compare that to 2022 when there were 131 fatal accidents, leading to 133 fatalities. That is an almost 85 percent increase. In 53% of those accidents, there was an impaired driver involved, and also in 53% of those accidents, speeding was involved.
A majority of these accidents involved other drivers. While motorcyclists can do as much as possible to make sure that they are driving safe and protected, they must also be aware of the other drivers around them, who may be drunk, distracted, or otherwise oblivious to the smaller vehicles around them.
We understand the desire to feel the freedom of riding your motorcycle on our beautiful roadways. If you were in a motorcycle accident due to someone else’s neglect, it is important to know your rights. The injuries you can sustain from an accident with a larger vehicle are often catastrophic and life-changing, and lead to spending an enormous amount of money on treatments, therapy, and mobility aids.
That is why having an experienced motorcycle accident attorney fighting for you is critical to ensuring you get the compensation you deserve. At Telaré Law, our Kennewick motorcycle accident attorneys are knowledgeable in the law of our state, especially concerning the rights of motorcyclists like yourself. While you focus on healing, we will skillfully work on making sure those liable for your injuries pay up. To schedule a free consultation, call us at our offices in Kennewick and Richland, or fill out our contact form. You don’t have to go to Seattle for help; let us help you right here.