From their emotional appeal to their practical advantages, it's no wonder motorcycles have been increasing in popularity in recent years.
Not only are motorcycles cool looking and fun to ride, but they also use less gas, are easier to park and more flexible in traffic, making eco conservatives and impatient drivers squeal with joy. But there is a down side to the motorcycle's appeal -- safety.
Motorcycles were involved in about 112,000 crashes in the year 2012, and some 4,986 of those were fatal accidents. When comparing these stats to car crashes, one may point out that there are more crashes and fatalities involving cars than motorbikes.
So motorcycles must be safer, right?
However, when taking into account the larger number of automobiles, the numbers stack up against the bikes. While about .5 percent of car crashes are fatal, more than 4 percent of motorcycle accidents result in fatality, making a motorcyclist and their passengers 8 times more likely to die in an accident. And when comparing the stats per mile traveled, motorcyclists are actually 26 times more likely to die in an accident than their automobile counter parts, and 5 times more likely to be injured.
And it's not difficult to see why. Motorcycles have far less protection than cars; in fact, the drivers aren't even fully covered. When automobile drivers get into accidents, at least they know the walls of their vehicle will keep them inside, unlike motorcyclists, who can be thrown 70 feet, as was the case with Oklahoma man Steven Franetovich, who tragically died earlier this month in an accident. Motorcycles are also less visible than cars and less stable than four wheel vehicles. Plus, motorcycles are more vulnerable in poor driving conditions, such as wet or bumpy roads.
This is why it is important for motorcyclists to practice road safety. Several associations like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation are dedicated to spreading awareness, and websites like Permit bike help new drivers learn how to ride easier than ever before, with practice tests made specifically for each state's standards so you can learn to "Ride in the State of Opportunity," for example.
While a small article online won't teach you everything you need to know, here are a few tips to stay safe on the road:
- Remember that motorcycles are less visible
- Visibility is key at night
- Wear safety gears
- Be aware of your surroundings and respectful of your fellow drivers
- Don't try to look cool
Motorcyclists have a responsibility for their own safety to be aware of the blind spots of cars and trucks. Motorcyclists need to give automobile drivers some space, and understand that they react slower than motorcyclists.
Cars are big and have lots of lights on both the front and the back of the car, and sometimes even on the side. Motorcycles are much smaller, meaning they have fewer lights and less reflective surfaces. In New York State it is recommended that motorcyclists have at least four inches of reflective materials on their helmets, and many safety experts have stated that a motorcyclists clothing and bike should have plenty of shiny surfaces.
If a motorcyclist gets into an accident, chances are they will be flung from their bike. The only thing between the cyclist and the asphalt will be their protective gear. To prevent abrasions and other bodily injuries it is best to wear thick clothing that covers the entire body, and it is a known fact that head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents, so always wear a helmet. Helmets saved over 7'000 cyclists between 1984 and 1995, and they can save you too.
Don't weave in and out of lanes, use turn signals and give yourself and other driver's time to respond. Motorcyclists need to give automobile drivers some space, and understand that they react slower than motorcyclists.
When driving in a closed track that is meant for doing tricks, have as much fun as you want. But driving on the highway isn't the time to try to pop wheelies or swerve around, or weave in and out of lanes.
Riding motorcycles can be fun and rewarding in multiple ways, but the dangers of riding are too high to be fooling around. Practicing good safety is the only way you can prevent this fun way of travel from becoming a sad tragedy.
At the end of the day, safety on the road isn't the sole responsibility of the motorcycle, beach cruiser, or bike riders. Car owners need to share the responsibility in safety as well.