Whether it’s the freedom of a long ride through back roads with the wind in your face, your heart pounding as you dip into a knee dragger on track day, or enjoying a quick ride twice a day on your commute to save on gas, for motorcyclists riding is a part of their life. Some might even say it is a way of life that if an explanation is needed, odds are it won’t be understood.
Recently there has been an upward trend in motorcycle ownership with an increase of 1.5 million more homes reporting owning at least one. The MIC (Motorcycle Industry Council) has found that the number of female riders has almost doubled in the last decade making up 19% of overall motorcycle owners, and is projected to soon reach 25%. With this trend, there has been much debate about whether motorcycles crash more than passenger vehicles. Regardless of which side of the debate you fall, there is no denying that motorcyclists sustain higher rates of injury or death compared to passenger vehicle occupants.
Studies have shown that 14% of all traffic fatalities are motorcyclists. This means that, on average, 4,300 motorcyclists die from a crash every year. Sadly, motorcycle crashes are 27 times more likely to result in a fatality.
Gage Mathers has represented many riders who have been victims of a motorcycle crash. We have seen the devastating effects in the lives of riders and their loved ones. A rider’s injuries can range from minor abrasions and soreness to broken bones, degloving injuries, severe road rash, traumatic brain injuries, and death. If you or a loved one have been involved in a motorcycle accident contact us. Let us take the burden of dealing with the insurance companies off your shoulders so that you and your family can focus on recovering.
By mere design, motorcycles have a steep disadvantage to your typical passenger vehicle when it comes to protection. The very things that make motorcycles so thrilling, are precisely what heighten the probability of injury or death. Whether it’s the open-air nature and exposure to the elements, or the power-to-weight ratio that can make a bike faster than a 6-figure sports car, motorcyclists require a set of skills that are not learned in high school driver’s ed. These skills can range from balancing the bike while coming to a full stop to proper synchronization while emergency braking using both front and rear brakes while downshifting. These are skills that need to be acquired and refined to operate a bike proficiently and safely. For this reason, all states require a license or endorsement specifically for motorcycles.
In comparison to motorcycles, drivers of everyday passenger vehicles only need to develop minimal new skills to operate their vehicle safely. In fact, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming passenger vehicles into computers on wheels that one day will not require driver input. By 2025, we can expect approximately 8 million autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles on the road. Along with its ease of use, you also have the added protection of being enclosed and surrounded by multiple layers of metal, well-designed safety features like airbags, and accident-avoidance systems. Particularly with modern vehicles, like the Tesla Model X, the safety rating can reach a full 5 stars. This minimal learning curve and protective measures help mitigate potential injuries its occupants may sustain as well as give the driver confidence that the price paid for a mistake is less than that of a motorcyclist.
For a motorcyclist, it may take many hours of riding, thousands of miles covered, or advanced riding courses and track days before a rider can be properly proficient on a motorcycle. This of course depends on the rider. Proficiency and preparedness can have major implications on rider safety.
One common reason for avoidable crashes is “survival reactions” or instinctual actions taken out of fear or panic in an attempt to survive a potential threat. Unfortunately, for motorcyclist, survival reactions are a sure way to crash. However, these instincts can be honed and used to your advantage, but only through proper training and consistency.
About 25% of motorcycle crashes are single vehicle accidents, with two-thirds of those due to rider error. Most of these are riders in a low side crash or “laying down” their bike in a corner because of improper speed, under or over steering, and object fixation.
Considering that 75% of motorcycle crashes occur with a passenger vehicle, and a majority of those happen at intersections when the motorcyclist’s right-of-way is violated, it’s easy to see that rider visibility can be a major contributor to motorcycle crashes.
When considering that humans lose 90% of their vision at 20 degrees off their central vision to peripheral blindness, it’s no surprise that motorcycles are lost in a driver’s peripheral vision. Motorcycles have a much smaller and thinner profile than passenger vehicles and can easily blend into the surroundings.
This loss of vision isn’t usually noticed because our brain fills in what it thinks should be there using information from previous trips through that same area. This is one reason why most accidents occur close to home—been there, done that, I know what to expect.
One of the first pieces of advice most riders receive when they start is to ride as if you are invisible and surrounded by blind people driving. “Invisibility Training for Motorcyclist” is a great video that talks about peripheral blindness and gives some suggestions that you can apply to minimize the probability of being involved in crash.
Training, Training, Training
It is no surprise that 92% of riders involved in a crash are either self-taught or learned from a family member or friend, and riders age 16-24 years are significantly overrepresented in motorcycle crashes. One of the best ways that you can minimize the chance of a crash is by becoming the most competent rider possible. Riding is a skill that requires much more attention and effort than driving a car. We suggest you get any advanced training available beyond what is required by your state.
Most, if not all, states offer advanced riding classes to refine and improve your skills as a rider. There are many classes offered by locally-owned dealerships or motorcycle companies, like the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy, that will help you increase your comfort level and capabilities. If you get a new bike, take a class with that bike. More than half of the riders in an accident had less than 5 months of experience with the bike involved in the crash; this despite averaging 3 years’ worth of overall riding.
At a time when information is a Google search away, now more than ever riders have access to advanced training, tips, and clubs that foster rider competence and safety. If paying for or attending a class is difficult, a much loved movie, “Twist of the Wrist II” is a great place to start. Based on the book by the same name, both are considered to be a high-performance rider’s bible. Written by the legendary Keith Code, who also founded the California Superbike School, both the book and movie detail simple yet lifesaving skills such as counter steering. Wherever you ride, careful, repetitive use and application of the skills provided in these resources is an inexpensive way to begin honing your skills. Learning proper throttle control, braking and alertness, and proper motorcycle safety checks can ensure you don’t become another rider’s statistic.
As your skills improve, your riding naturally becomes safer and more enjoyable. You instinctively apply previously learned and developed skills that can turn a certain collision into a close call.
Unlike passenger vehicles, protective gear is the only thing between a rider’s body and impact points with other vehicles or the ground. Half of all injuries sustained are to the ankle-foot, lower leg, knee, and thigh-upper leg. This correlates with the parts of your body that are most aligned with points of impact with other vehicles or the ground. Therefore, using appropriate gear to protect these impact points is crucial to protecting your body and mind.
Having the proper gear significantly reduces the damage done to you in the event of a crash. In one case we’ve seen, a rider was traveling straight down a road when they were impacted in the left leg by a vehicle exiting a gas station. The impact was minor enough that the rider was able to stay on their motorcycle and slowly maneuver himself to the right lane. The rider then braced himself on the curb with his right leg. As the rider attempted to dismount the bike, he suddenly realized that he had suffered a degloving injury to the left leg. The rider was wearing shorts and his left leg was crushed between the front bumper of the vehicle and the hot bare engine of his motorcycle. The rider had no broken bones, but his lack of proper safety gear covering his legs took what could have been a relatively minor injury and transformed it into a serious and long-term problem that required several surgeries.
We recommend that riders always wear proper gear whenever they’re enjoying a ride. Whether its riding boots, pants, jackets, or gloves, putting additional layers between your skin and the vehicle or ground is a good thing.
We know that there are some riders where the above gear is not an option or not a look they can accept. Regardless of where you fit in, we hope that every single one of you will wear a helmet. The majority of severe injuries or deaths occur as a result of head trauma.
We often see concussions and traumatic brain injuries in low speed, rear-end collisions in passenger vehicles. This while having the added protection of a vehicle buffering the impact, along with seatbelts and airbags. Now imagine being hit at the same low speed while riding, but without the outer shell of the vehicle to protect you or the seatbelt and airbag to restrain you. Motorcyclist almost always hit their head in a crash, and as shown above, even a relatively minor impact can have severe consequences on a motorcyclist.
Gage Mathers team members have learned that failure to wear proper safety equipment, especially a helmet, can result in significant, life-altering injuries.
The injuries shown above came from a Gage Mathers team member who was riding his motorcycle around 40 mph. He had just gone through an intersection. Ahead, to his right, a small pickup truck was getting ready to turn left out of a parking lot to go the opposite direction. The pickup truck pulled out of the parking lot, but stopped in front of our team member blocking both lanes. Our team member braked and skid into the driver side of the pickup truck. He became airborne, landing on the left side of his head and shoulder. He then slid down the road stopping underneath another small truck that was facing the opposite direction.
The head impact damaged an artery causing a life-threatening bleed requiring emergency surgery. He also suffered road rash on his left arm, abdomen, thigh, and left leg. He was not wearing any gear; instead, riding with only a t-shirt, cloth pants, and Converse sneakers. He was not wearing a helmet. At the time, he was 18 years old, had less than 5 months experience with his motorcycle, did not have any training, had defective survival reactions, and his right-of-way was violated—checking off at least 5 statistics mentioned above. Thankfully, he now wears appropriate gear, including a helmet.
In the years following the accident, he obtained advanced motorcycle training, frequented the local track days, and put many miles under his belt on two wheels. Since then, he has not had any accidents; not even while working as a motorcycle courier, which included frequent multi-state trips from Arizona to southern California, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada.
Wearing a true motorcycle helmet is good for providing protection to your most vital body part. Wearing a specialized motorcycle helmet is even better. A full-face helmet will, of course, offer the best and most complete protection. This is even more important when you consider that 34.6% of impact to a helmet occur on the lower front portion of the helmet. An area that is excluded from “half helmets or open face helmets.
These days, the majority of U.S. states have universal or partial helmet laws. This runs contrary to bike culture ideologies and myths. Many riders may claim that their vision or hearing is diminished when wearing one; however, studies support the contrary. There is resistance by many riders, objecting to mandatory helmet laws and suggesting real men don’t wear helmets, but the fact is a helmet providers better protection than nothing at all and may one day save your life.
You might want to consider riding with a friend, especially when venturing out to rural areas. This can ensure that there is someone with you who can render aid and get help should a crash occur. Another Gage Mathers team member was quadding in the dunes when her family came across a rider several hours after they had crashed. He was solo and suffered a fatal injury. He might have survived if another driver was with him.
We always like to remind people that they are responsible for their own safety. Whether a motorcyclist or in a passenger vehicle, there are small things that each of us can do to protect ourselves and those around us. For instance, avoid distractions like cell phones, be aware of your surroundings, and practice safe driving or riding skills. These simple, common sense measures can significantly reduce the risk of having an accident, or being injured in one.
Sadly, no matter how many precautions you take, the possibility of being involved in a motorcycle accident will always be present. Much like being properly prepared to avoid an accident and mitigating injuries with gear, what you do after an accident is equally as important.
Whether you are the rider or a driver who happen to be present when a motorcycle crash occurs, there are things you can do that may save a rider’s life. At the very minimum, call 911-get an ambulance and emergency medical services there as soon as possible.
Motorcycle crash victims almost always hit their head and tweak their neck. Leave their helmet on and keep them as still as possible. As a rider, you can take additional precautions by packing a basic trauma kit with items like trauma pads (to control bleeding) and tourniquets (to cut off blood supply if an arm or leg is bleeding uncontrollably). Such precautions could mean the difference between life and death.
Along with these precautions, make sure you have a knowledgeable attorney on your side. The last thing you want to do after being injured is having to deal with apathetic adjusters who are paid to save their insurance company money. These adjusters are rewarded for nickel and diming you. They do not receive praise for making your life easier. They do not care about your struggles. This adds insult to injury.
As well trained and highly experienced motorcycle accident attorneys, we can lift this burden off the shoulders of you and your family. This allows you to focus on your recovery while we maximize your compensation.