Motorcycle Safety

Motorcycle fatalities increased almost 10 percent in 2012, with more than 5,000 lives lost as a result of motorcycle accidents. Motorcycle deaths have increased in 14 of the last 15 years, and annual deaths are reaching an all-time high. About 80 percent of reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death, compared to about 20 percent for vehicles.

Combating the natural dangers of a motorcycle requires taking extra precautions. Luckily, there are pieces of motorcycle safety equipment that can greatly reduce the risk of serious injury or death:

Helmets: Wearing a helmet is the No. 1 precaution you can take as a motorcycle rider. A rider without a helmet is almost 50% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury compared to a ride with a helmet. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that 1,829 motorcyclists’ lives were saved by helmets in 2003, and an additional 823 could have been saved had they been wearing a helmet. In addition, an NHTSA study found that wearing a helmet does not interfere with riders’ abilities to see or hear other vehicles on the road.

Getting the right helmet is key to protecting your head during a crash. Make sure the helmet you buy grips your cheeks, jaw, and the top and sides of your head. Opt for a full-face helmet, which offers improved protection over three-quarter or half-shell styles. Replace your helmet after using it for a period of time; wear and tear can reduce protection over time.

Boots: Stopping at stoplights and traveling while exposed to the elements puts a lot of strain on riders’ footwear. Pick out a pair of durable motorcycle boots to wear while riding, as opposed to regular tennis shoes or sandals.

Find a pair of boots with a sturdy sole that gives you good traction when you stop. Boots with a good heel can also help you grip the bike better. Ideally, find boots that are reinforced in the shins, ankles, and calves with a stronger material; this “ankle armor” will help protect you in case of a crash and protect you from the elements while you’re riding.

Gloves: Gloves can help in several ways, like protecting your hands from the wind and the elements, giving you a better grip on the bike, and protecting your hands from the road in case of an accident. Make sure you find gloves that fit snug, but not too snug. Loose gloves can reduce your ability to control the bike, and gloves that are too tight can cut off circulation to your hands. Find comfortable gloves for any type of weather, and make sure they cover your wrists, fingers, and palms.

Jackets and Pants: The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends buying protective apparel designed specifically for motorcycling. The best garments are cut longer in the sleeves and legs, but fuller across the shoulders to suit your riding posture. Leather, Cordura, and ballistic nylon are great choices for abrasion-resistant, wind-resistant, or waterproof riding gear. Make sure your jacket and pants fit snugly without restricting your movement. Avoid wide-flared pants or flowing scarves, which can become entangled in the bike and pose a safety hazard.

Rain Suits: If you’re more than a fair-weather rider, a waterproof riding suit is essential. Polyvinyl chloride and nylon make for good waterproof materials, and a high-visibility orange or yellow is the best choice.

A rain suit will have elastic at the waist and stirrups on the legs to keep water out of the riding boots. A high collar (with a snap or fastener to keep it shut) will keep rain out of your suit, keeping you dry and alert.

Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Of all motorcycle-related fatalities, 85 percent occur when the motorcycle comes into contact with a passenger vehicle, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Motorcycle riders are disproportionately likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries; in 2005, 98 percent of motorcycle-related fatalities were motorcycle drivers, and only 2 percent of fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicles. More than half of motorcycle accidents occur at intersections, and two-thirds of all crashes occur when the vehicle’s driver does not see the motorcycle.

Failure to detect/failure to yield is when a driver fails to yield the right of way to the motorcyclist, often claiming he or she did not see the motorcycle. This can happen when a vehicle is changing lanes, turning left at a stoplight, merging onto the interstate, or other cases of right-of-way. A U.S. Department of Transportation study found that, in accidents involving a motorcycle and a passenger vehicle, failure to yield the right-of-way was a contributing factor in 35 percent of crashes. In other words, more than one-third of two-vehicle crashes involving a motorcycle were caused by failure to yield the right-of-way to the motorcyclist.

Failure to stay in proper lane accounts for another significant portion of motorcycle accidents. When the driver of a passenger vehicle fails to stay in his or her own lane or drifts off the side of the road, it forces a motorcyclist in the next lane over to swerve, change lanes, or avoid a collision through other means. These split-second decisions can result in serious or fatal injuries to motorcyclists on the road. Failure to stay in one’s own lane led to nearly 10 percent of all motorcycle accidents in 2005, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Defective equipment can be a serious hazard for motorcyclists and drivers alike. Manufacturers and other members of the supply chain can cut cornered to make bikes lighter, more affordable, or easy to maneuver; but unfortunately, these defective designs or poor manufacturing practices cause parts to fail at a moment’s notice, leaving the motorcyclist vulnerable to a variety of safety hazards. If the brakes, gas line, handlebars, frame, suspension, engine, transmission, wheels, or tires fail unexpectedly and cause an accident to occur, you could have grounds for a product liability case against the manufacturer (or other liable party in the supply chain).

Lane splitting is the term for when a motorcycle drives between two lanes of stopped or slowly moving cars, usually in traffic jams. Lane splitting is a common cause of motorcycle accidents because the other vehicles are in close proximity to the motorcycle; the rider has less space than usual to maneuver; and other vehicles do not expect another vehicle or motorcycle to pass them in traffic.

Lane splitting is currently prohibited in New Jersey, although the state legislature formed a task force in 2008 to study whether or not it should be legalized. Lane splitting is an issue that divides states and jurisdictions; some believe that allowing lane splitting reduces traffic congestion in a relatively safe way, while others believe it is unsafe (and potentially unfair) for motorcyclists and other drivers on the road.

Road hazards are non-driver related hazards on the roadway. Road hazards can include:

  • Potholes
  • Loose gravel
  • Uneven surface areas
  • Uneven lanes
  • Rough roadways
  • Poorly maintained roadways
  • Lack of proper warnings for planned hazards (such as loose gravel from construction work)
  • Wet roads
  • Spills, such as oil or antifreeze, on the road

Motorcycles are more susceptible to road hazards because they operate with only two wheels on the ground, giving them less stability and decreased ability to recover from a rough spot in the road. When exposed to a road hazard like the ones listed, the motorcyclist can lose control of the bike, swerve, and collide with another vehicle or swerve off the road.

Contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi

Motorcycle accidents commonly result in catastrophic injuries, permanent disability, and an ongoing need for medical care. Your life can be turned upside down, and our motorcycle accident lawyers can help you make things right. The experienced attorneys at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have experience litigating multi-million dollar motorcycle accident claims, and they will make sure you and your family get the full compensation you deserve. Call (201) 585-9111 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.