As the days continue to get warmer, it is important for motorcyclists to ensure they are doing all they can to protect themselves on the road. It is also important for drivers to use extra caution to watch for motorcycles on the roads.
Many motorcycle crashes are the result of the negligence of other drivers who fail to see motorcycles. In 2021, there were 159 motorcycle fatalities in Missouri. This accounted for 16% of all fatalities in the state. June and September had the highest number of motorcycle fatalities. The highest number of fatalities by age group was for those aged 50-59.
Prior to August 27, 2020, all drivers and passengers of motorcycles were required to wear helmets on Missouri roadways. The law was changed in August 2020 allowing a driver or passenger of a motorcycle age 26 or older to not have to wear a helmet if they have proof of health insurance. Statistically, the likelihood of death if a motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet increases by 30%.
Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable in the event of a crash because they have less protection than occupants of vehicles. When a crash occurs between a motorcycle and a vehicle, the motorcycle rider is more likely to be the one who is injured or killed in the crash. In 2021, of the fatalities in crashes between motorcycles and other types of vehicles, 98% of those killed were the motorcycle riders.
Being ejected from a motorcycle can cause serious injuries or death. Since motorcycles have no seatbelts, roof, or doors to contain occupants, nearly any motorcycle accident can result in ejection injuries. Riders without helmets are much more likely to sustain fatal injuries during accidents that result in ejection than riders that wear helmets.
Causes of Motorcycle Ejection
The proportions of some motorcycles add a greater risk of ejection than others. If a rider attempts to stop too quickly, the bike may do a “brake dive,” and eject the driver and possibly passengers over the handlebars. This is somewhat common with inexperienced riders, and should be thoroughly explained to beginners before the first ride is ever taken. Coming suddenly to a halt to avoid hitting objects in the road or other vehicles may also cause motorcyclists of all experience levels to be ejected from motorcycles.
Other scenarios that may result in a rider being ejected from a motorcycle include:
A car or truck pulling out in front of a fast moving motorcycle
A driver opening a door in front of a moving motorcycle
Adverse weather conditions throwing off the balance of the motorcycle
Potholes or debris on the road
Uneven pavement and loose asphalt
Being rear-ended by a larger truck in which the driver cannot see the motorcycle
Motorcycle Ejection Injuries
When drivers and passengers are ejected from a motorcycle, it is unfortunately the head and neck that usually bear the brunt of the impact. If there are objects in the way such as telephone poles or other vehicles, motorcyclists may collide with these objects and sustain serious ejection injuries. Back and spinal cord trauma are also common ejection injuries, as the spine often becomes compressed during the ejection impact. Any part of the body may become injured during a motorcycle ejection, depending upon the way that the rider falls.
Injuries that may be sustained during a motorcycle ejection include:
Lacerations of varying degrees
Severe foot and leg injuries
Traumatic brain injuries
Eye and facial injuries
Many ejection injuries are the result of negligence on the part of other drivers that fail to see motorcycles and make sudden moves. If ejection injuries were caused by the negligence of another driver, motorcycle accident attorneys may be able to assist patients or their loved ones in recovering compensation from the driver that caused the accident. Motorcycle accident attorneys may assist in recovering compensation for medical costs, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
How Close Does a Motorcycle Have To Be Before You See It?
Like non-motorized road users, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable in the event of a crash and generally have less protection than occupants of vehicles. In preliminary 2021 data, there were 159 motorcyclist fatalities on Missouri roadways, accounting for 16% of all traffic fatalities in the state. Other motorists can help improve the safety of motorcyclists by always paying attention and looking twice for motorcyclists, as they are more susceptible to being hidden in a vehicle’s blind spots or simply being overlooked. Passenger and Commercial vehicle drivers should remember the following:
Motorcycles are vehicles with the same rights and privileges as any vehicle on the roadway.
Allow the motorcyclist a full lane width. Do not share the lane.
Missouri law requires all motorcycle riders under age 26 or anyone operating under an instruction permit to wear a DOT-compliant helmet.
For their part, motorcyclists should always wear a helmet and commit to operating at appropriate speeds while also never operating their bike while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Riding a motorcycle can be a dangerous activity – for both riders and people in other vehicles. As the days start to get warmer, it’s important for motorcyclists to ensure they are doing all they can to protect themselves and others on the road.
While some motorcycle accidents are unavoidable, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of injury to yourself, your passenger, and other road users.
Never Ride Without a Motorcycle License
In the U.S., you are required to have a motorcycle license or endorsement in addition to a driver’s license to legally ride a motorcycle. Regulations vary by state, with some also requiring riders to pass a State-sponsored education course.
Taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) riding course can increase your skill as a motorcyclist and better prepare you to make emergency maneuvers when necessary. In some cases, passing an MSF course can lower your insurance costs and streamline the application process for a motorcycle license. Some courses are free.
Always Wear an Adequate Helmet
Wearing a helmet significantly reduces your risk of serious head injury and death in the event of an accident. In some states, wearing a helmet is mandatory for some or all riders. You should wear a helmet every time you ride a motorcycle, even for short journeys.
When buying a new helmet, make sure it meets the safety standards approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Approved helmets will display the DOT symbol (either painted or as a sticker), usually on the outside back of the helmet. Some helmets may also be certified by non-profit safety organizations, like ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and the Snell Memorial Foundation, but these certifications are optional. Check the label inside to see if the helmet is certified by one or more organizations.
Your helmet should have a thick polystyrene-foam inner liner, weigh about three pounds, and have a sturdy chin strap to hold the helmet on your head. Ideally, it should also have a face shield to protect your eyes, but you may choose to wear goggles instead.
Replace your helmet about once every five years, unless it shows visible signs of damage (like a crack), in which case you should replace it immediately.
Check Your Bike Before You Ride
Before every ride, do a quick check to make sure your bike is fit for the road. This includes checking that the tires are properly inflated and not worn down, and that everything is in working order, particularly the brakes. If you spot signs of a fluid or oil leak beneath the bike, or other signs of damage or overuse, don’t risk riding it.
Adjust your bike’s suspension and tires every time you intend to carry a passenger or a load that’s heavier than normal.
Sit Down and Hold Tight
Sit in the center of the seat, keeping both hands on the handlebars, except when signaling. If you have a passenger who is inexperienced in riding a motorcycle, explain safety measures to them before they ride (see the next section for passenger safety tips).
Obey Traffic Laws and be Aware of Other Vehicles
In the majority of collisions involving a motorcycle and another vehicle, the rider is not at fault. While you can’t always account for what other drivers will do, you can reduce your risk of having an accident by obeying traffic laws, sticking to the speed limit, and not taking any unnecessary risks.
In general, assume that drivers can’t see you, and act accordingly. Pay close attention to the vehicles around you, especially if you notice that a driver isn’t paying attention. Leave plenty of room (at least one car-length) between you and the vehicle in front, giving you time to react if the driver brakes suddenly. Be on the lookout for other vehicles that may change lanes and veer into your path, and always signal and look behind you before changing lanes yourself.
When riding in heavy traffic, many motorcyclists prefer to ride in the far left lane, leaving themselves one unobstructed side. The important thing is to leave yourself enough room to maneuver if something does go wrong. Remember, if a car hits you, you are more likely to be injured than the driver, so it pays to err on the side of caution.
Splitting lanes (moving between vehicles in the space between lanes) is illegal in most states. Some studies suggest that lane-splitting in heavy traffic can reduce a rider’s risk of being struck by another vehicle, particularly from behind when traffic is congested. Only split lanes if it is legal, and be aware that this maneuver can sometimes aggravate drivers.
Watch for Damaged Roads and Obstacles
Motorcyclists need to be especially vigilant about road obstacles (like fallen branches and oil spills) and uneven surfaces (including potholes). A motorcycle has less contact with the road than a car, making it more likely to skid out of control. There is also a possibility that you could be thrown over the handlebars.
If you can’t avoid an obstacle in your path, try to slow down before riding over it. You should rise slightly off the seat to absorb the shock, gripping the handlebars tightly.
Get a Bike With an Anti-lock Brake System
An anti-lock or anti-skid braking system ABS prevents the wheels of your motorcycle from locking when you brake hard, reducing your risk of skidding out of control. You are 37% less likely to be involved in a fatal crash if your motorcycle is equipped with ABS brakes.
Never Ride Under the Influence or Otherwise Impaired
You should never ride a motorcycle when your judgment, reaction time, alertness, balance, and other necessary riding skills are impaired. This includes riding when intoxicated or after taking drugs, including some medications. Drowsiness can also impair your ability to ride, so take a break when tired.
Adjust for Inclement Weather Conditions
Rain, snow, high winds, and other inclement weather conditions can make riding more dangerous. Adjust how you ride accordingly–on wet roads, for example, you should avoid making sudden turns since your margin for error is reduced and you may skid. If you don’t feel comfortable riding in bad weather, leave the bike at home.
Dress for Protection and Visibility
Loose, flapping clothing and exposed skin is the last thing you want when riding. Your arms and legs should be well covered, preferably in leather, and your shoes or boots should cover your ankles. Never wear shoes that are prone to slipping off, like sandals. To protect your hands and increase your grip, always wear gloves.
To increase your visibility to other drivers, you should ideally wear bright clothing, and apply reflective material to your clothes and your bike.
Never Take an Unfamiliar Bike Into Traffic
Before taking any new or unfamiliar motorcycle into traffic, familiarize yourself with its handling and responsiveness in a controlled area, like a quiet street. This is especially true if you haven’t ridden for some time.
Motorcycle Accident Attorneys
If you have been injured in a motorcycle crash, call the attorneys at Dreyer & Tinney for a FREE CONSULTATION. We have extensive experience in handling motorcycle cases and we can help you understand your legal rights and the steps to pursue maximum compensation. Call us today at (417) 782-6822 or contact us at dreyertinney.com.