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What’s Behind the High Rate of Motorcycle Accidents?

For those who love to ride motorcycles, there’s not much good news in the latest accident figures, released in June 2014.

The newly released traffic safety facts, which cover calendar year 2012, show that motorcycle riders were 26 times more likely to die in traffic accidents than passenger car occupants, and 5 times more likely to be injured. That’s based on vehicle miles traveled.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publication, Traffic Safety Facts, 2012 Data, the occupant fatality rate per 100,000 registered vehicles in 2012 was 58.63 for motorcycles, as compared to 9.66 for passenger cars.

The data show that 4,957 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents, and 93,000 were injured. More than half (52%) of all fatal motorcycle crashes involved collisions with another type of motor vehicle, and 75% of those collisions with other vehicles occurred when motorcycles collided with cars in front of them – only 7% were rear ended. In 22% of all fatal motorcycle crashes, the motorcycle crashed into a fixed object.

Circumstances and Contributing Factors in Motorcycle Crashes
So what’s behind the high rate of crashes? A few observations are in order:

  • Turning vehicles. Of the 2,317 fatal crashes involving motorcycles and other types of vehicles in 2012, 953 (41%) occurred when the other vehicle was turning left and the motorcycle was either going straight or passing or overtaking another vehicle.
  • Speed a factor? In 34% of the 2012 motorcycle fatalities, the motorcyclist was speeding.
  • More training needed? Of the motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2012, 24% were riding without a valid license. That may mean they didn’t have the training that is needed to safely ride a motorcycle.
  • Driving records. Motorcycle riders had a higher percentage of previous convictions on their driving records than drivers of other types of vehicles involved in traffic fatalities.

Alcohol, Helmets, and Motorcycle Fatalities
Impaired driving and the failure to wear helmets while riding could be driving those high figures.

Alcohol appears to be a significant contributing factor in fatal motorcycle accidents. In all the fatal traffic crashes of 2012, there was a higher percentage of motorcycle riders with blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater than drivers of other types of vehicles. There were 2,030 motorcycle riders who died in single vehicle crashes in 2012, 43% of whom had BAC of .08% or higher.

  • In North Carolina, 190 motorcycle riders died in crashes in 2012, and 30% had BAC of .08% or higher.
  • In South Carolina, there were 137 motorcycle fatalities, and 41% of the riders who were killed had BAC .08% or greater.

Helmet use, or the lack thereof, is definitely a factor in motorcycle fatalities. According to the NHTSA’s estimates, helmets saved the lives of 1,699 riders in 2012. The agency estimates that for every 100 motorcycle riders not wearing helmets who have been killed in crashes, 37 would have survived if they had been wearing helmets.

Helmets are required by law for all riders in some states, required only for riders under a certain age in other states, and not required at all in others.

  • In North Carolina, the law requires helmets to be worn by riders of all ages. This is reflected in the statistics, as only 12% of the riders who died in fatal crashes in North Carolina in 2012 were not wearing helmets.
  • In South Carolina, helmets are only required for motorcycle occupants under the age of 21, and consequently, 70% of the motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2012 were not wearing helmets. Based on NHTSA estimates, 37% of those who died could have been saved if they had been wearing helmets.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a motorcycle or scooter accident, call us today at 800-533-6842 for a free case evaluation. At Grimes Teich Anderson we believe that justice must be served. We will pursue full compensation for all damages and can file a claim or lawsuit against a negligent driver.

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