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Who is to Blame for Rising Motorcycle Fatalities?

Go to any motorcycle blog or social media post about motorcycle crashes, and you will probably see a heated debate over who is to blame for most crashes between cars and bikes. On one hand, riders are quick to point out the need to watch for motorcycles, as they are harder to see and easy to overlook, especially at night. Drivers, however, often criticize the reckless and hazardous way that many riders maneuver in and out of traffic. Automobile accidents in the Tampa Bay area often occur at high speeds and all too often involve alcohol. So it can be difficult to decipher the real cause of rising motorcycle fatalities. Indeed, there is a lot more to the debate than drivers vs. riders.

How bad are the fatalities?

On study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated that in 2013, the total number of highway fatalities went up to 34,080. This, along with other related studies, found that roughly 5,000 of them were motorcyclists. So around 15 percent of all traffic fatalities are motorcyclists. Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests that motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to die in a crash than those driving cars. Nevertheless, the question remains: who is to blame for all the motorcycle collisions?

The Hurt Report is helpful but not necessarily up-to-date

The leading research on the subject is known as the Hurt Report. It studied a wide range of motorist data and behaviors. Several key conclusions were made, which still influence policy today:

  • 25% of all motorcycle crashes were “single vehicle” accidents where the bike hit something other than another vehicle.
  • Two-thirds of all “single-vehicle” accidents were attributed, at least in part, to rider error.
  • The majority of all motorcycle accidents are the result of motorists not seeing the motorcycle until it is too late.
  • Intersections are the most common scene for a motorcycle accident.

Helmets play a large role in decreasing fatalities

The evidence is indisputable; helmets save lives. Not all states require helmets. Florida does, but only for riders under 21. In Florida, 56 percent of all motorcycle rider fatalities were not wearing a helmet. Compare this with states that require mandatory helmet use for all riders, such as Washington (0 percent), Virginia (1 percent) and Georgia (10 percent). Simply put, where helmets are required, fatalities are lower.

So what is the conclusion?

Ultimately, the largest sole cause of motorcycle accidents is motorists not seeing them on the roadway. However, even if a motorist does not see a motorcycle, fatalities could be greatly reduced if riders wore helmets and obtained more training on proper riding techniques. Inexperience and rider skill play a large role in avoiding collisions and making better choices on the roadway. Many of us have seen bikes zoom in and out of traffic or traverse the narrow margin between two lanes of traffic, in a desperate and foolish attempt to “beat the traffic.” Pair this with motorist inattention and lack of a helmet, and you have a recipe for disaster.

As a rider, you are always at the disadvantage. So you must take reasonable steps to ensure your own safety. Florida allows a 12-month riding season. So riders have more days of riding. This also means more chances to get into a collision. If you or someone you know has been involved in a motorcycle collision in and around Bradenton-Sarasota, call the Romero Law Office for a free consultation today. We are happy to help you.

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