How likely are you to crash on a motorcycle? There are several ways of estimating the likelihood. In Florida, there were 402,592 traffic crashes in one recent year, counting vehicles of all types as well as pedestrians, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). Of these, 9,122 were motorcycle crashes. Thus, motorcycle accidents constitute just over 2 percent of all traffic crashes in the state.
But that doesn’t tell us how many motorcycles are on the road versus other types of vehicles. As popular as motorcycles are in Florida, there are far more cars registered in the state than motorcycles. Nationally, motorcycles make up 3 percent of all vehicles on the road and make up just 0.06 percent of all vehicle miles traveled. Many people use their motorcycles as weekend warriors rather than commuter vehicles, which accounts for the low percentage of vehicle miles traveled.
You Are Far More Likely to Die on a Motorcycle Than in a Car
The more relevant comparison, perhaps, is the severity of a crash and its effects. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in crashes per vehicle miles traveled than car occupants. Measured by registered vehicles, motorcyclists are six times more likely to die than motorists in passenger cars. Motorcyclists account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 17 percent of all occupant fatalities, despite making up just 3 percent of all vehicles.
So what do all these statistics suggest? That if you do crash on a motorcycle, the chances of being killed are much greater than they are for those in other vehicles. The chances of being seriously injured are also much greater.
Why is driving a motorcycle so much more dangerous than driving a car or other vehicle? There are two main reasons. The first is the relative smallness of the motorcycle vis-à-vis other vehicles on the road. Even a compact car is significantly larger and heavier than a motorcycle, and in the event of a collision, a motorcycle can be severely damaged or totaled. The second is the relative unprotectedness of motorcycle drivers and riders. In a car, drivers and passengers are protected by at least 8,000 pounds of metal, by the front and rear bumpers, by the seat and other cushions, and by seat restraints and airbags. On a motorcycle, none of these exist. Yes, motorcycles are also made up of metal and seat cushions, but they don’t surround the occupants of the bike in the way cars do.
Vehicle collisions are responsible for 57 percent of all motorcycle accident deaths, according to the NHTSA. However, vehicles don’t constitute the only danger to motorcyclists. 23 percent of motorcycle deaths are caused by the cycle hitting an object, far more than the 16 percent of car accident deaths caused by the same thing.
6 Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
If motorcycle accidents are this threatening, what are the most common causes? Some common causes of motorcycle accidents are the same as those for accidents involving other types of vehicles. Nearly one-third of individuals killed in motorcycle accidents, for example, were speeding. Whereas speeding was involved in just 18 percent of fatal car accidents.
Driving while impaired by alcohol or other substances is involved in 27 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents, and in 21 percent of fatal car accidents. Impairment is defined as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above. Driver behaviors, such as failing to yield right-of-way or improper lane management, cause more than 7 percent of fatal accidents each, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Distracted driving causes roughly 6 percent of fatal accidents.
However, there are many causes of serious motorcycle accidents that are unique to motorcycles, including the following:
1. Not Wearing a Helmet
While motorcyclists are relatively unprotected, wearing a helmet while riding can definitely increase the protection and safety of one of the body’s most vulnerable elements: the head. Wearing a helmet has been proven to reduce the risk of a fatal accident by 37 percent and to decrease the risk of a head injury by 69 percent. Head injuries can cause internal bleeding, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and contribute to spinal cord injuries, all serious and potentially life-threatening consequences.
Unfortunately, Florida law only requires motorcyclists to wear helmets only if they are under the age of 21. If you are over 21, you do not have to wear one, as long as you purchase $10,000 of medical insurance coverage.
Though the law doesn’t require it, riding a motorcycle with a helmet decreases the risk of serious and fatal accidents. It also may decrease the risks of accidents overall. Helmets can keep bugs, dust, and other irritants at least partially away from a motorcyclist’s head and eyes. These irritants, if they are unimpeded, can impair visibility and increase distraction. Furthermore, both heighten your chances of being in an accident.
2. Not Wearing Protective Gear Around the Eyes
Fortunately, Florida does require motorcyclists to wear protective gear around their eyes. This increases safety, as it decreases the chances that bugs or debris will fly into a driver’s eyes, which increases the risk of an accident.
3. Being Overlooked by Motorists
It’s not just your imagination that drivers of other vehicles don’t respond to motorcycles in the same way that they do other vehicles. It’s a fact: drivers tend to not see motorcycles as readily, which can lead to an increase in accidents.
How do these accidents occur? Well, it can be everything from a driver failing to check blind spots and merging into a lane a motorcycle is already driving in to failure to yield to an oncoming motorcycle. The possibilities are almost endless.
Motorcyclists can deal with this in two ways. One is to make sure they drive defensively. This is an essential component of all good driving, of course, but for motorcyclists, it could be a matter of life and death. Defensive driving takes many forms, but they all have in common being very aware of what other drivers plan to do and what they might do.
Be sure to look for the activation of turn signals and brake lights, for instance, that indicate a plan to turn or to stop (or slow down). Also, remain aware of when you might be in a vehicle’s blind spot. Take care to move out of the blind spot, because a lane merger that doesn’t realize you’re there can injure or kill you. Never assume that another driver will yield to you; approach rights-of-way cautiously and slowly until you are sure the other driver will obey the law.
The other way to deal with a relative lack of visibility is to make sure that you and your vehicle are visible. Decorate your helmet and wear a vibrant colored one. Decorate your vehicle. Make sure your clothing is visible.
4. Road Conditions
Road conditions can cause accidents for all vehicles, but they are far more likely to cause serious motorcycle accidents. A pothole, for instance, can cause a car’s driver to feel a jolt. But it can send you flying from your motorcycle and cause a head injury and other trauma. Uneven pavement may be a minor annoyance for car drivers, but it can cause you to tip or spin out.
Similarly, wet and icy roads can be dangerous for all drivers, but present potentially harrowing conditions for drivers of motorcycles. They can skid themselves, be hit by skidding vehicles, be unable to operate their cycles (if the motorcycle is too wet), be affected by low or poor visibility, and more. In fact, motorcyclists should consider staying home entirely in inclement or (Florida’s rare) icy weather, due to the increased danger.
5. Road Debris
Like road conditions, road debris accidents can happen to all vehicles. But the accidents are much more serious and the nature of material constituting debris is far more extensive for motorcycles than it is for cars and other vehicles.
Both a car and a motorcycle will be affected by fallen truck cargo, for instance, but it could cause a much more serious accident for a motorcyclist. Debris, such as tire treads, can cause a fatal motorcycle accident, but such debris is far less likely to cause a deadly car accident.
In addition, dust, dirt, sand, and gravel, if blown around, can all cause motorcycle accidents. Whereas such materials are far less likely to cause car accidents.
6. Defective Manufacturing or Parts
Defective manufacturing or parts can cause motorcycle crashes that can result in injury or death. While defective manufacturing or defective parts can also cause car crashes, any knowledge of defective or recalled items is generally far less reported on in motorcycles than it is for cars.
What Injuries Are Involved in Motorcycle Accidents?
Motorcycle injuries can cause almost any injury possible, including:
- Abrasions, including road rash
- Internal organ damage
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), such as concussions
- Spinal cord injuries, such as paraplegia or quadriplegia
- Fractured bones
- Soft tissue injuries
- Loss of limb(s)
- Disfigurement and/or scarring
How Will I Pay for My Treatment?
Florida is a no-fault state. This means that drivers pay for treatment of their injuries via their own insurance carriers, without any concern as to who was at fault for the accident.
But there is an exception to this rule. If individuals are seriously injured, as the law defines it, and another party has been at fault for the accident, they can bring a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance carrier (called a third-party claim) or a personal injury lawsuit. This is known as “stepping outside of no-fault.”
Serious injury is defined as at least one of the following conditions:
- Fractured bone(s)
- Permanent limitation of use of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- Significant disfigurement
- Substantially full disability for 90 days
If you have suffered any of these in a motorcycle accident, and another party was at fault, you can bring a claim for:
- Medical expenses incurred, including doctor’s visits, surgery, hospitalization, emergency care, and prescription medication
- Future medical expenses expected
- Wages lost from work as a result of the accident
- Future expected wages lost from work
- Pain and suffering
Note that pain and suffering is a noneconomic damage and not eligible for compensation under no-fault. It does, however, become available for compensation if you step outside of no-fault.
How Do I Prove That Another Party Caused My Accident?
Proving fault in an accident is essential to recovering damages. If you are injured, but no one else was at fault, you do not have grounds to bring a claim.
Fault relies on the concept of negligence. In general, drivers owe it to the public to operate their vehicles in a safe and prudent way. They need to follow traffic laws and regulations. Companies need to manufacture vehicles and components in good working order. Governments and contractors need to ensure that roads are safely maintained.
The people or organizations who violate these safety and prudence standards can pay if their negligence caused the accident and the injuries that result.
An all-too-common example of a motorcycle accident illustrates negligence. A car pulls up to a yield sign as a motorcycle approaches. The car should yield; that’s the law. Instead, the driver doesn’t really register the presence of an approaching motorcycle and pulls out right in front of it. The car’s driver is negligent because he or she failed to yield and thus is responsible for injuries caused by the crash.
How do plaintiffs prove at-fault behavior? In some cases, a police report is sufficient. Other cases may require an investigation to determine the causes of the motorcycle crash. Attorney’s offices often employ investigative teams to determine the cause of an accident.
If you are in a motorcycle accident, be sure to get a copy of the police report. If possible, it’s also wise to take pictures of the accident scene, your motorcycle, other vehicles, and your injuries. All can be important in your case.
If you need further help, contact a motorcycle attorney today.
Orlando, FL 32814