For many, there is no feeling like riding a motorcycle down the highway, sun in your face and wind in your hair. A standard passenger vehicle just can’t compare to the freedom and excitement a motorcycle provides. Riding a motorcycle isn’t just a mode of transportation or a pastime like any other—it’s a part of their identity. But if you own a motorcycle, you know not everyone has the same opinion. In fact, some people may question why you even ride at all.
If you ride a motorcycle, you’ve likely had to deal with your fair share of judgmental remarks.
“Do you know how dangerous motorcycles are?”
“I would never ride a motorcycle.”
“There are so many bad drivers out there. It’s just not worth it.”
All of the warnings and discouragement can get you wondering for yourself—are motorcycles worth the risk?
The risk of riding a motorcycle
It’s true—riding a motorcycle comes with its fair share of risk. It’s a statistical fact—those who ride motorcycles are more likely to die in an accident than occupants of passenger vehicles. A recent analysis from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported motorcyclist fatalities occurred 29 times more often than passenger vehicle deaths. These numbers are frightening. But does this mean motorcycles are simply unsafe and not worth the risk?
Consider the large number of accidents that happen because of collisions with other vehicles that other drivers could avoid had they operated their vehicles more safely. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 61 percent of fatal accidents involving motorcyclists occurred as a result of a multi-vehicle collision. Many of these accidents happened because of another driver’s negligence. So, is it the bikes that are so dangerous or other drivers around them?
Three factors that put motorcyclists at greater risk
Regardless of who is to blame in an accident, any sort of collision between a motorcycle and a passenger vehicle has the potential to be deadly to the motorcyclist. Motorcycles don’t offer the protection of passenger vehicles, just due to their inherent design. Unfortunately, a large number of drivers on the road ignore how vulnerable motorcyclists are, and fail to adjust their driving behaviors when they are around motorcycles. When drivers understand the risks motorcyclists face, they can help reduce the likelihood of deadly accidents.
Here are three factors that put riders at greater risk of an accident and serious injuries:
- Riders have less protection: There’s no question about it—in the event of a collision, occupants of a passenger vehicle have far more protection than a motorcyclist. Beyond the physical barrier of the car’s exterior, safety devices in the car can keep occupants safe. The standard passenger vehicle comes with seatbelts, airbags, and built-in crumple zones to absorb the force of the collision. Motorcyclists essentially have their clothing and helmet as the only barriers against the force of a collision.
- Motorcycles are harder to see: The average motorcycle ranges from 25 to 40 inches wide and 75 to 100 inches long. A Honda Accord is approximately 73 inches wide and 192 inches long. This means that a standard mid-size sedan is up to 3 times as big as the average motorcycle. As such, motorcycles are more difficult to see, especially in a driver’s blind spots. Many drivers assume the motorists they need to look out for are their size or larger. This doesn’t mean drivers can simply say they didn’t see the motorcycle. It does mean they need to be extra vigilant to look out for motorcycles.
- Bikes have less stability: A motorcycle can maneuver like no passenger vehicle. They can move in and out of tight spaces and make turns larger vehicles simply can’t. But they also face their own challenges. Because motorcycles have just two wheels, they have less stability. If a motorcyclist has to come to an emergency stop or needs to swerve to avoid an obstacle in their path, they are more likely to lose control of their bike. Drivers on the road should be aware of this and should avoid slamming on their brakes or cutting in front of a motorcyclist, as the results can be deadly.
Common motorcycle accident injuries
Even “small” accidents can cause big injuries. Again, there is virtually nothing to protect the motorcyclist in the event of a collision. The helmet and protective gear a rider wears can only do so much. It is thus especially vital that motorcyclists avoid collisions of any kind by all means. Common motorcycle injuries include:
If you ever fell off a bike or tripped on the sidewalk, you may have acquired road rash. Road rash refers to a skin abrasion. After a collision, the momentum of the bike can launch a rider from their bike and drag them across the road, causing severe scraping to their skin.
These injuries can also happen in single-vehicle accidents, where a rider loses control of their bike due to other causes, like slippery roads. When the skin scrapes against asphalt or gravel, it can cause abrasions, open wounds, and gashes. Not only is this painful, but it also puts the rider at high risk of infection, which can lead to life-threatening complications.
Severe cases of road rash may require surgery, skin grafts, or rehabilitative therapy. Complications of road rash include:
- Loss of mobility
- Nerve damage
- Septic shock
Broken bones are very common in motorcycle accidents. Because the rider’s whole body is exposed, they can sustain multiple injuries throughout their body. Broken bones are painful and often require extended rehabilitation. Even after treatment, it is not unusual to experience chronic or recurring pain. Your doctor’s approach to your injuries will depend on the degree and location of the break.
Treatment options may include:
Traumatic brain injuries
Only 19 states and the District of Columbia require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet. Some states require only certain riders to wear a helmet, and others have no helmet laws at all. Whether legally required or not, all motorcyclists should wear helmets. Statistics show that helmets save lives, even if they are not 100 percent effective at preventing death or serious injury.
Motorcycle riders are at high risk of head injuries in an accident. Traumatic brain injuries happen when the head sustains a serious blow or when there is a penetrating wound. This can happen when the rider hits the ground or is thrown off their bike.
Traumatic brain injuries can present serious, and even life-threatening, complications.
Some of the more severe complications of TBI include:
- Memory loss
- Mood changes
- Loss of speech
- Loss of vision
- Loss of consciousness
If you have been in a motorcycle accident, you need to be seen by a medical professional. TBI symptoms don’t always present at the scene. A doctor can conduct a thorough exam to rule out any serious injuries.
Spinal cord injuries
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries can happen when there is damage to the vertebrae, discs, or the cord itself. These injuries typically result from a severe external impact, which is likely in motorcycle accidents. A spinal cord injury can lead to permanent paralysis. The degree of paralysis and the areas affected will depend on what part of the spine is injured.
Spinal cord injuries come with a high chance of secondary conditions. These happen when the patient suffers from another condition or injury as a result of the spinal cord injury.
Common secondary conditions for spinal cord injuries include:
- Pressure sores
- Muscle atrophy
- Bowel and bladder conditions
- Sexual dysfunction
Traumatic stress and mental health injuries
Any type of motorcycle accident is likely to be traumatic. It doesn’t matter what the actual physical injuries are—when you have no control over a literal life or death situation, mental trauma is likely, even if you escape with little or no serious physical injury. It isn’t uncommon for victims of motorcycle accidents to suffer from PTSD or other psychological injuries.
After an accident, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions. It’s normal to think about the accident and shudder at what could have happened. But when these feelings interfere with your day-to-day life, you may be suffering from PTSD.
Common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Persistent anxiety
- Reliving the accident
- Memory problems
- Avoiding things or places that remind you of the accident
- Difficulty sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
If you experience these or any other symptoms it’s important to take them seriously. Contact your healthcare provider to learn about possible treatment options.
Five Steps to Take After a Motorcycle Accident
If you have been in a motorcycle accident, you need to protect yourself. If your injuries were the result of someone else’s negligence, the law may entitle you to financial compensation. You need to understand your rights and take timely action, as the law limits how long you have to make a claim. After an accident, what you do and what you say can have a direct impact on your motorcycle accident case. It’s always a good idea to talk to an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon after an accident as possible.
Every accident is different, and what steps you take will partly depend on your injuries and the circumstances of your case.
However, there are some general steps most motorcycle accident victims should take after an accident.
- Put your safety first: Before you talk to anyone, before you exchange information, you have to evaluate your injuries. Are you hurt? Can you move? If you have any serious injuries, you need to go to the doctor right away. If you have a broken bone or suspect a back, neck, or head injury, try not to move, except as required to remove yourself from a dangerous position in traffic. Ask someone to call an ambulance and get to the hospital immediately.
- Get contact information from other drivers involved: If you did not sustain a life-threatening or disabling injury, you should talk to the other driver, and get their contact and insurance information. Be very careful with what you say, and don’t talk about why the accident occurred or anything beyond getting basic identification and contact info, as the other party could attempt to use your words against you to limit their liability.
- Gather evidence: Evidence is crucial in a motorcycle accident case. You don’t want to have to rely on your word against the other driver’s. If you can, gather information from the scene that you can to help your case. Take pictures of your bike, the other vehicle, and other circumstances of the accident scene. If there are witnesses at the scene, ask for their contact information.
- Go to the doctor: Even if you don’t think you have any serious injuries, you still need to go to the doctor. A motorcycle accident is nothing to take lightly. After an accident, adrenaline or other factors can mask your symptoms. A doctor can check you out and make sure you are not experiencing medical issues that are not immediately apparent.
- Call a lawyer: You need to take your motorcycle accident claim seriously. You may think you can handle it yourself; but, the reality is, trying to handle a claim by yourself can jeopardize your right to compensation. The insurance company will look for ways to diminish your claim and may even try to blame you. Victims who hire an attorney almost always recover more compensation. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can guide you through the process and take care of all the legal work so you can focus on your recovery.
Are motorcycles worth it? You decide, but always know your rights after a motorcycle accident.
People will question whether motorcycles are worth the risk. Are there certain dangers? Yes. Do the actions of other drivers increase these risks? Yes. Ultimately, whether you ride has to be a personal decision. No driver should tell you that you shouldn’t share on the road with them and no one should excuse an accident as “that’s just the risk you take.”
After a motorcycle accident that isn’t your fault, the only thing that matters is your recovery and recovering the compensation you deserve and need to move on. A motorcycle accident lawsuit can help you pursue fair and reasonable damages to help offset the costs of your injuries. If you or someone you love were in an accident, you have rights. To learn about these rights and the steps you should take, contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney today.