Devoted riders know the unique thrill of cruising the open road, but at the same time, insurance professionals and personal injury attorneys know that motorcycle riders are ten times more likely than car drivers to die in an accident on the road. That’s a dramatic statistic, but it’s indicative of the increased risk to motorcycle riders in all aspects of road safety, from collisions and property damage, to personal injury and even death.
On July 1st 2000, the State of Florida, which accounts for 9% of all motorcycle rider fatalities in the United States, changed its helmet law, exempting motorcyclist and moped riders over age 21 from wearing helmets provided they have medical insurance of at least $10,000. Coincident with this change to the law, the number of Florida’s motorcycle registrations increased dramatically.
One study found that this change to the law resulted in increased motorcyclist deaths, even after adjusting for concurrent increases in registrations and total miles traveled. This study concluded that exempting adult riders from wearing helmets is detrimental to riders’ health, and unnecessarily increases the cost of insurance and medical care.
Increasing Motorcycle Safety
Besides wearing a helmet, riders can increase their safety on the road with common-sense behaviors. Being visible to cars, whose drivers may not be as attentive to motorcycle traffic as they are to other cars, is key. Many riders wear high-visibility vests, which typically come in two recognizable colors, “safety yellow” and “international orange” with retro-reflective strips to stand out at night.
Riding safely, of course, is the most important determining factor. Though some states allow riders to cut through heavily congested freeway traffic by splitting lanes (riding in the narrow space between the cars), this practice is considered unsafe because it’s difficult for many drivers to spot riders who are rapidly approaching and transiting a car’s blind spot from the rear.
In conclusion, the principles of defensive driving are especially important to motorcycle riders. You may have bought that sport bike for the sole purpose of doing wheelies at 80 mph, but the laws of physics put riders at a huge disadvantage in most vehicular collisions. Operate your bike prudently and wear that helmet – the law might no longer require you to, but your mother probably would!