The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported in May that deaths from motorcycle accidents have increased every year since 1999 (with the exception of 2009, which saw a 16 percent decrease), despite increased awareness and safety precautions. Motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than automobile passengers. The causes?
- 42 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2011 had blood alcohol levels of .08 or higher.
- 40 percent were not wearing helmets, and the NHTSA estimates about 1,600 of the 4,200 who died could have been saved if they’d worn them.
- 49 percent of those fatal crashes were involved with other vehicles, and 23 percent struck fixed objects.
- 38 percent of car-motorcycle crashes involved cars making left-hand turns.
As a new driver, you can’t control what other drivers do, but you can increase your awareness and anticipate what other drivers will do. Whether you drive a car or ride a motorcycle, common sense safety applies.
Check Blind Spots
Use your eyes and ears to check for motorcycles when you change lanes and make turns. Turn down the music, and check your mirrors and over-the-shoulder blind spots as you signal to change lanes. Listen for motorcycles or scooters, and don’t make your move until you know it’s clear. You’ve seen motorcyclists dangerously weave in and out of traffic. Keep your awareness in check.
Assume Multiple Motorcyclists
Motorcyclists tend to travel in groups, so if you see one, assume there are more. Use your car’s signals to indicate lane changes and turns.
The NHTSA also reports more motorcycle fatalities attributed to high blood-alcohol levels generally happen at night. Keep defensive driving tactics on “red alert” during those times: turn music down, eliminate distractions, maintain safe speeds, and make sure all windows and mirrors are clean.
Wear a Helmet
Forty-seven states have helmet laws for motorcyclists, 19 of which are “universal laws” that apply to all motorcyclists. Arizona has a limited helmet law that applies to only children younger than the age of 18. If you wear a helmet, and you should, choose one that meets DOT standards. If you’re shopping online for motorcycle helmets at BikeBandit.com, for example, the product description will indicate whether it is DOT-certified. BikeBandit.com says some helmets are certified by Snell, which is not a requirement, but the nonprofit memorial foundation has applied the strictest of helmet safety requirements since it was founded in 1959.
Take a Safety Course
Some states require motorcyclists to carry a motorcycle operator license or endorsement. Motorcyclists younger than the age of 18 are required to take an instruction cours