Motorcycle safety is always important. Without the protection that drivers of other vehicles have, motorcycle riders are at a higher risk than motorists or truckers of being seriously injured or killed in crashes. Cars and trucks provide more protection than a motorcycle, because they are heavier, fully enclosed and generally have air bags. A motorcycle’s smaller size also makes it more difficult for other drivers to see.
In Illinois, a spike in motorcycle fatalities has provided a grim reminder of the need to improve road safety to prevent motorcycle accidents. This is as true on Chicago streets and expressways and downstate roads alike.
Illinois Motorcycle Fatalities
The summer of 2011 was a particularly bad one for motorcycle fatalities in Illinois. Four were killed in motorcycle accidents near Peoria in July and August alone.
In 2009, 130 motorcycle riders were killed in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. This represented 14 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities. Over a ten-year period the number of motorcycle registrations has increased over 76 percent; however, motorcycles still only account for three percent of all vehicles registered. This means motorcycle riders are overrepresented in the number of yearly fatalities.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
European safety researchers have published comprehensive results from investigations of hundreds of motorcycle accidents. It was based on comprehensive investigations into 921 motorcycle accidents, 103 of which were fatal. The study was called the Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study (MAIDS). The study’s findings are also applicable in the prevention of accidents in Illinois and throughout the U.S.
One of the key findings in the study was that other drivers can be deadly. Motorcycles most often collide with passenger cars. In many of these accidents the driver of the other vehicle failed to perceive the motorcycle. An extreme example occurred in July when an 81-year-old woman ran a red light, crashed into a motorcycle and killed the driver.
The second most common cause of an accident is loss of control and crashing into the roadway itself. Injuries to the lower body, spine and head can be sustained from hitting from curbs and road-side barriers. In September, a 27-year-old man was killed when his motorcycle veered off the road and hit a curb. The driver had given his helmet to his passenger, who survived.
Speed does not necessarily lead to accidents. Most accidents occur at fairly low speeds and while at a complete stop. For example, a couple was killed when an alleged drunk driver hit their motorcycle from behind while they were waiting at a red light. In fact, over half of the accidents in the European study occurred in intersections.
As a motorcyclist, don’t leave your protective gear at home. Helmets and protective clothing do a good job of preventing common injuries. In Illinois wearing a helmet is not required, but safety advocates strongly recommend wearing them. More than 8 out of 10 (82 percent) of motorcycle riders killed in 2009 were not wearing a helmet.
If injured in a motorcycle accident contact an attorney who is experienced in helping riders and their family members with personal injury claims.