I love riding my motorcycle. Been riding for years. My dad had an old, ugly green Honda CB when I was a kid. My uncle airbrushed Harleys. Another uncle used to take me out jumping giant mounds of dirt on my grandfather's tobacco farm down east. I was enthralled at a young age and got my first dirt bike, a Yamaha Mini Enduro, when I was only six years old. I got my first road bike as soon as I turned 16.
My current bike, shown here, is an 1800cc beast of a machine.
When my wife announced she wanted to start riding together (on a motorcycle of her own), I was a bit surprised - but definitely up for it.
She, as usual, did the smart thing and enrolled both of us in a motorcycle safety class.
While I have always tried to be careful and prudent while enjoying the freedom of the open road, I had not taken a motorcycle safety course in many years. I am thankful my wife gave me a reason to. What I learned was that the roads today are a far cry from when I first started riding more than 30 years ago. The recent accident and death rates are alarming - particularly for "older" riders. So much so, that I felt compelled to do some additional research of my own. I'd like to share reasons I found behind the rise in motorcycle fatalities, and offer ways each of us can try to keep motorcycle safety in mind.
By the way, even if you do not own a motorcycle, you should be aware of some of the ways you may be unintentionally contributing to an unsafe environment for motorcyclists.
Increase in North Carolina Motorcycle Accident Fatalities
I was surprised to learn that a primary reason for the rising death toll in all motor vehicle accidents both in North Carolina and nationwide is due to an increase in motorcycle fatalities. Motorcyclist deaths in 2015 accounted for 13% of all vehicle fatalities in North Carolina, and were the highest in seven years both nationwide and in our state.
It got me to thinking. Why the uptick? What has changed? And more importantly, how can each of us help keep motorcyclists - and each other - safer on North Carolina's roadways?
4 Likely Reasons for Increased Motorcycle Fatalities
- Nationally, fewer riders are wearing helmets. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) declares that having universal helmet laws is the single most effective way for states to save the lives of motorcyclists. In North Carolina about 80 lives are saved for each 100,000 licensed motorcycle drivers, according to an article in North Carolina Health News. Helmets are about 37% effective in preventing motorcyclist deaths and about 67% effective in preventing brain injuries, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the 1970s, all but three states mandated helmets. Yet lobbying efforts by rider groups and "personal freedom" advocates slowly etched away at those mandates. By 2012, only 19 states still had mandatory helmet laws. North Carolina is one of them.
Look, I get that most of us are on the road in part for the feeling of freedom that riding offers. But there are certain basics that increase safety. Airbags, seatbelts, staying sober, and using helmets all contribute to saving lives. I enjoy my freedom, and I encourage you to enjoy responsibly.
- Reduced gas prices means there are more cars and trucks crowding the roadways. Cars and trucks are larger and heavier than motorcycles. Common sense and the laws of physics dictate the motorcyclist is on the losing end in the event of a crash. The fatality rate for motorcycle riders is 26 times the rate of death for people in cars. This is partly because a motorcycle doesn't provide the protection that a car would, such as seat belts, air bags, and a cage of metal armor.
- There is an alarming rise in distracted driving. According to the National Safety Council, 26% of car accidents are caused by cell phone use. In North Carolina more than 22% of accidents resulted from distracted driving. Distracted driving is not limited to texting while driving. It includes anything that distracts you from paying attention to the road.
- Alcohol and drug use has also been a factor in motorcyclist fatalities. This, sadly, is what the Governors Highway Safety Association reports. And more often than not, it was the biker who was drinking. Don't be that biker.
4 Tips to Try to Keep Motorcyclists Safer - and Others Too
North Carolina offers so many scenic roadways, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is the longest scenic roadway in America. And don't forget The Dragon, which attracts riders from all over the country. Many motorcyclists believe this drive is best experienced from a motorcycle. But safely. Here are some ways to maximize safety, whether you're on a motorcycle or in a vehicle.
- Alcohol and drugs have no business being a part of any road trip - no matter what you are driving.
- Pay attention to the road. Especially when motorcycles are nearby. Look in both side mirrors if you hear a motorcycle. Be diligent. You are driving at least a two-ton vehicle. If you're a motorcyclist, don't serpentine between cars at the speed of light on the interstate. Many drivers will not being paying attention to their surroundings - and that includes you.
- If you're a motorcyclist wear protective clothing and gear - the brighter the better. You want drivers to see you. As much as I believe in helmets, I also strongly believe in hi-viz. Only once do I recall getting a call from an injured motorcyclist who was wearing hi-viz clothing. I personally always wear a hi-viz helmet and jacket and follow the ATGATT rule: All The Gear, All The Time. You will always find me riding in boots, heavy-duty pants, leather or armored jacket, gloves, and a full-face helmet. And you'll see me coming from a mile away.
- Helmet laws are mandatory in North Carolina. Wear them. We have represented too many motorcycle crash victims who did not obey this law. Some lived, some did not. Others' lives were forever changed.
FREE Evaluation From Our North Carolina Motorcycle Injury Lawyers
If you or someone you know has been injured in a motorcycle accident, call a fellow biker. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free and confidential case evaluation or call 1-866-900-7078.