Motorcycle collisions: what the data shows

Motorcycling can be fun. It’s also popular, especially this time of year. Yet motorcyclists are much more likely than occupants of passenger vehicles to be injured or killed when involved in crashes. ​Motorcycle crashes are responsible for billions of dollars in costs to riders and society. What do we know about preventing these crashes?

The first thing to remember is that you can’t control other drivers, and that means motorcyclists can’t hope to prevent all collisions. When other drivers are negligent or reckless, they need to be held legally responsible when they cause crashes.

However, riders can limit some of the risk by understanding how and why motorcycle collisions occur. Here are steps to consider based on data from the Insurance Information Institute (III):

Older rider? Consider a smaller bike. According to a Brown University study, older riders are more likely than younger ones to get into crashes and to sustain serious injuries. That’s partly due to declining vision and slowing reaction time as the result of aging. However, older drivers also tend to choose larger motorcycles which have a greater tendency to roll over. And, older drivers are more fragile than younger ones, meaning their injuries can be more serious in comparable crashes.

Avoid supersport models. A report from the Highway Loss Data Institute indicates that supersport motorcycles have the highest collision losses among 10 motorcycle classes. This was driven by claims frequency.

Buy a motorcycle with an antilock braking system (ABS). Braking hard on a motorcycle can lock the wheels and overturn the bike. Not braking hard enough could put you in harm’s way. ABS allows you to brake fully without fear of locking up because the system automatically reduces brake pressure when a lockup is about to occur, then increases it again once traction has been restored. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the crash rate for bikes with ABS is significantly lower than the rate for the same models without ABS.

Take an extra training course (plus it may save you some money). Anyone with a valid Tennessee driver’s license may operate a motorcycle that is 50cc or less without any special endorsement on the driver’s license. A Class M motorcycle license allows the holder 16 years of age or older to operate a motorcycle over 50cc.

The required examinations in the application process for a Class M motorcycle license vary slightly depending on whether or not you currently have a valid Tennessee driver’s license. If you currently a have valid Tennessee driver’s license and complete the Tennessee Certified Motorcycle Rider Education Program, you will not have to take the motorcycle knowledge test or the road skills test.

You may be eligible for an insurance discount for taking the Tennessee Certified Motorcycle Rider Education Program or additional courses. These courses promote safety by encouraging that riders wear protective gear – especially helmets – ride sober and stay within your skill limits.

Every rider should wear a helmet on every ride. In Tennessee, helmets are required for all motorcycle riders. However, nationwide, helmet use hovers around 50% among all riders. According to the III, motorcycle helmets have been shown to be effective in preventing fatalities and reducing the severity of injuries among bikers. Don’t skip other protective gear, as a motorcyclist’s entire body is exposed during a collision.

Don’t drink and ride. Not only could you get a DUI, but alcohol use is also strongly associated with crashes, according to the IIHS. Impaired motorcyclists are less likely to wear helmets, which drives up the risk of serious injuries or death.

Try not to speed. It sometimes feels as if speeding is necessary, but it is a major factor in fatal crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Slow down and allow yourself to see more obstacles and dangers ahead of you.

Make yourself visible to other motorists. Wear brightly colored, reflective gear and consider a brightly colored motorcycle. Regardless of the color of your bike, use reflective tape to increase the visual footprint of your bike. Use LED or xenon lights, which are brighter, and keep them on during the day. You may wish to add auxiliary lights for even more visibility. Use your horn when you’re concerned another driver may not see you. Tap your brakes to get a close-follower to back off. Finally, learn about the blind spots associated with other vehicles and stay out of them.

Ultimately, every driver has the responsibility to drive reasonably safely – and that includes you. However, if you have been injured or lost a loved one in a crash, don’t assume fault just because you were riding a motorcycle. There are many factors used to determine fault. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you decide your best course of action.

Skip to content