On a recent June evening in Aurora, a 53-year old motorcyclist collided with an SUV while attempting a left turn at a traffic signal. The motorcyclist, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, was thrown from his bike sustaining severe head trauma, and pronounced dead shortly after being rushed to the hospital. Tragic stories like these have become all-too-common in Colorado, and across our nation.
In fact, each year nearly 5,000 motorcyclists are killed, and 93,000 more are injured, in motor vehicle accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of fatalities has jumped 7 percent since 2011, and injuries are up an astounding 15 percent. And even though motorcycles only represent 3 percent of all vehicles on America’s roads, motorcyclists were more than 26 times as likely to die, and 5 times as likely to be injured, than passenger car occupants. Of those accidents, nearly 75 percent were the result of a motorcycle crashing into the vehicle in front of them.
“Fender-benders are rare in collisions involving motorcycles,” says Tim Buche, President of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). “When a car hits a motorcyclist, there is often direct vehicle-to-human contact.” The MSF offers motorists some useful tips for keeping their fellow motorcyclists safe, such as taking an extra moment to look for motorcycles when changing lanes, since the narrow profile of a motorcycle makes them easy to miss. And because of their small size, a motorcycle may appear farther away than it actually is, so always assume the cyclist is closer to you and allow for a safe driving distance to avoid an accident.
Although advances in car and truck safety have created a relatively steady decline in the overall national highway fatality rate, many new features, such as air bags, are not available on motorcycles. In fact, according to a 2014 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, due to improved safety measures, people in passenger vehicles are now twice as safe as they were just 14 years ago, but with motorcyclists, there was no improvement over the same period.
The most common serious injury to motorcyclists is head injury. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries, yet only 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate helmet use by all riders.Colorado is one of those states without a mandatory helmet law for riders over age 18, and as a result, the state’s fatality rate is 60 percent higher than the national average. That’s why government officials urge all drivers to be aware of motorcycles and exercise care to avoid accidents and serious injuries.
“Wearing a helmet on every ride is an important way for a motorcyclist to stay safe, but we all play a part,” says David Friedman, former NHTSA acting administrator. “All road users need to share the responsibility of keeping the roadways safe.”
If you or someone you love were injured in a motorcycle accident, an experienced Colorado motorcycle accident lawyer can help you understand your rights and discuss your options for recovering the compensation you deserve.