The latest figures from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, printed in their Indiana Crash Facts 2012, show that motorcycle collisions in Indiana increased 15.6 percent in 2012, and the collisions that involved a fatality increased 24.8 percent. It’s worth taking a closer look at some of the factors that may be causing this uptick. Here are the answers to many of the frequently asked questions about motorcycle accidents.

How many motorcycle accidents happen in Indiana in a typical year?

As we said, the numbers have been increasing. In 2012, there were more than 4,000 motorcycle collisions in Indiana; 151 were fatal and 614 caused incapacitating injuries.

What locations in Indiana see the most motorcycle accidents?

Parke County has the highest rate of motorcycle collisions. Other counties with dangerous traffic safety environments for motorcyclists are Brown, Carroll, Dubois, Franklin, and Martin. The area near Gary and Chicago is reported to be more dangerous than many other areas of the state.

It seems risky to ride a motorcycle in the rain. Is that true?

It is true that controlling a cycle on wet roads presents a challenge. Interestingly, however, the statistics show Indiana motorcycle collisions in 2012 occurred predominately under clear weather conditions, on straight and level city roads, and during daylight hours.

What are some of the factors that increase the risk that a motorcyclist will be involved in a collision?

Believe it or not, the likelihood of alcohol use/impairment has been higher for motorcyclists involved in collisions than for drivers of other types of motor vehicles. For the years of 2009 to 2011, they were twice as likely to be impaired; the numbers for 2012 showed an improvement, however.

Is distracted driving a problem for motorcycle operators?

Motorcycle drivers can be guilty of distracted driving just as drivers of trucks and cars can be. It’s easy to get lost in enjoying the scenery and daydreaming, but that lack of focus on the demands of safe riding can lead to loss of control or even collision with a stationary object like a mailbox or signpost. For the most part, however, distracted driving is a problem for motorcyclists primarily when it happens on the part of a car or truck driver who looks away from the road – perhaps to use a cell phone or send a text message – and strikes the cycle. It only takes a few seconds of inattention for a driver to swerve into a vehicle in the adjoining lane, and when that vehicle is a motorcycle, the collision is likely to result in serious injuries.

Are motorcycle helmets mandatory in Indiana?

Only for riders age 17 and younger. The law requiring motorcycle operators of all ages to wear a helmet was repealed in 1977.

But doesn’t helmet use prevent deaths?

Statistics show that to be true. The U.S. General Accounting Office has said that “laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proven to be effective in reducing fatalities.” Helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle operators and 41% effective for passengers. Sadly, in Indiana, 80 percent of the motorcyclists killed in 2012 were not wearing a helmet.

What are the most common causes of motorcycle crashes?

The factor most often contributing to an Indiana motorcycle crash is some type of unsafe action on the part of the motorcycle operator. That could be following another vehicle too closely, traveling at an unsafe speed, failing to yield the right of way, or making improper lane changes or passing.
But aren’t motorcyclists sometimes hit by negligent drivers, even when they are following the rules of the road and driving their cycle safely?

Absolutely. And at McNeely Stephenson, we carefully examine the facts of the accidents in which our clients were involved, to determine whether another driver, a dangerous road condition, or even a manufacturing defect contributed to or caused their accident. Other motor vehicles are supposed to share the road with motorcycles and bicycles, but that doesn’t always happen.

Are motorcycle riders more likely to be injured in a crash than car and truck occupants?

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, motorcycle riders are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than people involved in car accidents. Their risk of injury is five times greater. Motorcycles travel at speeds just as great as cars and trucks, but their occupants lack the protection of those vehicles’ steel frame, airbags, size and weight.

What types of injuries are most common in motorcycle wrecks?

The area of the body most likely to be injured in a motorcycle crash is the lower part, i.e., the foot, ankle, leg, knee, thigh, hip or pelvis. Bone fractures are common. Injuries to the upper extremities — the head, chest and abdomen – are less common but are typically severe. Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. You may have heard the term “road rash.” This is the term given to skin abrasions caused by scraping the road when the cycle falls and slides. Road rash can be mild, causing discomfort, or it can be severe, requiring surgical intervention.

Have you helped other people injured in Indiana motorcycle accidents?

Mike Stephenson of McNeely Stephenson is an Indianapolis motorcycle accident lawyer who has been helping accident victims for more than 30 years. If you have been hurt in a motorcycle crash, hand the worry over to us and let us put the resources of our firm to work for you. Call 1-855-206-2555 to schedule a free consultation.