We’re not talking road rash, but about a sequence of four motorcycle accidents in Metro Louisville during a 24-hour period in April, 2016.
Sadly, two people died as a result of these crashes, and one woman was seriously injured after she was thrown from her motorcycle. And only two weeks later, another rider died when a Jeep rear-ended his motorcycle on I-65 northbound, near the St. Catherine exit.
Deaths from motorcycle wrecks went up 8 percent in Kentucky from 2014 to 2015; in 2015, that amounted to 85 fatalities. Of all deaths on KY roads, 13 percent of them were motorcycle riders. Nationally, rider deaths have gone from a low in 1997 of 5 percent of all traffic fatalities to an estimated 14 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2015. Over 80,000 of those on motorcycles are injured yearly in the U.S.
On a per-mile-driven basis using 2013 data, motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to die than those in passenger vehicles. If you ride regularly, that distressing statistic alone should give you pause.
Serious and Severe Injuries
The NHTSA has reported that injury or death is the result in over 80 percent of all reported motorcycle crashes. Injuries are often severe for one big reason: you have no protective “cage” around you the way a person in a passenger vehicle does. Not only that, you can easily be thrown off, striking anything in your trajectory’s path. Add to it the lack of size and weight when a motorcycle tangles with even the smallest vehicle, and you’ve got a recipe for serious problems.
In a study done by the CDC analyzing over 1.2 million non-fatal motorcycle injuries (U.S. data from 2001 to 2008), they made the following discoveries:
- Leg and foot injuries, up to and including amputation, occurred in 30 percent of all non-fatal injuries, making it the area of the body most likely to be injured.
- Head and neck injuries were the next most-common, resulting in 22 percent of all non-fatal injuries.
- Upper body injuries, specifically to the chest, shoulder, and back, were the next most common ones, with injuries to the arms and hands following.
- Injuries to the hips and pelvis appeared next on the list.
Unfortunately for us, the CDC did not rank severity of injury in this study, nor did they note whether or not injuries were affected by wearing safety gear.
Why Do Motorcycle Accidents Happen?
We know that even the most careful motorcyclist cannot always avoid crashes. But some causes of motorcycle accidents can be avoided, through proper habits or watchfulness:
- In passenger vehicle-motorcycle crashes, vehicles making left-hand turns account for 42 percent of accidents. This situation is the single most hazardous one for motorcyclists.
- Lane-changing into motorcyclists is another common reason for crashes. Keep an eye on vehicles around you.
- Lane-splitting by motorcyclists is dangerous because vehicles do not expect you to be there. Don’t be tempted to do so during a traffic tie-up.
- Numerous road hazards can cause problems, such as unexpected loose gravel, potholes, uneven lanes, slick pavement, or animals darting in front of you.
- Riding on high-performance motorcycles—such as supersport and sport varieties—is more likely to cause accidents because of their light weight and ability to travel up to 160 mph. Exercise all necessary caution if you ride one.
- Finally, the most common reason for motorcycle crashes is alcohol. Never drink and ride.
If you need any more statistics to convince you, consider this one: 56 percent of motorcyclist deaths involve other vehicles. And, in most of these crashes—78 percent—the vehicle strikes the motorcycle from the front.
ATGATT Should Be Your Motto
ATGATT signifies, “all the (safety) gear, all the time.” What this means is that being safety-conscious will save you from serious injury and death much of the time. Some of the gear you should consider using include:
- Sturdy boots that go over the ankle.
- Close-fitting, abrasion-resistant long pants.
- Close-fitting, abrasion-resistant jacket with long sleeves.
- Close-fitting, full-fingered abrasion-resistant gloves with a good grip.
- A helmet that complies with DOT regulations.
Clothing should also have reflective material on it for operating at night or in other reduced-visibility situations.
Kentucky Motorcycle Laws and Regulations
In Kentucky, helmets are required only for certain groups of people:
- Any person on a motorcycle under the age of 21.
- Any person operating a motorcycle on an instruction permit.
- Any person operating a motorcycle who has had their license for less than one year.
However, it is in your best interests to wear a helmet, as it reduces your chance of dying in a crash by 37 percent. Additionally, if you end up in an accident and you were not wearing a helmet during the accident, it’s possible that fact could count against you in a court case.
Three other laws of note should interest KY motorcyclists:
- Kentucky law does require you to wear approved eye protection gear if you are not wearing a helmet.
- A motorcyclist can move through a red light, but only after stopping and waiting for either two minutes or for two complete light cycles at the intersection. This law, which took effect in July, 2015, is meant to address intersections where the light sensors may not “read” the motorcycle, resulting in a red light that would never change.
- An injury claim resulting from a Kentucky motorcycle accident must be filed within two years of the injury’s date. Filing a timely accident report is required in order to prove the date.
How Can I Avoid Accidents?
We understand—the other driver is often the one at fault in a passenger vehicle-motorcycle crash. If you are a motorcyclist, some things that can reduce your risk of being in a serious or fatal crash include:
- Even though it may not be required by KY law in your case, wear a helmet that is compliant with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations (a DOT-compliant helmet).
- Do not speed or weave in and out of traffic. Use common sense.
- Wear recommended protective clothing that has reflective stripes or patches on it.
- Watch out for other vehicles, which may not see you. Avoid their blind spots.
- Never operate your motorcycle under the influence of anything legal or illegal.
- If you are purchasing a new motorcycle, opt for antilock brakes. They increase stability and decrease the chances of fatal accidents due to the brakes locking up.
- Know your bike, and know how to handle its quirks.
- Take a safety course, especially if you are new to riding.