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5 of the most dangerous motorcycle accidents

In Illinois, the warmer months of the year are ideal for motorcycle enthusiasts, and rising gas prices increase the incentive to hit the road on two wheels instead of four. The months between May and September are typically the best for riding. With more riders on the road, crash statistics rise, too. According to information provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 141 fatal motorcycle crashes in 2013, which resulted in the deaths of 152 riders and passengers. Nearly 78 percent of these occurred in those five months.

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Martinovich Five of the Most Dangerous Motorcycle Accidents scaled 1

Motorcycle operators face far more hazards than those in other vehicles. The number of fatalities represents nearly 16 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities in Illinois for 2013, even though they make up only 3 percent of the registered vehicles. A Lake County auto accident lawyer is aware that many factors contribute to the high rate of operator deaths.

1. Poor visibility

Many of the hazards that lead to crashes are the result of other drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the most common place for a two-vehicle collision between a motorcycle and a car to occur is at intersections where passenger vehicle drivers fail to yield. In 42 percent of these crashes that occurred in 2013, the passenger vehicles were making left turns and the motorcycles were going straight or passing other vehicles. This happens far less between a car and another car because the narrow size of the motorcycle and the lack of a second light provides less information about speed to the driver of the passenger vehicle.

While depth and speed perception problems create significant safety issues, motorcycles also blend in with the environment, making it difficult for other drivers to see them. A Lake County auto accident lawyer understands that motorcyclists who wear white or brightly colored helmets and bright yellow and safety vests with reflective strips are much less likely to be in an accident at an intersection. A study by researchers at Iowa State University Institute for Transportation found that greater reflectivity of the front enhances visibility significantly, as well. On the highway, changing lanes frequently also increases conspicuity to other drivers.

2. Lack of helmet

In Illinois, there is no law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Many have protested the passing of this type of legislation, but according to national statistics, states that have universal helmet laws see 10 times fewer motorcyclist fatalities. IDOT data show that only one of the 152 Illinois motorcyclists killed in crashes during 2013 was wearing a helmet that complied with the U.S. Department of Transportation safety compliance guidelines. Another 22 percent of those who died were wearing helmets that were not DOT compliant, but 113 were not wearing any type of protective headgear at the time of the accident.

3. Drunk driving

Of the 136 motorcycle operators who died in 2013, 34 percent had some alcohol in their bloodstream, and 76 percent of those operators had a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher. Motorcyclists had higher percentages of alcohol impairment than drivers of any other types of vehicles did. Of those who died in single-vehicle crashes, 40 percent were riding under the influence. Alcohol may lead to more fatalities for motorcyclists than other drivers because it affects balance and coordination, which are two essential skills necessary for riding a motorcycle.

4. Road hazards

It is particularly important for motorcyclists to watch ahead for traffic situations and road surface issues because these create much higher risks for two-wheeled vehicles than they do for passenger cars and trucks. Maintaining control is much more difficult, and the NHTSA recommends that riders go around obstacles whenever possible. Motorcycles should cross railroad tracks at as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. Other road obstacles that constitute danger include the following:

  • Potholes
  • Slick surfaces
  • Puddles
  • Ruts
  • Debris

Road construction produces a number of threats for motorcycles, including uneven pavement and loose gravel on the roadways.

  1. Speeding and lane splitting

A disproportionate number of the fatal motorcycle crashes in 2013 involved speeding. In more than 30 percent of the crashes, the riders were exceeding the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions or racing, according to NHTSA statistics. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute indicates that supersport riders have a much higher death rate than those who ride cruisers or standards. The engines are lightweight and have high horsepower, and many can surpass 160 miles per hour in a very short time, making it all too easy for riders to accelerate to dangerous speeds on Illinois roadways.

Along with speeding, failure to stay in the proper lane is among the most frequently reported operator-related factors in fatal crashes during 2013. According to Illinois law, a motorcyclist may not ride between two vehicles going the same direction unless there is an unobstructed lane. Some states allow this maneuver, which is called lane splitting. However, it is a common contributor to accidents. In traffic situations, other vehicles are often too close for the motorcycle to pass between them safely, giving the rider minimal space to maneuver.

If all motorcycle operators follow traffic laws and recommended safety precautions, the number of fatalities may be significantly reduced. When a motorcycle injury or fatality is the fault of a careless or negligent driver, a Lake County auto accident lawyer may be able to provide legal assistance that results in holding the at-fault party responsible for damages, medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost quality of life experienced by victims and their loved ones.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association – 1974-Present
Lake County Bar Association
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
Lake County Bar Association Civil Trial and Appeals Committee
Federal Bar Association – Northern District of Illinois
Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States – May 28, 1991

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