Now that the weather is warmer, it is the perfect time to discuss how to prevent motorcycle accidents and keep riders safe. Motorcycle safety should be a priority for everyone who utilizes Ohio roadways, as the state ranks fourth in the nation for motorcycle use. In a single year in Ohio, there were 4,000 motorcycle accidents resulting in 3,000 injuries and 157 deaths.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports the number of motorcycles in this country has steadily increased over the past few decades. Registered motorcycles went from 4.2 million in 2002 to 8.3 million in 2018. As more motorcycles continue to hit the road, safety should remain a top concern. Without a motor vehicle’s protection, motorcyclists are more exposed and vulnerable to injuries. Motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to die in an accident than occupants in passenger vehicles per vehicle miles traveled.
Common motorcyclist injuries include:
- Broken bones.
- Internal bleeding.
- Lacerations and puncture wounds.
- Neck and spine cord injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
Crash data suggests lower-extremity injuries are most common among riders in motorcycle accidents. They include injuries below the waist, typically of the pelvis and legs. These areas of the body tend to sustain trauma in a crash because they are positioned on the bike. Lower-extremity injuries can be debilitating and even disabling if the rider is temporarily or permanently unable to walk after a motorcycle accident.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that upper-extremity injuries are the second most common group of injuries motorcyclists experience. They include injuries to the head, neck, face, thorax, and abdomen. Motorcyclists over 40 years old are more likely to experience upper-body injuries in accidents, specifically broken ribs.
Are You Required to Wear a Helmet in Ohio?
The following individuals are required to wear a helmet in Ohio:
- Riders under 18 years old.
- Novice riders for the first year after becoming licensed.
- Passengers on a motorcycle whose operator is legally required to wear a helmet.
While most riders do not have to wear a motorcycle helmet, there is no good argument against wearing one. It is estimated that a helmet can reduce the severity of a head injury by 70 percent and the chance of a fatal head injury by 40 percent. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that wearing a helmet is the most effective way of reducing head injuries and fatalities.
What Is Lane Splitting?
Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist rides in the area between two lanes, usually to bypass slow or stopped vehicles in heavy traffic. While lane splitting is legal in California and legislation to allow lane splitting is under consideration in a few more states, this practice is not permitted in most states.
Some view lane splitting as safer than traveling in lanes for motorcyclists because of the unpredictability of the stop-and-start nature of traffic jams. However, motorcyclists traveling between lanes are not easily visible to drivers and can wreck if a driver cuts them off by switching lanes or turning in front of them.
Drinking and Riding
Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is just as dangerous for motorcyclists as drivers in passenger vehicles. Even small amounts of alcohol affect the body and mind to compromise a rider’s coordination, reaction time, and decision-making skills. Weaving, trouble balancing while stopped, difficulty dismounting, and drifting during a curve or turn are a few possible signs of an impaired motorcyclist.
In Ohio, you can be charged with operating a vehicle impaired (OVI) on a motorcycle, scooter, or even a bike. The same penalties apply regardless of the vehicle. An OVI conviction can bring fines, license suspension, and jail time, among other penalties.
Road conditions also play a big part in motorcycle safety. Riders are more susceptible to injuries due to potholes, slick surfaces, uneven pavement, and debris crashes. A single hazard can cause an accident that forces the rider off their bike. In these cases, a helmet and other protective gear are invaluable for reducing the likelihood and severity of injuries.
Even the safest, most responsible motorcycle rider is dependent upon other motorists who share the road to drive safely. Drivers should always remain alert to the presence of motorcycles and take steps to navigate around them safely. That means checking and signaling before turning, changing lanes, passing, and opening doors.
Drivers must give motorcyclists plenty of space and distance, especially during severe weather and heavy traffic. Sometimes, motorists hear motorcycles before they see them, so it is always wise to keep the radio at a volume that does not compete with traffic sounds.
What Can Motorcyclists Do to Prevent Accidents?
Here are some practical steps riders can take to avoid accidents and injuries:
- If you can, avoid riding in poor weather conditions.
- Never ride while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
- Wear protective gear, including helmets, long sleeve shirts, long pants, gloves, eye protection, and sturdy boots.
- Improve your ability to be seen by wearing bright colors and using headlights day and night.
- Proceed with caution when approaching intersections, where half of all motorcycle accidents occur.
What Can Drivers Do to Keep Motorcyclists Safe?
Passenger vehicle drivers must protect the lives of motorcyclists. That happens through the safe and responsible operation of their vehicle. Here are some of the ways motorists can prevent accidents involving motorcyclists:
- Check for passing bikes before opening vehicle doors.
- Adjust mirrors to the proper position every time you drive for optimal visibility.
- Give motorcyclists extra space in congested areas, bad weather, and construction zones.
- Slow down when approaching intersections where motorcyclists often go unseen.
- Physically turn around before turning or changing lanes to protect riders who may be in your blind spots.
Motorcycle accidents can be devastating for everyone involved, but the good news is these crashes are largely preventable with safe driving and riding habits. Motorcyclists have a right to enjoy the open road. Remember these tips for summer and all year long to stay safe and protect yourself, your passengers, and those around you.
Cincinnati Personal Injury Lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office Represent Clients Injured in Motorcycle Accidents Across Ohio
If you have been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, speak with one of our Cincinnati personal injury lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office for legal help. We will carefully assess your situation and build the most robust case. Call us at 513-964-2589 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. From our office in Loveland, Ohio, we represent clients in Hamilton County, Fairfield, Norwood, and Forest Park.