Motorcycles have many advantages: They're gas-efficient, can maneuver through narrow spaces and possess the cool factor. But are they safe?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists' injuries and fatalities are on the rise. In 2012, 93,000 motorcyclists were injured, up 15 percent from the year before. Also in 2012, 4,957 motorcyclists died in motor vehicle crashes, a 7 percent increase from the year before.
Motorcycles make up only 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States and account for only 0.7 percent of all vehicle miles traveled. Still, NHTSA reports, per vehicle mile traveled in 2012, "motorcyclists were more than 26 times likelier than passenger car occupants to die in motor vehicle traffic crashes and five times likelier to be injured."
Motorcycle accident and fatality statistics are scary, but they're a reminder to be safe on the road.
"Unlike cars, motorcycles offer no protection whatsoever," says Jordan Perch of DMV.com. "Cars are equipped with airbags, seatbelts and other safety features that motorcycles don't have, and also, cars are more stable thanks to the fact that they are on four wheels."
Perch says motorcyclists need to remember that other drivers may not see them on the road because the bikes are smaller than cars. "A lot of accidents involving motorcycle riders occur because car drivers fail to see motorcyclists on time and avoid a collision with them," he says.
*Meeting Safety Head-on
While not every state has helmet laws, it's a good idea to wear one anyway.
If motorcyclists wear Department of Transportation-compliant helmets, they'll increase their protection. NHTSA estimates that helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers. Wearing a helmet saved the lives of 1,699 motorcyclists in 2012, and 781 more could have been saved if they'd worn a helmet.
It's also smart to wear protective gear when riding, including chest protectors, shin guards and a reflective vest so you can be seen by other motorists.
Most motorcycle drivers are careful on the road, especially in their awareness of cars and other bikers. Even so, insurance data show that many motorcyclists should monitor their own behavior.
Progressive Insurance's claims report shows that in 2014, there were more single-vehicle motorcycle claims than any other type, including rear-end, intersection and stolen bikes claims combined. Single-vehicle complaints could mean a variety of things, including the motorcycle hit a wall or wiped out.
The report also showed that the majority of motorcycle accidents happen on the weekend, with the majority of claims being filed on Saturdays, Sundays and Fridays, in that order. The summer months were also the busy season for accidents, with claims spiking respectively in July, August and June. The fewest claims happened in December, presumably because many motorcyclists don't ride in colder temperatures.
If you're going to ride a motorcycle, make sure your bike is ready for the road.
Ed Roberts, owner of Bent Wrench, a full-service motorcycle repair shop for most motorcycle models, recommends regular maintenance of your motorcycle.
"Pay attention to your wheel bearings and brakes," he says. "Remember that a car has four wheels. A motorcycle only has two. You're a lot closer to God."
He also recommends that motorcyclists, both beginners and experienced riders, take safety classes. "Those classes teach you how your bike will react in situations," Roberts says, noting that driving a bike is a lot different from driving a car.
Being sober is another safety concern. Nearly a third of motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2012 were alcohol-impaired with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher.
"Alcohol and motorcycles don't mix!" advises Roberts.
Motorcycle Safety Awareness campaigns urge all drivers to "share the road" and remind motorcyclists to make sure they're visible to other drivers.