Each year, thousands of motorcyclists in Illinois eagerly await the warm weather that will allow them to return to the roads. Sadly, though, the start of the riding season often comes with a significant number of motorcycle accidents. As any car injury lawyer knows, these accidents usually have devastating consequences. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80 percent of motorcycle accidents result in injury or death.
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In 2014, Illinois recorded about 30 percent fewer fatal motorcycle accidents than in 2013, as WAND News reports. In the hopes of continuing this trend, authorities are warning road users to stay alert to motorcyclists. Additionally, authorities remind motorcyclists to use caution and drive defensively. Still, if past statistics are any indicator, the arrival of motorcycle season may bring thousands of serious accidents.
Risks riders face
Motorcyclists are more likely to suffer accidents and injuries than people in other vehicles for various reasons. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorcycles lack the stability of larger vehicles, putting riders at a greater risk of crashes. Motorcycles can also be harder for other motorists to detect, which increases the likelihood of a two-car accident.
If an accident occurs, riders are left exposed without any protection from restraint systems, air bags or the vehicle itself. As any car injury lawyer would agree, this leaves motorcyclists in danger of suffering severe injuries, including fractures, nerve damage and brain trauma.
Riders who do not wear helmets are especially likely to sustain serious injuries. According to the IIHS, brain injuries and death are, respectively, 67 and 37 percent less likely when motorcyclists use helmets. Unfortunately, Illinois currently does not require riders to wear helmets.
High injury rates
According to national data, motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to suffer fatal crash injuries than people in passenger cars. Statistics from the Illinois Department of Transportation underscore the high injury and fatality risk riders face. A summary of 2013 state crash data reveals the following troubling figures:
- Motorcyclists were involved in just 1.2 percent of all crashes reported that year.
- These crashes represented a disproportionate 4.1 percent of all crashes involving injuries.
- These crashes also accounted for an alarming 15.8 percent of all deadly crashes.
A few measures may help riders reduce this high risk of experiencing accidents or severe injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises riders to always wear helmets. Motorcyclists should also leave safe following distances, use prudent speeds and avoid riding while impaired. Still, all of these tactics may not prevent accidents that occur because of other motorists.
Accidents involving others
Many motorcycle accidents and injuries occur when other drivers fail to see motorcycles or leave a safe following distance. A 2013 Florida Department of Transportation study concluded that other drivers were at fault in 60 percent of two-vehicle motorcycle accidents. According to The Sun Sentinel, this study was based on 10 years of crash data collected in Florida. However, it is reasonable to think a similar pattern may be apparent in other states.
Accidents involving left-turning vehicles are one particular threat, according to data from the NHTSA. About one-third of two-vehicle motorcycle accidents happen when other drivers violate the right-of-way and turn left in front of motorcycles. Authorities encourage motorcyclists to ride cautiously with this common cause of accidents in mind. Still, as any car injury lawyer could attest, defensive driving may not always be enough to protect motorcyclists from serious accidents.
Crash risk factors
Research increasingly suggests that motorcyclists face a high risk of accidents even if every person on the road is driving conscientiously. This occurs because of the way the brain perceives small and less commonly seen objects. Many drivers simply fail to recognize motorcycles or accurately judge the speed and distance of these vehicles.
According to multiple studies, drivers often unconsciously use an approaching vehicle’s size as a proxy for its distance. Using this shortcut, the brain decides larger vehicles are closer, while smaller vehicles are further away. This may lead many drivers to overestimate how far away an oncoming motorcycle is. As a result, these drivers may perform maneuvers that they do not have time or space to safely complete.
Drivers also may be less likely to detect motorcyclists because motorcycles are relatively rare compared to other vehicles. In a study conducted at Monash University, researchers had participants complete driving simulations with high or low volumes of motorcycles. People who performed the low-volume simulation could not detect the motorcycles until they were much closer to them. This finding could help explain why many accidents occur at the start of riding season, when drivers aren’t used to seeing motorcyclists.
Recourse after accidents
When the actions of other drivers cause motorcyclists to experience accidents and injuries, legal remedies may be available. If an injured motorcyclist can prove another driver was negligent, the motorcyclist may be able to collect various damages.
When assessing liability for motorcycle crash injuries, Illinois follows modified comparative fault laws. If an injured motorcyclist contributed in any way to an accident, the motorcyclist may still be able to seek compensation. However, motorcyclists who are deemed more than 51 percent at fault in an accident can’t recover compensation. Additionally, any compensation that is ultimately awarded will be reduced by the amount of fault assigned to the motorcyclist.
These provisions make documenting the accident circumstances and clearly establishing fault essential for injured motorcyclists. Partnering with a car injury lawyer may be advisable for these accident victims. An attorney may be able to offer guidance or provide other necessary assistance during the claim process.