Staying Safe During Motorcycle Accident Season

Motorcycle Season Is Approaching - Are You Ready?

May and June are the start of perfect weather for riding motorcycles in Illinois. After months of harsh winter, bikers relish sunny skies and comfortable temperatures.

Unfortunately, these months also show a sharp rise in motorcycle accidents each year. In fact, nearly three-fourths of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2014 occurred from May through September, according to Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) statistics. In 2014, the last year for which official numbers are available, most of the 118 fatal motorcycle accidents occurred during that time frame.

In general, more motorcyclists are dying on Illinois and U.S. roads now than in past decades. Fatal motorcycle accidents more than doubled between 1997 and 2008, fell in 2009 and then rose again for a few years.

Location, Location, Location: It Matters In Motorcycle Crashes

Time of year is not the only factor to consider when riding; the location and type of road is such an important factor that IDOT tracks this as a data point in accidents each year. In 2014, motorcycle crashes and fatalities occurred as follows:

In urban areas

  • 17 people were killed on state routes
  • 3 people were killed on interstate highways
  • 42 people were killed on city streets

In rural areas

  • 9 people were killed on state routes
  • 21 people were killed on city streets and local roads
  • 28 people were killed on unmarked roads

The Numbers Don't Lie: Motorcycle Accidents Are Even More Dangerous Than You Think

The most shocking statistic isn't how many motorcycle crashes occur (they made up just 1.2 percent of total crashes in 2014), but how deadly they are (they accounted for 4 percent of crash injuries and 13.7 percent of fatal crashes statewide). This massive discrepancy between how few accidents happen and how many injuries and deaths result shows just how deadly these accidents can be.

Given these fatality rates, it's important both motorcyclists and other drivers to keep motorcyclists safe. As motorcycle enthusiasts ourselves, we want those who enjoy being out on their bikes to have a fun time, but remain safe. Below, we provide tips for both motorcyclists and other drivers to stay safe on the Illinois highways and other roads.

How Motorcyclists Can Stay Safe

Motorcyclists have the same rights to be on the road that other drivers do, but they are more vulnerable in an accident because they have less protection from their vehicles and can be thrown from the bike in a crash.

As a motorcyclist, you can help protect yourself on the roads by keeping these tips in mind:

  • Trucks have large blind spots on the front, back and both sides of the vehicle. If you ride in a truck's blind spot, the driver may not see you. IDOT says it's especially important for motorcycle riders to be aware of a truck's front blind spot because of the risk of a truck accident if you need to stop quickly.
  • Motorcycles accelerate faster than most other vehicles. Maintain a safe speed, especially around trucks, at night or in bad weather.
  • If you have taken an extended break from your bike, brush up on your skills and get acquainted with your motorcycle again. Riding skills can diminish if they are not used regularly.
  • Motorcycles can be relaxing and fun, but it's important to be constantly aware. IDOT recommends that you call out potential hazards such as parked cars, dogs or gravel as you ride. It will help you scan beyond your regular view and stay alert.
  • If you get caught in wet weather when you ride, remember that there will be extra oil on the road if it rains after an extended dry period. If you have room, you may want to keep rain gear with you and have a pair of glasses or a helmet shield to keep rain out of your eyes.
  • Be extra careful when approaching or riding through work zones. These are especially dangerous areas for both motorcyclists and those working on road repairs.
  • Exercise extreme caution during Labor Day weekend, the 4th of July, and other holidays. There is a pronounced uptick in accidents, including fatal accidents, during these busy times.

How Other Drivers Can Help Motorcyclists Stay Safe

Keeping roads safe is a responsibility that motorcyclists and other drivers share equally. Drivers of passenger cars and other vehicles also play a role in keeping motorcycle riders safe and avoiding serious or fatal accidents. Paying attention to motorcycles and understanding why operators make certain decisions can help drivers avoid crashes.

ABATE of Illinois, a coalition that focuses on preserving the rights and safety of motorcyclists, recommends that drivers keep in mind:

  • Motorcycles may adjust position within a lane for visibility and to handle wind, debris and other vehicles. Be aware that motorcycles may move within a lane for good reason.
  • A motorcycle may seem to be moving faster than it is. This is because motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles.
  • Also because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. Drivers who are turning at an intersection should be aware that a motorcycle may be closer than it appears.
  • Motorcycles can easily be hidden from your view. A mirror, passenger or a door post on your car can obstruct your view. Similarly, bushes, bridges and other obstructions outside can prevent you from seeing a motorcyclist.
  • Motorcycles have almost the same stopping distance as a vehicle, and stopping quickly is difficult on slippery pavement. A rider may not be able to stop quickly, so give the bike more distance.

By better understanding motorcycles and the decisions that riders make, other drivers may also shed some of the misconceptions, such as that bikers speed or take unnecessary risks. Most motorcyclists are safe, attentive riders who do everything they can to avoid a serious or fatal accident.