Interesting Statistics on Motorcycle Safety
or We are our own worst enemy!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that most motorcycle accidents are the result of someone turning left into them from oncoming traffic. That apparently wide-spread belief has never felt right to me based on my own half a million miles on the road, and it clearly smacks of an attempt to rationalize responsibility away from the motorcyclist.
I have included the complete text of a July 1994 report issued from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at the end of this Tip because I could not find a URL to let you link to it yourself. [I found a URL to it after I created this tip: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/PPSC/Research/june95.htm.] In summary, however, it makes the following points:
Running off the road, usually in a curve, often involving alcohol, and almost always a ‘single vehicle’ accident accounted for a stunning 41 percent of the total motorcycle fatalities. This is more than twice the percentage of any other cause.
The running of a traffic signal in an intersection, most often a stop sign and most often by the other vehicle, accounted for 18 percent of the total accidents.
Oncoming, head-on crashes accounted for 11 percent of the total. Very few of these were in intersections and a few were on divided roads. About half were on straight roads and the other half on curves. 58 percent of all these crashes were attributed to the motorcycle rider’s failure to stay in lane or using excessive speed.
Left-turn oncoming crashes, as with the oncoming crash type described above, involve vehicles traveling in opposite directions. However, for this crash type, one of the vehicles is in the process of making a left-turn in front of oncoming traffic. This was the fourth most common crash type accounting for only 8 percent of the total. The left-turn was almost always being made by the other vehicle and not the motorcycle. That is, the motorcycle almost always had the superior right of way. This crash often occurred at intersections (69 percent) or at driveways and alleys (7 percent).
“Motorcycle down”, meaning the motorcyclist loses control of the bike (including deliberately ‘dumping’ it) and it goes down on the roadway, accounted for another 7 percent of the total. These usually occurred on dry, level, and straight roads.
These five categories account for about 86 percent of all the fatalities looked at. “He didn’t see me” excuses could only be used in about half the ‘running traffic signal’ and ‘oncoming’ situations as well as most of those categorized as ‘left-turns’. In other words, no more than about 20 percent of all these fatalities involved a second vehicle that could have claimed not to see the motorcyclist. That’s a long way from ‘most’. Further, while the report goes on to make some suggestions about how to reduce these accidents, it does not read like the writings of a motorcycle rider. To suggest that an important possible countermeasure is to ‘avoid excessive speed when entering an intersection’ pales in comparison to simply insuring that another vehicle is on your right side as you enter intersections, for example.
- James R. Davis