“Motorcycles are dangerous! Aren’t you scared when you ride one?” We hear this a lot, and undoubtedly, most other riders do too. While you often hear this from concerned friends or family that mean well, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
The frustration stems from the fact that the majority of these statements come from people who have no idea what they’re talking about. Most have never been on a motorcycle, much less behind the handlebar. Because most anyone can attest that once you have—you’ll be hooked!
In one of our previous posts, What’s the Big Deal About Motorcycling, Bud Miller brought up a great point that I want to revisit. Riding is a skill, and once you’ve mastered the skill of riding, your risks are significantly reduced. He also pointed out that life itself is dangerous. And he is correct.
For instance, according to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, followed very closely by cancer. And while “unintentional injuries” is in third place, it is drastically less than the aforementioned diseases. We should probably be more afraid of what we eat and certain lifestyle choices, as that’ll probably kill us first, and slowly—just saying.
Now let’s take a look at some statistics more closely related to riding and driving. While you may be 28 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than in a passenger car, 37% of people involved in a car-related accident were killed in 2017, versus 14% of riders involved in accidents. To look at it another way, Driver Knowledge pointed out that 90 people die every day and 2 million people suffer serious, permanent injuries from driving a car each year. Aside from nervous parents letting their 16-year-old take the car out for the first few times, no one thinks twice about driving a car—and let’s face it—car drivers are notorious for being distracted.
Of course, there are far more cars on the road than motorcycles, so it makes sense that there are more car and truck-related fatalities than motorcycle related ones, but it doesn’t mean that riding motorcycles is a death sentence like some people are inclined to think. That’s just not true.
Let’s look at another interesting statistic shown by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHS & HLDI). They report that 2% of bicyclists and 16% of pedestrians were killed in a motor vehicle-related death in 2017. But most people don’t get overly concerned if you mention you like to walk or ride a bicycle down the road.
Going back to Bud’s statement, life is dangerous. Don’t let fear prevent you from experiencing the joys of motorcycling, or anything else for that matter. Riding motorcycles isn’t bad for your health. On the contrary, motorcycling has many health benefits, as shown in our previous post, Motorcycling Makes You Happier, Healthier, and Smarter.
Much of what people fear about motorcycles is actually within the rider’s control, which is why motorcycling isn’t the big bad wolf that some people try to make it out to be. In fact, approximately two-thirds of all single-vehicle accidents involving motorcycles are caused by rider error.
Skills and Awareness
We are not saying that motorcycling does not come with risks, it does. But your skill as a rider significantly cuts down much of the danger you face on the road. Just staying alert and aware of what’s happening around you will also help prevent “bad things” from happening while riding.
Drinking and Riding
An interesting fact I came across while researching this topic is that 1 out of 3 motorcycle-related accidents are due to alcohol consumption, where the rider had a BAC of 0.08 or higher, especially at night. This also aligns with NHTSA’s report showing that DWI convictions for motorcyclists involved in a fatal crash is 3%, whereas cars are slightly lower, coming in at 2.5%. Like Indian Motorcycle and Jack Daniels have said: Throttles and bottles don’t mix. And this is fully within your control.
The NHTSA also reported that the percentage of motorcyclists involved in a fatal crash were higher for speeding than cars and trucks, at 19.6%. Again, this is within the rider’s control.
Another common cause of motorcycle accidents, especially on highways, is lane splitting. This is a widely debated topic and one that we support as it reduces a rider’s chance of getting hit from behind—which poses more danger to riders than the act of lane splitting itself. You can effectively avoid most accidents during lane splitting by exercising caution and ensuring you are still respectful and aware of other vehicles on the road.
Wearing Helmets and Full Gear
Just as seatbelts cut your risk of death by 45% and serious injury by 50% in a car, the CDC reports that wearing a helmet reduces your chance of a motorcycle fatality in the event of an accident by 37% and prevents serious head injuries by 69%. And while there is no data or studies on whether motorcycle jackets and other gear help save lives, you only have to google “motorcycle accidents without protective gear” to see that this is a no-brainer. And again, fully within your control.
This information lets you know that many injuries and fatalities from motorcycle accidents are self-inflicted (from irresponsible behavior). Motorcycling, in and of itself, isn’t scary, but the choices people make when they ride one can be.
Now let’s take a look at a few things that are not fully in control of the rider.
Cars Turning Left
According to the NHTSA, one of the biggest causes of accidents involving a car and a motorcycle is when a car driver is making a left-hand turn and you are “invisible” to them. While you can’t control what the car does, you can control what you do. This is where skill and alertness can really pay off. Installing additional driving lights and wearing hi-vis gear will make you more visible. And if that still fails, wearing proper gear can be the difference between serious injury or even life and death.
While cars are not impervious to road hazards (anyone who has had an accident involving a deer, hydroplaning, or something similar can attest to this), motorcyclists are at an even greater risk. But this shouldn’t scare you off from riding. Again, being ever-mindful of your surroundings and taking care to learn the necessary skills drastically reduces your risk of being affected by road hazards.
So, are there dangers involved in riding motorcycles? Yes. But there’s danger in driving a car, riding a bicycle, walking, rock climbing, sunbathing, eating too many French fries, and a countless number of other things. Point being, riding a motorcycle isn’t as dangerous as people make it out to be. All things considered, it’s pretty safe, and the majority of motorcyclists ride their whole lives in complete bliss. Don’t let fear stop you from enjoying life!