Orange County residents are lucky that the weather is warm enough for them to ride their motorcycles year-round. However, motorcycling can be a dangerous activity. That being said, an analysis of preliminary 2017 numbers suggested that California fortunately experienced a sharp decline in the number of fatal motorcycle accidents on its roadways. In 2017, fatal accidents claimed the lives of 406 motorcyclists, while in 2016, that number was 566.
This is a decrease of just over 28 percent, which is well ahead of the national trend of a 5.6 percent decrease. Nationwide, 4,990 motorcyclists died in 2017, while 5,286 motorcyclists died in 2016.
While this is good news, it does not necessarily show that motorcyclists are safer on the whole than they were, say, 20 years ago. In fact, according to the most recent numbers available, about 1 in 6 victims of fatal motor vehicle accidents are motorcyclists. A little over 20 years ago, this number was closer to 1 in 20.
The report acknowledged that some of these accidents are due to the distracted or inattentive driving of other motorists who might not be looking out for motorcyclists the way that they should. Even if they do not actually hit a motorcycle, these sorts of drivers can also carelessly cause a motorcyclist to lose control and fall from his or her motorcycle, which can also cause a deadly accident.
Motorcyclists are still exposed to severe injuries even when they are driving safely themselves and wearing the appropriate protective equipment. If their injuries are the result of a negligent driver, then a Los Angeles area motorcyclist may want to seek compensation for their injuries. In the event of a fatality, the family of the motorcyclist may want to seek compensation for their loss.
Deadly motorcycle accidents on the decline
Anyone in the Orange County area who rides a motorcycle should be aware of the dangers that they face when riding. Even the most careful and safety-conscious bikers can fall victim to a negligent driver in another motor vehicle. When that happens, the motorcyclist usually suffers serious injuries due to the lack of protection that their motorcycle has to offer. While this is a sobering thought for riders, the good news is that fatal motorcycle accidents are on the decline.
Recently, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported its annual accident report. The NHTSA takes a year to collect and report the data, so the most recent figures are for the year 2013. During that year, 4,668 people died in the U.S. as a result of motorcycle accidents.
The number of motorcycle deaths in 2013 translates to almost 13 deaths during every day of the year. But, that number marks a 6.4 percent decrease from the 4,986 motorcycle-related deaths in 2012. Moreover, 2013 was the first year since 2009 that the annual number of deaths decreased. The report also showed that, in states that have helmet laws, like California, only 150 people died while riding without a helmet. By contrast, in states that do not have helmet laws, more than 1,700 people lost their lives while riding without a helmet.
The news that motorcycle deaths are decreasing is encouraging, but these fatalities still represent a growing share of all traffic deaths. For example, 10 years ago, only about one out of every 10 traffic fatalities involved a motorcyclist. But in 2013, motorcycle deaths accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities.
The bottom line is that motorcycling is still a relatively dangerous form of transportation compared to other motor vehicles. However, motorcyclists and other drivers should continue to do all that they can to prevent fatal accidents.
Males are involved in most deadly motorcycle accidents
Some motorcyclists in Orange County may be acutely aware of the statistics involving severe motorcycle accidents. Other riders, however, may prefer to not think about these numbers that convey the dangers associated with motorcycles. Regardless of whether they are aware of the data or not, all riders should strive to be as safe as possible when on their motorcycles.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the number of fatal motorcycle accidents has been fluctuating during the past 30 years. Between the early 1980s and late 1990s, motorcycle accidents declined in numbers. But, in 1998 the number of accidents began increasing and continued to climb through 2008. More recently, in 2013, the number of fatal accidents dropped seven percent from the prior year, to a total of 4,381.
Among the more eye-popping pieces of motorcycle accident data is the percentage of males that are involved in fatal accidents. In 2013, a staggering 91 percent of all fatal motorcycle accident victims were male. Moreover, of the females that died in motorcycle accidents in 2013, 61 percent were passengers. This means that males are involved in the vast majority of deadly motorcycle accidents.
Of course, just because males are involved in such a high percentage of motorcycle accidents does not mean that they are always to blame. Many fatal motorcycle crashes are the result of a negligent driver in another vehicle.
Careless driving does not single out victims from any specific age group, ethnicity or gender. The wrongful death of a motorcyclist at the hands of another driver is always a tragic result, no matter the rider’s gender. Motorcyclists, their passengers and drivers in all other motor vehicles should each do their part to reduce the number of deadly crashes.
CHP pushes to reduce motorcycle accidents
Data from the California Department of Motor Vehicle shows that the state has more than 860,000 registered motorcycles, and more than 1.4 million people have state licenses to operate a motorcycle. In places like Orange County, the weather is conducive to riding almost every day of the year. Even so, authorities expect that more motorcyclists will take to the roads during the spring and summer months.
The California Highway Patrol is encouraging motorcyclists and other motor vehicle drivers to do what they can to reduce the number of motorcycle accidents across the state.The CHP data for 2014 shows that motorcycle collisions increased by more than four percent from the previous year. Likewise, the number of people who died in motorcycle accidents in the state jumped from 475 in 2013, to 527 in 2014.
Inattentive drivers are a problem when it comes to any kind of accident, including those involving motorcycles. Similarly, state officials believe that most collisions between motorcycles and other vehicles are a result of the driver in the other vehicle failing to see the rider. Accordingly, a CHP commissioner explained that motorcyclists should always ride defensively.At the same time, drivers in other vehicles must understand that motorcycles are often closer to their vehicle than they appear.
Although the CHP is concentrating its efforts on motorcycle safety in the month of May, everyone on California’s roadways should look out for motorcyclists throughout all months of the year. Motorcycle riders are always more vulnerable to serious injury and death than are people traveling in cars and trucks. However, motorcyclists have as much right to be on the road, and drivers should take all reasonable steps to help keep them safe.
CHP stresses safety for motorcyclists and drivers
Both the California Highway Patrol and the California Office of Traffic Safety want people to know that motorcycle safety is a responsibility that motorcyclists and automobile drivers must share. Both organizations stressed this during the month of May, which they labeled Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Of course, every month is a good time for all people on the road to think about safety, especially when it comes to more vulnerable road users, like motorcycle riders.
Data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows that the state has more than 860,000 motorcycles that people have registered. Also, more than 1.4 million people in California have a license to ride a motorcycle. Those numbers alone show the importance of motorcycle safety. But in addition to that, CHP preliminary data shows that motorcycle accidents are on the rise in California.
Although the most recent CHP estimates are from a couple of years ago, they still show an alarming message. Between 2013 and 2014, accidents involving motorcycles increased by more than four percent. Even worse, the number of people who died in accidents that involved a motorcycle increased by 11 percent during the same time frame.
Even non-fatal accidents can still result in serious injuries to riders because they have so little protection while on a motorcycle. State officials note that a large portion of motorcycle accidents are due to an automobile driver’s failure to yield when they don’t see the motorcycle nearby. This means that it is particularly important for drivers in other vehicles to watch out for motorcycles on the roadways.
May was Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in California, but motorcyclists and drivers in Orange County should do their best to make every month a safe one for all people on the roads.
Drivers must accept responsibility of sharing roads with bikers
Any time a biker is sharing the road with motor vehicles, the rider should be especially vigilant about protecting himself or herself from an accident. This could mean putting on brightly colored clothing before the ride, as well as wearing appropriate safety gear like a helmet. It could also mean trying to anticipate when a driver in an automobile might turn his or her vehicle in a way that would otherwise make it difficult for the biker to avoid an accident.
All bikers in Orange County should take safety into their own hands and do everything that they possibly can to avoid an accident. At the same time, people in motor vehicles also have a responsibility to share the roads with bikers and to help keep them safe.
It is easy for people in cars and trucks to fall into the trap of thinking that the roadways are only designed for their vehicles. In reality, however, many roads in the Orange County area are amenable.
Our law firm’s website has a variety of helpful information related to biker accidents and how California law applies to these and other types of accidents on Orange County’s roadways. We know that bike accident victims can face hefty medical expenses and other accident-related damages, including lost wages. But the monetary damages pale in comparison to the severe injuries that can change a victim’s life following a bicycle accident.
At Easton & Easton, LLP, we know how to prosecute personal injury cases stemming from bike accidents. We collect evidence and do all of the legal fighting, so that victims and their families can concentrate on recovering and moving on from the accident.
Careful driving is one way to prevent accidents between bikers and motor vehicles. But when a driver fails to meet their end of the bargain, we can help clients seek to hold that driver accountable.
Some keys to fighting motorcycle unawareness
Motorcyclists have just as much right to be on California roads as do people in cars or trucks. Not only that, but drivers of other vehicles have a responsibility to look out for motorcyclists and to take reasonable precautions to avoid causing a motorcycle accident.
Even a rider who is wearing a helmet and other appropriate safety gear is not likely to walk away uninjured from a collision with a larger vehicle. Because motorcycle accident victims can suffer such serious consequences, including permanent injury and death, everyone on the road should do what they can to prevent motorcycle accidents.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, motorcycle unawareness, amongst other drivers, is a major contributor to motorcycle accidents. The reasons as to why drivers in other vehicles don’t notice motorcycles on the road are many. One simple reason is that motorcycles make up a relatively small portion of the overall traffic on the roads, and thus drivers are not as used to seeing them. Also, motorcycles are obviously smaller than cars and trucks, and just not as easy to spot.
Despite the varied reasons for motorcycle unawareness, drivers and motorcyclists can take steps to fight this problem. For drivers in other vehicles, the NHTSA primarily emphasizes the importance of education. The more that drivers are educated about their own driving tendencies and how to consistently be aware of motorcyclists on the road, the more likely they are to avoid a collision. Riders, of course, can do the same; the more that they understand the common weaknesses of drivers, the better prepared they can be for anticipating and avoiding dangerous situations.
Motorcycle unawareness is a deadly problem that can affect riders in Orange County and everywhere else in the country. But like most other dangers on the road, it is a preventable problem.
NHTSA.gov, Motorist Awareness, accessed on Feb. 20, 2016
Lake County News, “CHP: Drivers and motorcyclists share responsibility for safety,” Accessed on June 17, 2016
Lake County News, “CHP: Drivers and motorcyclists share responsibility for safety,” Accessed on May 10, 2016
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Motorcycles,” Accessed on Feb. 16, 2015
LA Times, “Motorcycle deaths are down sharply, NHTSA report says,” Charles Fleming, Jan. 2, 2014