2013 has not been a good year for motorcycle riders in Clark County.  There has been a 45% increase in motorcyclists killed in wrecks compared to the same period of 2012.  It seems that every week we read of new motorcycle accidents resulting in death, and in some cases, there have been multiple fatalities on bikes in the same day.  The local media has taken notice as indicated by these articles from both Channel 3 and Channel 8 television news.

Here are the facts as reported by the state of Nevada in their weekly FARS report.  According to the report dated October 15, 2013, there have been 29 fatal accidents involving motorcycle riders in Clark County, compared to 20 fatalities in the same period of 2012, representing a 45% increase.

So who is to blame for this increase in deaths to motorcycle riders?  Is it the car drivers who don’t see or don’t respect the bike riders?  Or are the bike riders creating their own problems by riding beyond their skill level, or perhaps riding after a couple of beers at a bar?

There are any number of factors that result in these statistics, and each accident would have to be studied separately to come to any conclusion.  Beyond the numbers, these are human lives lost on our roads in our city and county.  How do we improve the safety of motorcycle riders and save lives?  Who bears the responsibility to decrease the lives lost, is it car drivers or the motorcyclists themselves?

The answer is probably both.  Here are some facts showing that both parties enter into the equation to improve road safety in Las Vegas for all users of the roadways.  The cold reality is that motorcycles do not offer the protection from injury a car does.  Motorcycle riders are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than drivers and passengers in a car.  That seems obvious doesn’t it?  An open motor with two wheels, with no restraints traveling above 60 mph is simply more dangerous than an enclosed vehicle traveling at the same speed.

Nearly half of all deaths to motorcycle riders are the result of single vehicle accidents.  No contact with another vehicle – simply the failure to control the machine – results in death nearly half the time.  Unfortunately, the single vehicle statistic above doesn’t account for what happened between a bike and a car prior to the accident.  Anger or road rage may have taken place, or the cyclist may have swerved to avoid contact with a careless lane changing driver, and then the accident takes place.  It’s still classified as a single vehicle accident because there was no contact between vehicles, but the fact remains the car had a part in causing the accident. On the other hand, all drivers are responsible for their own safety, and both drivers and riders need to take precautions to avoid situations with a potential for harm to themselves and others.

Before we place the entire responsibility on motorcyclists, however, automobile drivers need to remember they share the road with multiple types of vehicles, ranging from large trucks to bicycles.  All types of vehicles and their drivers should expect safe passage.  Most cyclists will tell you that cars don’t respect bike riders. This may be true, but another factor in many cases, they just don’t see the motorcycle. In fact, statistics indicate that in motorcycle collisions with cars, cars are at fault about 60% of the time.

Riders, please accept the following few suggestions as meant to protect you from everyone else. What can you do to make it safer on the road?

  1.  Take a motorcycle training course.  As Honda’s Jon Seidel states: “There is nothing we could say or advise more than to go find a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) riding course in your area.  That’s critical, absolutely critical.”  The MSF is the foremost national organization promoting motorcycle safety.  They have developed courses for riders ranging from beginner to advanced riding skills.  Costs range from free to about $350, and some dealerships provide such training as part of the purchase of a new bike.  Course completion may provide eligibility for discounts on insurance, and some states give credit toward obtaining the motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license.  Talk to your dealership to find out about MSF or other like training organizations.
  2. Build your skills.  Motorcycle riding is more than driving a motorcycle.  It is a completely different skill set.  Balance and coordination are required to ride a motorcycle to a much greater degree than driving.  Just the act of shifting gears takes right hand/left hand/left foot coordination, and braking requires right hand/right foot coordination.  Especially if you’re a new rider, take time to learn and build the muscle memory it takes to ride a bike.  Stopping requires more than pushing a single pedal as in a car.  An emergency stop requires a large amount of skill to successfully execute.  Don’t ride in a manner more advanced than your skill set can support.
  3. Be Defensive.  Riders…to be blunt, by its very nature your vehicle is more dangerous than a car.  If you wish to be safe on your bike, stay out of blind spots, and make sure you can be seen by drivers of cars and trucks.  Unfortunately, roads are built predominately for cars, there are more cars on the road, and you need to accept the fact – when you’re on a motorcycle with cars and trucks on the road – you’re in a dangerous environment.  Drivers are enclosed with either wind noise, or soundproofing (if the windows are closed) they can’t hear you coming and may not see you, and if the driver is texting or talking on the phone, the driver may not be paying attention.  When, or if the car changes lanes and you’re in the blind spot, you may be completely within your rights, but you’re going to lose that contest.  Accept this as a condition of the road, and ride accordingly.
  4. Wear a helmet.  Riders without helmets are 40 times more likely to suffer a fatal head injury, and three times more likely to suffer brain injuries than those with helmets.  Full face helmets with a DOT certification sticker is the best choice.  Helmets today are light and comfortable.  If you want to protect yourself, wear a helmet.
  5. Be alert at intersections.  Nearly 70% of motorcycle/vehicle collisions occur at intersections.  Vehicles may turn in front of you or pull out from a side driveway or street.  Slow down, check traffic, check traffic again, and be prepared to react quickly.
  6. Assume you are invisible to other motorists and operate your motorcycle accordingly.  Position yourself to be seen.  Avoid the “No Zone” or blind spots on the right and left side of cars about even with and behind the rear wheels of the car.

These are just a few tips…this list could be expanded to fill several pages.  We invite you to visit the Motorcycle Accident section of our website; where there is a comprehensive list, from Motorcycle Accident Factors to Safety Tips.

We wish safe riding to you and to all on the roads of Clark County.

Additional Resources:

http://www.8newsnow.com/story/23737782/motorcycle-deaths-up-across-valley

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/04/10-motorcycle-safety-tips-for-new-riders/index.htm

http://news.discovery.com/autos/drive/top-10-motorcycle-safety-tips.htm

http://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/riding_tips.pdf

http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/motorcycle/motosafety.html