How Dangerous is Riding in Massachusetts?

Motorcycles offer numerous advantages over other types of cars: They are cheaper to run, easier to park, harder to two, easier to repair, more flexible and traffic – and they are also a lot of fun.

Still for all these benefits, motorcycles still pose an inherent safety risk to operators and passengers. The basic design of a motorcycle leaves riders vulnerable to ejection and direct impact with the road and other fixed objects.

In fact, those on motorcycles are 26 times more likely (per vehicle mile traveled) than those in passenger cars to be killed in a crash. They are also more than five times more likely to be injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Motorcyclists can improve their odds by donning the proper protective equipment, obeying all safety laws and driving defensively. This won’t completely eliminate the danger, but our Boston motorcycle accident lawyers at Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers know it can significantly reduce it.

Massachusetts Motorcycle Accident Statistics

When we talk about the safety of motorcycles, it’s a lot like talking about the safety of a firearm. Save for defective design or repair (which can absolutely be an issue), it’s more about the person operating it and/or the conditions in which it’s operated that make a difference.

That means riders who have more training and experience and who exercise more caution are going to be less likely to crash.

Still, even those who take extreme care are not immune from danger. Vehicles don’t typically operate on a fixed track with wholly predictable conditions. And this is where motorcycles may be at a disadvantage over other vehicles. They are smaller and thus less likely to be spotted by other drivers. They are more susceptible to roadway defects and weather conditions. They have no seat belts, metal encasing or other substantial protection from ejection in the case of a crash.

The NHTSA reports there were a total of 507 motorcyclists killed in Massachusetts between 2005 and 2014. That’s an average of nearly 51 every single year. It’s not exactly clear how many suffered injury, but if we based it on the national numbers, in which fatalities represented 5.3 percent of the total number of motorcyclists injured, we’d be looking at an average of nearly 963 motorcycle injuries a year – just in the Commonwealth alone.

Nationally, the federal government reports in 2013 there were:

  • 4,660 motorcyclists killed
  • 88,000 motorcyclists seriously injured
  • 8.4 million motorcycles on the road (compared to 8 million in 2009)
  • 40-and-older age group fatality rate increased by 39 percent from 2004 to 2013
  • 16 percent fatality rate increase for all age groups
  • 14 percent of all traffic fatalities stemmed from motorcycle accidents
  • 18 percent of all occupant traffic deaths happened in motorcycle accidents
  • 4 percent of all traffic injuries occurred in motorcycle accidents
  • 94 percent of those killed in motorcycle accidents were motorcycle drivers
  • 6 percent of those killed in motorcycle accidents were the passengers

It’s worth noting that as the average age of motorcycle riders and passengers has risen, so too have the number of fatalities and injuries. That’s partially because older riders appear to sustain more serious injuries than younger riders. Brown University researchers report that:

  • Vision and reaction time decline with age;
  • Larger bikes favored by older operators are more prone to rollover;
  • The fragility of our bodies increases with age.

On the flip side of that, older operators do tend to be more cautious and less reckless than younger operators, so that serves to drive injury rates down somewhat.

Helmet use

Massachusetts has a universal motorcycle helmet law, which has been effective in reducing the number of head injuries and overall fatalities.

The NHTSA reports that most motorcycle deaths in Massachusetts occur among riders who are helmeted versus unhelmeted – 36 to 4 in 2014. But, that’s only because helmet use among motorcyclists here is extremely high, compared to other states that don’t require helmets at all or only require them for certain riders.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that on average, 12 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes weren’t wearing helmets in states with universal helmet laws (like Massachusetts) compared with 64 percent in states with partial helmet laws and 79 percent in states with no helmet laws.

How Else Can Motorcyclists Improve Safety?

In addition to wearing a helmet, motorcycle safety advocates recommend:

  • Riding with a group (helps to improve visibility);
  • Avoid lane-splitting;
  • Avoid riding on unfamiliar surfaces (gravel, loose asphalt, potholes, oil slicks, debris, etc.);
  • Always ride defensively and give careless drivers a wide berth;
  • Avoid riding above your skill level. Taking a safety course or refresher class can help improve your skill level.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Boston motorcycle accident, call our offices today.

Contact Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation.

Call (617) 777-7777 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL
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