Motorcyclist Fatalities Remain Grim: Don't Become A Statistic

At a 3 year old's birthday party, two parents flippantly argued over purchasing a motorcycle. Dad advocated the purchase as a long-awaited gift to himself that he deserved at his age. Mom counterpointed that he has a family he can't abandon after a middle-aged man's joyride gone bad. For dad, a motorcycle signified a sense of freedom and excitable youthfulness. For mom, a motorcycle signified death and an abandoned family. Birthday chatter turned morbid, but mom had a point. Here's why.

Fatality Rates

The Governor's Highway Safety Association estimated motorcyclist deaths jumped about 9 percent in 2012, with a total of more than 5,000 fatalities. The report showed this was an all-time high and the overall motorcycle safety prognosis remains bleak.

Last spring the Washington Post opened a report on the increase in motorcycle deaths with grim stories of three motorcyclists who slammed into a tractor-trailer, collided with a driver and clipped the bumper of a Mercedes. These three motorcyclists joined the 3,922 motorcyclists who died within the first nine months of 2012. In 14 of the past 15 years, motorcycle fatalities have increased. The economic recovery, increased gas prices and warm weather influenced more motorcycle purchases, which subsequently increased the number of fatalities.

Preventing Death & Injury

The motorcycle fatality trend could gradually reverse with safe and responsible ridership. In 2010, an estimated 706 motorcyclists could have survived if they wore helmets, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Among the fatalities that year, 29 percent had a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit, and 35 percent were speeding.

Unequivocally, motorcycle abstinence is the safest way to prevent death. But if you or a loved one can't resist the ride, take safety precautions. First, the basics — don't drink and ride, refrain from speeding and obtain a valid motorcycle license. Riding like an adrenaline junkie and breaking the rules like a daredevil is tempting, but the perils shouldn't outweigh the risk.

A helmet should be your first line of defense. Helmets can reduce the chance of a fatal injury by 37 percent, mentions the GHSA report. Allstate recommends wearing a helmet that has passed a rigorous test by the nonprofit organization Snell Memorial Foundation. Snell develops standards for motorcycle helmets and headgear. It tests helmets for safety requirements, such as shell penetration and flame resistance.

A properly fitting helmet should snugly grip your cheek and jaw, as well as the top and sides of your head. For maximum protection, wear a full-face helmet and avoid used helmets. Replace helmets with significant wear and tear to improve your level of protection.

Comfortable and protective motorcycling apparel also includes the following:

  • Durable motorcycle boots with a non-slip rubber sole and reinforcements made of Kevlar to protect the shin, ankle and calf from debris. The highest quality riding boots will also be waterproof and have ventilation.
  • Weather-resistant gloves that entirely cover palms, fingers and wrists. Gloves can increase riding control and protect hands in the event of a fall.
  • Leather motorcycle jacket with padding and armor. Leather will help prevent or mitigate severe injuries if you end up sliding along the pavement. Jacket features like flexible microfiber, aramidic stretch panels, mesh lining, and reflective detailing improve comfort and safety.

Riders can also supplement on-the-road safety measures with these motorcycle safety apps:

  • EatSleepRIDE tracks routes, elevation angles, speed, and lean angle. The app add-on CRASHLIGHT can sense if the rider crashed and alert selected contacts of the location.
  • Pocket First Aid & CPR is a life-saving app offering first aid and CPR instructions in case of an emergency.
  • Rain Alarm provides weather warnings so you can take cover or get off the road before an incoming storm hits.