In recognition of May being designated as Motorcycle Awareness Month, the city of Manvel joined states and municipalities from around the nation to educate motorists on recognizing motorcycles on the road, and to encourage riders to be more careful while riding. Mayor Delores Martin read a proclamation at a recent city council meeting to bring attention to the perils of riding a motorcycle, along with a desire to promote a more positive image of motorcyclists among the public.
Motorcycle riding has become increasingly popular in recent years, appealing to a cross section of society. According to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) there were 8.5 million motorcycles on the road in 2012. A DOT report explains the inherent risks involved in riding a motorcycle: “Motorcycles are by their nature far less crashworthy than closed vehicles. They are also less visible to other drivers and pedestrians and less stable than four-wheel vehicles. Operating a motorcycle requires a different combination of physical and mental skills than those used in driving four-wheel vehicles. Motorcyclists and their passengers are more vulnerable to the hazards of weather and road conditions than drivers in closed vehicles.” The DOT goes on to report that in 2013 motorcyclists accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities.
Injuries and fatal crashes as a percent of registered motorcycles has declined in recent years though 2012 still saw 4,957 deaths and 93,000 injuries. “Older motorcyclists account for more than half of all motorcyclist fatalities. NHTSA data shows that in 2012, 56.0 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes were age 40 or over, compared with 46.0 percent in 2003. The number of motorcyclists age 40 and over killed in crashes increased by 63 percent from 2003 to 2012. In contrast, fatalities among young motorcyclists have declined, relative to other age groups. NHTSA says that the average age of motorcycle riders killed in crashes was 43 in 2012, compared with 38 in 2003.” A research report put out by Brown University cited “declines in vision and reaction time, along with the larger-sized bikes that older riders favor, which tend to roll over more often, and the increased fragility among older people” as the primary reason older bikers are more likely to be killed or injured. The report added that “while injury rates were rising for all age groups, the steepest rise occurred in the 60 and over group, who were two and a half times more likely to have serious injuries than the youngest group. They were three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital.”
Alcohol and speed are primary reasons a motorcycle crashes. In 2012, 29 percent of all fatally injured motorcycle riders had a Blood Alcohol Content above the legal limit in most states. Another 8 percent had alcohol levels below the legal limit. Fatally injured motorcycle riders between the ages of 40 to 44 had the highest rates of alcohol involvement. In 2012, 34 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with 22 percent for drivers of passenger cars, 18 percent for light truck drivers and 8 percent for large truck drivers, according to NHTSA. Speeding and driver error are bigger factors among the sport bike category. The most recent year’s statistics indicate speed was the primary cause in 57 percent of sport bike fatal crashes. Sport bikes are favored by the youngest riders with the average age being 27 years old. By contrast, speed was a factor in 27 percent of fatal crashes among riders of cruisers and standard style motorcycles, which sees an average age of 44 years old. The largest bikes, known as touring models and generally favored by the oldest riders, saw speed causing 22 percent of fatal crashes.
In 2012 motorcycle helmets saved 1,699 lives, according to the NHTSA. Their findings report that if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, 781 more lives would have been saved. Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries for motorcycle riders (operators) and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers. Helmet use reached 64 percent in June 2014. Texas mandates helmet use only for riders under 21 years old. Riders 21 years old or over are exempt if they either 1) can show proof of successfully completing a motorcycle operator training and safety course or 2) can show proof of having a medical insurance policy.
The publicity generated through various motorcycle awareness month activities will hopefully bring greater attention to motorcyclists among the general public, thereby encouraging greater awareness of motorcycles on the road and inspiring car drivers to “always look twice” before passing through an intersection, making a turn, or changing a lane. Riders too can be more aware of what is occurring in traffic around them and take a more proactive approach to their own safety. Participation in a motorcycle safety course is perhaps the best way for riders to learn effective techniques that help manage and minimize the risks faced by riders on the road. The course is required in order to earn a license to ride in Texas. Alvin Community College offers a two-day course most every weekend and usually on weekdays at least once each month. Additional information on the course and instructions for registration can be found on the course website: www.msc-ourse.net.