Because motorcycles are less stable and offer riders less protection than cars, motorcycle riders are up to 29 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than in a car accident. In 2021, 50 motorcyclists died in accidents in New York City. One of the keys to improving your chance of surviving a motorcycle accident is to learn about the most common causes of death in motorcycle accidents and take steps to avoid them.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Crash Fatalities
The higher fatality rates experienced by motorcycle riders are a mix of the types and severity of injuries that occur and risks that are unique to riding a motorcycle.
Severe head injuries are one of the most common causes of motorcycle crash deaths. Common head injuries that occur in motorcycle crashes include:
Wearing a helmet is one of the best things you can do to reduce this risk. Helmets can reduce your risk of death by 37% and your risk of brain injuries by 67%. New York State law requires all Manhattan motorcycle operators and passengers to wear motorcycle helmets that comply with U.S. Department of Transportation federal motor vehicle safety standards.
The force of an impact with the road, an object or another vehicle can cause serious internal injuries. Internal injuries are not always immediately apparent. Symptoms of internal injuries can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Low blood pressure
- Blood in the urine
If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Driving While Intoxicated
In 2020, 27% of all motorcycle crash deaths and 41% of single-vehicle crash deaths involved an intoxicated motorcycle driver. The best way to avoid this risk is to never consume alcohol or other intoxicating substances before driving a motorcycle.
Drivers are more likely to make poor driving decisions with a blood-alcohol content of 0.02%. In New York State, a BAC of 0.05% is legal evidence of impairment. A BAC of 0.08% is higher evidence of intoxication and a BAC of 0.18% is evidence of aggravated driving while intoxicated.
Unqualified and Inexperienced Drivers
In 2021, 75% of motorcyclists who died in New York City did not have an appropriate license and 70% were riding an unregistered motorcycle. Many of these were single-vehicle accidents involving drivers losing control of their vehicles and crashing into fixed objects while traveling at a high rate of speed.
Riders between the ages of 20 and 24 die at higher rates than other motorcycle riders. Training courses, such as those offered by the New York State Motorcycle Safety Program, can reduce accident risks for inexperienced riders.
Driving Too Fast
The faster you drive, the more difficult it is to control your motorcycle and the longer it takes to stop. Additionally, the increased force from higher-speed collisions can translate to more serious injuries. Driving too fast contributes to 34% of motorcycle fatalities. Speeding is a particular concern for riders in the 25 to 29 age group because 45% of their fatal crashes involve excessive speed.
Head-on collisions are relatively uncommon at just 2% of all motor vehicle collisions. However, they account for a disproportionate number of traffic deaths. The high forces generated by head-on collisions can eject riders from motorcycles leading to a high risk of fatalities.
Standard motorcycles, cruisers, touring motorcycles and sport-touring motorcycles have the lowest fatality rates. Supersport and sport bikes have four times higher death rates than other types of bikes. Additionally, motorcycles with anti-lock braking systems are involved in 22% fewer fatal accidents than those without.
Motorcycles with 1,001-1,500 cc engines have higher fatal crash rates than motorcycles with lower-power engines. Lightweight, high-power motorcycles can travel at speeds of up to 160 miles per hour which can encourage risky driving behaviors. If you choose to ride a more powerful motorcycle it is important to drive safely and make sure you understand how to operate and control your vehicle.
The negligence of other motorists causes the majority of fatal motorcycle accidents. Alcohol or drug use and speeding are the most common negligent driving behaviors.
Improper lane changing causes accidents because some drivers fail to properly check their blind spots before changing lanes and the narrower profile of motorcycles makes them more difficult for drivers to see. Motorcycle riders can not control the driving behavior of other drivers, but they can reduce accidents by driving defensively, staying sober, obeying the speed limit and rules of the road and avoiding riding in the blind spot of other vehicles.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
All motorcycle accidents can cause serious injuries and deaths, but some types happen more often than others.
Car doors can be a particular danger for motorcycle riders in busy cities, such as Manhattan. Occupants of motor vehicles may fail to see motorcycles when opening their doors into traffic, leaving a rider without enough time to avoid a collision that could send the rider flying into the street.
Hazardous Road Conditions
Most motorcyclists avoid riding in winter weather conditions, but common road hazards, such as wet or uneven pavement or loose gravel, can cause motorcycle drivers to lose control of their vehicles. Loose gravel in corners can be particularly hazardous.
At 61%, most motorcycle fatalities occur in urban areas and motorcycle riders in New York City are almost twice as likely to die compared to riders in the rest of the state. Interactions with pedestrians and other vehicles drive up motorcycle fatalities in densely populated cities and Manhattan is the most densely populated part of New York.
Almost half of all motorcycle accidents happen at intersections. Some of the most dangerous intersections in Manhattan include:
- 2nd Ave & Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
- Ludlow Street and Rivington Street
- Madison Ave & E 85th St
- 34th Street and 7th Avenue
- Lexington Ave & E 85th St
- 57th Street and 3rd Avenue
About 42% of all motorcycle crashes occur because of drivers of other vehicles who turn left in front of motorcycles. Motorcycle riders are also particularly vulnerable to rear-end collisions at stoplights and stop signs because motorcycles do not have bumpers to protect occupants from collisions.
Manhattan is notorious for its traffic jams. Motorcycles do not have safety belts. Sudden stops may eject riders from their motorcycles.
Defects in the manufacture or design of a motorcycle can make a rider more likely to lose control or have difficulty avoiding an accident. The manufacturer or designer of the motorcycle may be liable for deaths that occur because of defective motorcycles.
While advocates for the practice claim lane-splitting makes riders safer, it can lead to accidents, particularly on the narrow city streets of Manhattan. Drivers of cars do not expect motorcyclists to pass them in the lane they occupy and may not be watching for them. Additionally, lane splitting is illegal in New York.
Compensation for Motorcycle Deaths
If you have lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be able to obtain compensation. The experienced motorcycle accident lawyers at Cellino Law can help. Contact us at 800-555-5555 to schedule a free evaluation.
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