Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month
Posted on May 8th, 2023 by Zane Cagle
The high number of fatal and serious motorcycle crashes this spring prompts a plea for safety.
In 2020, there was an increase of 11 percent in fatal motorcycle crashes from the year prior nationwide. According to Mo Dept. of Transportation, motorcycle crash fatalities increased by 40 percent after the mandatory helmet law was repealed in the fall of 2020. Motorcyclists are significantly over represented in traffic crash fatalities. In this category, being “over represented” is not a good thing. Simply, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a traffic crash and four times more likely to be injured.
Those that ride motorcycles know that if they are reckless, they do not ride very long. Motorcycle riding does not allow for inattentiveness or any kind of recklessness. Catastrophic inquires can happen in a second. While serious car crashes occur within a second, motorcyclists do not even have the protective barrier of the automobile around them. While there is never a good time to be a distracted driver of any motor vehicle, motorcyclists know that any distracted driving, excessive speed or failure to yield can result in their last decision. The most common response when a passenger vehicle that fails to yield or strikes a motorcyclist is that they “did not see them”. As passenger vehicle drivers, we have an obligation to keep a look out for other vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles.
From our experience representing those seriously injured in motorcycle crashes, we don’t believe drivers intentionally disregard motorcyclists. When you are operating a motor vehicle, we consciously and subconsciously evaluate the ‘threat level’ of other vehicles we encounter on the roadway. This simply means that we constantly evaluate the threat level or ability of that object’s size and speed to inflict injury upon us. You notice a semi truck and trailer. You notice a large box truck as those vehicles can cause catastrophic danger to you if you collide. Likewise, drivers of passenger vehicles do not typically evaluate the threat of a motorcycle or pedestrian as as serious threat. It makes sense. Recognizing our driving behaviors and perceptions is the first step to improving our driving safety for others and ourselves. The ability for all motorists to travel safely requires that we all do our part.
Look Twice and Save a Life
Often, it is a matter of simply following the driving rules you were taught as a student driver. When you go to pull out, look left, then right, then left again. This old saying and safety reminder was meant to help protect you. What we do know if that when you look twice, you are far less likely to hit another vehicle and far more likely to see a smaller vehicle or motorcyclist.
Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Crashes
When you read the crash reports daily across the state, you see the devastating injuries of many motorcycle crashes. An observation– motorcyclists don’t usually cause serious injury to passenger vehicles when they strike the vehicle. I can count on one hand in many, many years just how many times a motorcyclist has injured another person seriously when their body or bike strikes a passenger vehicle. Crashes with passenger or commerical vehicles do not result in a win when it comes to the physics of a crash with another vehicle.
Failure to Yield– other drivers making improper left turns (without a green arrow) cause the greatest number of collisions with motorcycles. No matter how well trained or safe a motorcyclist is, there is simply no where for the motorcyclist to go when someone is making a left turn in front of them. Motorcycle safety training programs attempt to train motorcyclists to always have an escape route. Unfortunately, when a driver makes an abrupt turn, there is no escape route or plan. Remembering we are on the roadway, there are just only so many places any vehicle can “escape” when another vehicle is coming at them.
Failure to Obey Traffic Signals – when any motorist fails to obey traffic signs including stop sign, red signals, speed limits, crashes are often the result. Red means stop, green means go and yellow does not mean you should floor it to get through. Time and time we watch this happens, where someone is in such a panic, they blow through the backend of a yellow light to make the next light. Then, after you have waited, you arrive at the next light right beside them. Why endanger others and most importantly, yourself? If you drive a lot in traffic, you see it or maybe you do it. Over time, continuing to push through yellow lights will turn out badly for you.
Speeding. everyone thinks they are good at driving and really good at driving fast. It simply isn’t true. Is if more fun to drive fast? Of course it is. Speed limits are put in place for a reason. The faster your vehicle is traveling, the less time and footage you have to react. Again, if you are in heavy traffic daily, you know the temptation to speed.
We Are All Tempted to Drive in a Hurry
Hey, we all have too much to do in too little time. When we re running late to leave the house for an appointment, we often think in the back of our minds, “I can make this up on the road”. From experience, this sets you up for frustration, stress or worse–a crash. If you are speeding and in a hurry, you often do not keep a good look out simply due to speed. Thus, you are less likely to see a motorcycle, a bicycle or a child. Speeding through towns and cities is simply dangerous for all involved. Speeding in and out of traffic across the city will sooner or later result in a crash. Too many other drivers are speeding and darting in out traffic, thus you are soon to meet.
Rights to the Roadway are Not Civil Rights and Can Be Revoked
Unlike other rights afforded by the Constitution “, the right to drive is not inherent or absolute right. If you fail to uphold the licensure and insurance obligations for driving, your rights can be revoked. So, why do we hear about these drivers without a license and insurance continually being involved in serious or deadly crashes? Our roadways rely on each one of us following the rules of the roadway to increase our individual safety as well as others. Operating a vehicle on the roadway infrastructure requires that we be able to have some trust in other drivers and be responsible ourselves.
To protect yourself, you need to be sure you are following the rules of the roadway and have the proper insurance coverage in case you encounter someone making bad driving decisions
Wear a Helmet
No, there is no mandatory helmet law in Missouri. You simply have to be 21 years of age and have “proof of financial responsibility”. Which means, you can be 21 years of age and have basic liability coverage and you can ride anywhere in Missouri without a helmet. But please, do not misunderstand “financial responsivity” Basic liability insurance is not really “financial responsibility”. In fact, if you are in a single vehicle crash, liability insurance won’t even cover your bike and won’t help a bit with your injuries. The change in Missouri law does that does not uphold mandatory helmet laws does not promote safety or responsibility–don’t be confused.
Motorcycle crash fatalities increased by 40 percent in the year following the repeal of the mandatory helmet law in Missouri. We found the same increase as the other states that lifted their mandatory helmet laws.
What Can I Do to Protect Myself and Family?
While we all want more roadway safety, the basic question and concern is for most is “How do I protect me and mine?” I get it, but “I drive in the St. Louis so how do I protect myself and family”? I do know from years of representing those injured that if we do not improve our roadway safety collectively, then it will continue to get harder to prevent these tragedies for you and your family. Meanwhile, the first thing you do is follow the rules of the road. Don’t drink and drive and engage in distracting driving. People mention this is common sense, but have our personal experiences lets us know that it is common sense that is not so common.
The last thing we do is promote the insurance industry. But, we do know that if you don’t have coverage and the person that hits you has no coverage or minimal coverage, you will have problems. Fair that you have to increase your insurance coverage for the increased possibility that the person that hits you has no insurance or limited coverage? No, we know that many things are not fair. If the person that hits you has no insurance, it is almost guaranteed that they have no assets to protect. Thus, suing them personally is not helpful as you may never be able to collect. Make sure you have the appropriate insurance coverage. The term “full coverage” from your insurance sales person should not be confused with ample coverage.
If you are a motorcycle rider, you must be sure that you are more than “just legal” regarding insurance. Again, liability only coverage that keeps you legal will not really be much coverage if you are in a crash. As a motorcyclist, you know that if you are involved in a crash, the odds are high that it will be serious. Relying on other parties to be responsible will not help you out at all when you are in the hospital or facing surgery.
Know Your Steps and Rights After a Crash
There are challenges in driving in heavily populated areas like the metro St Louis and it can feel as if it is the wild west or Thunderdome (end of times 80’s movie). While our driving experiences may elicit some humor survival stories from the Lou, it actually is not funny in the least. We make jokes as a way to cope with the situation. We chuckle and share our “survivor stories” because we have to cope in some fashion or we would not get behind the wheel every day. We must have some illusion that we can control our own fate in some way or we would all be refusing to get into a vehicle. All humor turns abruptly when someone is hurt or killed. The sheer number of severe injuries and fatalities in the greater metro area is not at all humorous.
If you have been in a crash, the insurance companies certainly know their rights and quickly knows the ways they can reduce or limit your compensation. If you are hurt, you need an attorney who has extensive experience in representing those injured. When you are injured, you have all you can do to try to recover. Insurance carriers simply treat unrepresented individuals differently than those represented. It is not an indicator of the knowledge or expertise of the individual that is injured. Insurance companies know they have to actually act in good faith when an attorney is involved. You can Google all of the relevant information and plan your attack, but when it comes down to it, the insurance company knows whether or not you have legal representation and proceed accordingly. The last thing an injured person needs to worry about is how to haggle with their financial future with an insurance company.
We represent those seriously injured. Call us toll free 1.800.685.3302 or locally 314.276.1681