It is common knowledge that motorcycle drivers are at a heightened risk of accident-related injuries and death than drivers of cars, trucks, and other passenger vehicles. Motorcycles generally travel at the same speeds as enclosed motorized vehicles, often overtaking those cars, yet motorcycle drivers and passengers have virtually none of the protections that drivers of enclosed vehicles possess. Car’s frames and air bags protect drivers and passengers at the moment of impact during a car accident. Motorcycles provide no such insulation to riders when they crash, skid, or collide with another vehicle.
In 2011 there were a whopping 17 percent more Oregon traffic crashes involving motorcycles than there were in 2010 and 95 percent of those accidents resulted in injury or death to the motorcyclist or to a motorcycle passenger. Given the dangers inherent to riding, it is vitally important that Oregon’s motorcyclists know the rules of the road that apply to them (see my last post on the subject) as well as what safety precautions to take so that they may protect themselves while riding. Here are some general precautions that riders should take.
- Always wear a helmet. Helmets are mandated under Oregon law and they really do save lives. Head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. Motorcyclists who fail to wear a helmet while riding are 40 percent more likely to die of a head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer nonfatal injuries than those who wear helmets.
- Never speed and slow down in poor weather. A 2009 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute report found that 48 percent of motorcycle accident fatalities involved speeding. Riding above the speed limit is reckless: speed limits were predetermined based on road conditions and general principles of safety. Motorcyclists should also always reduce their speed and proceed with caution when visibility is limited due to inclement weather. If you cannot see what you are riding into, then you cannot see who or what else might be on the roadway and you are asking for there to be a collision. Furthermore, if visibility is poor because of fog, rain, or snow, then the road conditions may also be negatively affected. Traveling at full speed on slick or icy roads will almost inevitably increase stopping time for vehicles in motion and it invites loss of control of your motorcycle.
- Never drink and ride. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers had blood alcohol concentrations above the legal limit of 0.8 percent in 42 percent of recent motorcycle deaths. If you ride a motorcycle, you need to be alert and on the lookout for objects and vehicles on the roadway. Any intoxication threatens your alertness and your ability to react to conditions and occurrences on your drive.
- Have Health and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance. PIP provides medical benefits, loss of income, and essential service insurance of up a set amount for all automobile drivers involved in collisions. Whether or not you are at fault in a collision, you can recover PIP benefits if you are injured as the result of a vehicle collision. The state of Oregon requires that PIP is included in all automobile insurance policies, but it makes no similar requirement for motorcycle insurance policies. Protect yourself against financial disaster from accident-related medical expenses by paying for PIP benefits in addition to your health insurance.
A certain volume of motorcycle accidents will continue to occur despite riders’ and drivers’ best intentions and safe driving practices. If you or a loved one is involved in a motorcycle accident in Oregon, you will have a much better chance at being fairly and fully compensated you if you retain an experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney.