As summer weather brings more riders to the road, motorcycle accidents in B.C. rise in frequency. These accidents may result in serious personal injury for those involved: motorcyclists are 30 times more apt to die in a crash than motorists in a car, according to the U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). So it’s a good time of year for a few reminders on motorcycle safety!
Motorcycle accident statistics:
- 80%: The percentage of serious-injury motorcycle accidents in B.C. in which automobile drivers are found to be at fault;
- Top 2 factors: Driver distraction and drivers who fail to yield are the top 2 factors in car crashes involving motorcycles, according to 2009-2013 police data;
- 60%: The percentage of accidents involving a motorcycle in B.C. that occur at an intersection;
- 50%: The number of motorcycle fatalities that involve some form of speeding, according to the IIHS;
- 60 days: How long your vehicle may be immediately impounded for as the result of excessive speeding in B.C.;
- 37% less: The likelihood of a motorcycle being involved in a fatal motorcycle accident, if it is equipped with antilock brakes (versus bikes without them);
These are some sobering statistics, but the good news is that there are things you can do to improve safety conditions for yourself when motorcycling.
Ride in Safety
1. Dress for protection. Suit up with appropriate riding gear made of leather or Kevlar, and make sure you are protected head to toe. Even though it may look cool to wear all black on your bike, choose reflective/bright colours in order to improve visibility. A full-face helmet with a visor to protect against debris and bugs is best, and make sure that your helmet meets the approved legal standards for B.C. Consider replacing your helmet if has been dropped or shows signs of wear—and definitely replace it if it was worn during an accident.
2. Be visible. Stay out of drivers’ blind spots and wear bright clothing. Drive with your headlight on; statistics show that visibility is improved when a moving motorcycle displays a lit lamp. Check your brake lights before starting out to catch any burned out bulbs, which could cause your motorbike to be rear-ended if you need to brake suddenly.
3. Practice obstacle avoidance and sudden braking skills. Strengthen your core riding skills in a safe spot such as an empty parking lot. If you haven’t taken a motorcycling safety course, look into ones in your area. These are excellent for honing your skills in a safe environment and helping to prevent personal injury. While the evidence varies and it can be difficult to trace, some renowned experts (such as David L. Hough) have referenced reports indicating that riders who never received professional training had 2 to 3 times higher risks of accident than those who had rider training.
4. Use your signals. Indicate to drivers what you plan to do so they can anticipate your next move in time and react appropriately. For instance, signal well in advance when about to turn, and also make sure you haven’t forgotten to leave your signal on as you approach intersections, so that you aren’t sending false messages about your next direction. It may also be helpful when planning to stop to apply your brakes softly to illuminate their lights, warning traffic of your intention before stopping. If a motorist doesn’t see you, don’t be cautious about using your horn.
5. Be defensive. Scan drivers for clues. Don’t assume that drivers have spotted you or will yield you the right-of-way. Even if drivers do see you, they have most likely never ridden on a motorcycle and may not accurately judge your speed or distance. Watch for turning vehicles, and allow yourself time and space to respond to other motorists’ actions.
6. Avoid getting between cars and off ramps. When approaching off ramps, it’s advisable to remain in the left lane, or make sure you do not have any vehicles to your left. Although it’s dangerous, motorists will sometimes make a sudden last-minute cross over to a highway ramp when they realize too late that this is the exit they need to take. Panicked last-minute driving maneuvers make the road unsafe for everyone, but especially motorcyclists, who are already often less visible to drivers due to the fact that they are much smaller than cars.
7. Be vigilant at intersections. When stopping at an intersection, remember to leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you, and to avoid sudden braking. A bike can stop much more quickly than a car—you can be rear-ended easily if you stop too quickly and the car behind you can’t do the same. When leaving an intersection, especially after a red light, look both ways before proceeding, to double check for motorists who may choose to run the light, which is a common cause of accidents at intersections. Motor cycle safety courses can be a valuable resource for learning more about enhancing your safety as a motorcyclist at intersections. ProRide is one of many great local schools.
8. Plot your path before you’re in a curve. Look where you want to go and then modify your lane position and adjust speed as necessary for a smooth exit out of the turn.
9. Maintain a safe speed. Regulate your speed to allow lots of time to stop or steer out of another motorist’s path. Always obey the road speed limits, and take into account special road conditions or weather such as construction, rain, or high winds and adjust your speed accordingly.
10. Invest in antilock brakes. Locking up your brakes in an emergency stop will impair your steering control, which can lead to a crash. ABS helps you retain steering control during a sudden stop, and may prove particularly helpful in slippery road conditions. If you are purchasing a motorcycle, be sure to look into different makes and models that have antilock systems.
We hope these tips were helpful. If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident in B.C., you may need to contact a Vancouver personal injury lawyer. Please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team for a free case evaluation. Stay safe and ride on!
[Sources: TranBC, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Online; ICBC: Road Safety; Consumer Reports]