FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-08-29
Over the years, motorcycle accident statistics involving young people have shown the dangers for riders on the roadways. With rising fuel costs, there are now more motorcycles on the roads in California cities, highways, and freeways. This could result in more people being severely injured or killed each year. In California, between the years of 2004 and 2009, a total of 383 motorcyclists were killed in motorcycle crashes, and an additional 10,479 injured. But how many wrecks involving youngsters are due to negligence, as opposed to pure “accidents” with no one at fault at all?
What the Statistics Show
The statistics for these years, when separated into age groups, show that the number of riders who were injured between the ages of 15 and 24 equaled 2,175. Surprisingly, despite this age group's relative inexperience and "need for speed," this young group doesn't even account for the largest number of casualties. The highest number of deaths (89) actually lies in the 25-34 age group, with 2,241 additional injuries. In even older groups of riders, the number of injuries and deaths remain high, with 49 riders killed and 1,776 riders injured in the 54-64 age group.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is defined as a personal injury (like a cut, or whiplash from a rear-ender), or injury to property (dents or scratches on your motor bike), caused by another person who was failing to act reasonably for the given set of facts and circumstances. It can be gleaned from these statistics that at least some of the wrecks involving riders are caused by the negligence of riders themselves, as well as other vehicle operators.
Rider Fatalities and Injuries Are Not Decreasing
Many motorcycle lawyers believe the number of deaths and injuries are unlikely to decrease, in part, because of the rising cost of fuel. This means that more people will use their motorcycles for daily transportation instead of a vehicle that costs more to run. Unfortunately, not all of these people are experienced in driving defensively, and there is no room for error on a two-wheeled vehicle.
California weather permits a longer riding season for motorcyclists and for the years from 2004-2009, the data for deaths and injuries are categorized by month. In January, there were 14 fatalities and 423 injuries with a steady rise until May when it clearly spikes with 42 fatalities and 914 injuries. June decreases a bit, with 41 fatalities and 875 injuries, but again rises in July with 56 fatalities and 1,033 injuries.
What the Stats Fail to Show
What these statistics do not reveal is the severity of the injuries suffered by motorcyclists – i.e. if they became permanently disabled and who was at fault for the motorcycle crash. However, there are some statistics that do show the cause of motorcycle accidents. One of these types of statistical reports was released from a study conducted in 2006, by the University of Southern California, and funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The study became known as the “Hunt” Report, named after researcher Harry Hunt (as opposed to the similar “Hurt Report”).
The study used data from 900 motorcycle accidents that occurred within the Los Angeles area and 3,600 other motorcycle traffic accidents that occurred within the area. What was found from use of this data?
- Approximately three-quarters of motorcycle accidents involve a collision with another vehicle, with only one-quarter involving a solo motorcycle accident. In the solo accidents the motorcyclist struck a fixed object or collided with the roadway.
- Motorcycle accidents involving a collision with the motorcyclist when the driver of the other vehicle did not yield to the right-of-way of the motorcycle. Intersections were the most likely way for this to occur.
- The largest number of motorcycle accidents involved riders who were close to their origin, rather than riders who were on longer trips and did not know the roadway they were traveling. This means riders that were close to home, traveling to work and doing errands, rather than on a trip.
The Statistics Tend to Show
These few statistics prove two things; the first is that youth and speed do not completely represent motorcycle accident victims, and the second is that motor vehicle drivers do not always afford motorcyclists the same courtesy that they would another type of vehicle. Clearly inexperience and youth go hand in hand, but at least some of the wrecks can be attributed to rider negligence. Unfortunately, bikers have somewhat unfairly gotten a reputation of being bold and making rash decisions on the roads. This is a false assumption in most cases, just as it is for most young enclosed-motor-vehicle drivers. In any event, the connection between young riders and their resulting injuries and fatalities is alarming.
Risks of Injury and Death
Well aware of the high risk of injury and death, experienced motorcycle riders typically operate their bikes more carefully than most drivers operate their cars. When a motorcycle accident does happen, the rider is often either severely injured or even killed, since they do not have the same protection as vehicle drivers. They have no airbags, seatbelts or metal cage to protect their body in the event of a collision, dip, or pothole.
Youth Programs Helping With Safety
In California and throughout the country there have been programs established to make drivers of motor vehicles more aware of sharing the roads with motorcyclists. Teaching kids the importance of that layer of foam padding and plastic in a “helmet” is one of the many safety topics taught to kids. This has helped decrease motorcycle collisions, and taught non-riders the importance of laws allowing “lane splitting,” as well as other issues such as yielding to the biker’s right of way. So, although there are no outright statistics showing how many people were negligent, clearly there is a connection between young, relatively inexperienced riders and these types of collisions exists. Thus, it is clear that experience matters in reducing negligence-related mishaps in our youth.