Who wants to ride a motorcycle in the rain? We’ve all seen soggy bikers crouched beneath highway overpasses as we pass by, warm and dry inside our cars. A ride on a beautiful, sunny day can be exhilarating, but riding a motorcycle on a blustery, rainy day looks downright miserable. That’s probably why motorcyclist deaths decreased in 2013, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Compared to the previous year, the first few months of 2013 were rainier and less conducive to motorcycle riding, so recorded fatalities were lower.
Rain not only makes for an unpleasant ride, it’s very dangerous for motorcyclists and may be a contributing factor in many motorcycle accidents, along with other road hazards. Dry pavement lends traction to the motorcycle’s wheels, making for a smoother and more controlled ride, especially when making turns or corners. Wet pavement makes for difficult maneuvering, and decreased visibility during a shower makes motorcyclists less visible to other drivers. Other physical hazards in the roadway are also a cause of motorcycle accidents: uneven pavement, construction debris, potholes, animal carcasses.
Alcohol is also responsible for a large portion of motorcyclists’ deaths. According to Ride Smart Florida, 37% of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2009 involved alcohol. Alcohol impairment affects a driver’s ability to focus, judge distances and make quick decisions; lessens their ability to multi-task; reduces ability to respond to changes around them; decreases their physical coordination and ability to control speed.
Speeding, whether a side-effect of alcohol impairment or on its own, is also a major cause of motorcycle accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2007, about 36% of fatal motorcycle accidents involved speeding; this is considerably higher than the death rates for accidents involving passenger cars (24%).
Distracted driving contributes to motorcycle accidents as well. Not just cell phone use or texting, but also eating, adjusting a GPS or iPod, or talking with a passenger, can cause a motorist to neglect to see a motorcycle. The smaller profile of a motorcycle makes it harder to see to begin with, and a distracted driver may be even less likely to see a motorcycle in their path. The NHTSA estimates that approximately 42% of motorcycle-car accidents involve a car that makes a left-hand turn into the path of a motorcyclist who may be continuing straight or passing the car.
While rainy weather can’t be expected to last forever and keep the motorcycle fatality rate low, there is much that can be done to improve the safety of motorcyclists, much of it having to do with educating both motorcyclists and passenger car drivers. Although Florida requires motorcycle helmets only for riders 20 and under, the U.S. Government Accounting Office concluded that “laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proven to be effective in reducing fatalities.” While wearing a helmet won’t prevent an accident, it can make a dramatic difference in the survival rate.
Education of motorcycle riders can also raise awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence and speeding. In Florida, motorcycle riders of all ages are required to complete a comprehensive rider training course before receiving a special endorsement for their driver’s license. The state-approved course teaches motorcyclists safe riding techniques as well as how to select protective gear and ride responsibly and courteously. The NHTSA also sponsors “Share the Road with Motorcycles” and Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month each May to remind drivers to be on the alert at all times for motorcycles.
The Dolman Law Group regularly represents the interests of Clearwater and Tampa Bay motorcyclists who have been injured in an accident and may be treated unfairly by an insurance company. Their experienced personal injury attorneys handle claims for both motorcycle drivers and passengers, and will advance the case into litigation if necessary. If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, call 727-451-6900 to arrange a case evaluation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765