Gay & Chacker Articles Risks for Motorcycle Accidents

Risks for Motorcycle Accidents

By Gay & Chacker  Oct. 3, 2020 11:50a

As parents, it can be both exciting and nerve racking to see our teenage children earn their driver's licenses and get behind the wheel. But if your child is part of that smaller group of teens that go on to get their motorcycle licenses as well, that decision can cause even more worry. After all, their risk of a catastrophic crash is much higher than when they are driving a car. In 2017, for example, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled than those in a passenger vehicle. So, it makes perfect sense to worry.

The increased risk is due in part to the fact that a person is far less protected on a motorcycle than inside the walls of a passenger vehicle. Motorcycles are also less visible to others on the road, making safe behavior on and around motorcycles even more important.

Naturally, you want to trust that your child will take the rules of the road seriously and abide by all traffic laws when riding a motorcycle. But we as parents can't be there for every ride, so it's helpful to know the common causes of motorcycle crashes involving teens in order to have pointed conversations about safety. Below are three major risk factors that make teen motorcyclists susceptible to crashes.

1. Speeding

Teens were involved in 19,447 crashes related to speeding from 2000 to 2011, according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association. Other studies have noted that teens' speeding behavior increases over time as they gain confidence on the road.

On a motorcycle, it might feel easy to ride above the speed limit. However, it's important for teens to understand that in addition to being illegal, speeding decreases reaction time, both for motorcycle riders and everyone else around them. Conditions such as inclement weather and winding roads make speeding even more dangerous, but even on the clearest day and straightest road, speeding is a bad idea. Respecting the posted speed limits is a critical step in reducing the risk of a motorcycle crash.

2. Distracted Riding

Why are distractions such a problem for teens? AAA Foundation for Safety suggests that teens' avid smartphone use may be a major reason that they are at risk for distraction-related crashes. Top it off with their inexperience and the fact that their brain is still developing in terms of decision making and risk management skills, and distraction becomes a particularly big issue among teens.

Distraction is not limited to cell phone use, however. Traffic safety experts classify three types of distraction: manual, visual, and cognitive. Manual distractions refer to anything that takes a motorcyclist's hands off the handlebars. Visual distractions cause motorcyclists to take their eyes off the road. Cognitive distractions take a person's attention away from riding. So, tasks like eating, grooming, and riding with a talkative passenger are all considered distractions. Even riding a motorcycle while feeling upset or tired is a distraction. Texting is particularly dangerous, because it requires all three distraction classifications: manual, visual, and cognitive.

3. Inexperience

Thousands of people are killed every year in motorcycle-related crashes, and the rate of teen crashes overall is four times higher than that of adult motorists. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cites lack of experience, immaturity, and lack of traffic skills as the main reasons. Unfortunately, there's not much to do about inexperience besides encouraging practice, practice, practice. The NHTSA recommends that parents set aside time to take their teens out on practice sessions to build basic skills, answer their questions, and help them get comfortable with being on the road.

In addition, parents can be good role models for road safety – regardless of whether they ride a motorcycle themselves. Even in the car, children watch their parents' behavior and may emulate what they see. So, as a parent, it's critical to practice distraction-free driving and riding, mind the speed limit, and always drive sober, so young passengers learn by example. The NHTSA offers additional resources and tips for parents of teen motorists here, which can help start the right conversations and help them prepare for a lifetime of safe driving.

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