Motorcycle season is finally here. Across the Midwest, people from all walks of life are dusting off their bikes and hitting the open road. After a long, dark winter, nothing brightens the spirit like riding free under the sunshine.
Along with motorcycle season, however, comes a rise in accidents. Nearly 5,000 bikers are killed in crashes across the U.S. each year.
What can we learn from accident statistics? Here are a few key takeaways:
1. It's not just young, inexperienced bikers who are at risk.
In 2016, for example, the average age of victims in fatal motorcycle accidents was 43. And more than half of such fatalities involve victims age 40 and older. That breakdown reflects the demographic data: The median age of riders is 50, according to one source. But it's also a reminder that experience isn't a guaranteed buffer against accidents.
2. One of the biggest causes of accidents? Left-turning vehicles.
Nearly every seasoned rider has experienced the gut-dropping close call of a left-turning car cutting them off. It's no surprise that these incidents account for a large number of accidents. Drivers are notoriously sight-challenged when it comes to noticing motorcycles. They frequently don't register motorcycles approaching, and when they do, they often misjudge the biker's speed.
The difference between a deadly collision and a near miss often comes down to split-second reactions. On average, bikers have less than two seconds to avoid an accident. That's where experience comes in: Seasoned bikers develop the skills and awareness to both anticipate risk and take the right action to avoid accidents. Wearing the right gear and keeping your bike in good shape can also help make you more visible to other vehicles.
3. Helmets do save lives.
They lower the risk of death by nearly 50 percent and reduce the risk of a head injury by nearly 70 percent. Given the prevalence of head injuries in motor vehicle accidents, those numbers are encouraging.
Bikers get few easy wins in the realm of accident risk. Helmets are one of them.