Financial Cost of Motorcycle Accidents Incredibly High

In early November, 2012, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report regarding the costs of motorcycle accidents in 2010, which is the most recent year data are available for. While it is common knowledge that motorcycles are generally more dangerous to operate than cars or trucks, some of their findings were a bit more shocking.

Their data show that about 95,000 motorcycle accidents occurred in the U.S. just in 2010. In those crashes, 4,423 people lost their lives. These accidents not only take a physical and emotional toll on those involved, they also take a financial toll. The GAO estimated that the motorcycle accidents in 2010 cost at least $16 billion. In reality, the costs are likely even higher because some factors are difficult to determine. These factors include the long-term cost of medical care for someone who has ongoing medical issues as a result of their injuries, and the long-term loss of income for both the injured or deceased riders and their families.

Those who don’t ride motorcycles may think this statistic isn’t relevant to them, but it is. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), those directly involved may only be responsible for one-quarter of $16 billion, with society covering the rest.

Data from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) show that there were 1,370 motorcycle accident injuries in Kentucky and 72 people were killed in 2011. What can be done to reduce these numbers? As far as the number of people killed, the GAO report states that “Laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proved to be effective in reducing motorcyclist fatalities.” Many motorcycle riders are against mandatory helmet laws because they feel they infringe on their personal right to decide whether to wear a helmet or not. In Kentucky, riders who are over 21 and have held a motorcycle license for over one year are not required to wear helmets. Those who reject helmet laws say better education regarding motorcycles is the key to saving lives. But the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety disagrees, “It's like saying if you take a driver's ed class, you don't have to wear your seat belt. Now how silly is that?" Kentucky used to have a mandatory helmet law for all riders. When it was repealed, NHTSA data show that the number of motorcycle crash fatalities increased 50%.

So it appears that wearing helmets saves lives, but not wearing a helmet doesn’t actually cause a crash. To avoid a crash in the first place, (KOHS) says riders should drive with their headlights on even in daylight and wear reflective clothing when driving at night so they can be seen by other drivers; obey traffic laws and be sure to leave plenty of space between yourself and the cars around you; don’t drink and ride; take a motorcycle riding class and know your skill limits. Motorists can also do their part in preventing motorcycle wrecks by allowing motorcycles more room and not always believing their turn signals, which do not turn off automatically when following behind them; checking your mirrors and blind spots thoroughly before changing lanes because riders can be less visible since they are smaller; be prepared for motorcyclists to slow suddenly or change lanes to avoid road hazards such as oil, gravel, or potholes.

Steve Frederick, a Kentucky motorcycle attorney, has witnessed the injuries and financial costs associated with motorcycle riding. He urges all motorcyclists to ride responsibly and car drivers to be aware of motorcyclists that may be sharing the road.

Sources:

Motorcycle Safety; Kentucky Office of Highway Safety

Motorcycle Safety; Government Accountability Office; November 2012