As the weather begins to warm and more motorcycle riders head out to enjoy the rumble and freedom of the road, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging other motorists to be especially mindful.
Our Knoxville motorcycle accident attorneys know that most catastrophic injuries sustained by motorcycle riders are the result of other drivers failing to be cautious.
One of the most common statements investigators hear after a motorcycle crash is, "But I didn't see him." It's not that these folks are lying. They probably really didn't see the motorcyclist - because they weren't looking.
May is national Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, with drivers of cars, trucks and buses reminded that sharing the road means looking twice.
So far this year, there have been 19 motorcyclists killed in Tennessee, with Maryville and Clarksville having the highest rates.
The Tennessee Department of Safety reports that motorcycle crashes have been increasing annually for more than a decade, despite marked decreases regarding other types of crashes.
In Knox County, the number of motorcycle licenses has increased by an average of 5.4 percent each year since 2004, with more than 20,000 people in the county currently holding a motorcycle license.
Along with that, the number of motorcycle crashes has skyrocketed, from 2,300 in 2004 to more than 3,250 in 2008 - a 42 percent increase. The state sees between 140 to 150 motorcycle deaths each year and more than 2,500 injuries. This is despite the fact that we've seen a huge spike in the number of motorcyclists wearing helmets. Just 10 percent of the motorcyclists killed in Tennessee between 1999 and 2008 weren't wearing helmets.
Knox County has a crash rate of 10 per 1,000 motorcycle license endorsements, ranking it 34th out of the 95 counties in the state.
In terms of the deadliest months for motorcycle crashes, summer is unquestionably the leader, with fatalities beginning to spike in May and tapering off in September. That's why May is an especially appropriate time to highlight awareness.
Motorcyclists comprise nearly 15 percent of all highway deaths, even though the number of motorcycle registrations represent just 3 percent of all the vehicles on the road.
And when we look at it on a per-vehicle-miles-traveled basis, motorcyclists are 30 times more likely than operators of four-wheeled vehicles to be killed in a crash and five times more likely to suffer a serious injury.
To help reduce these figures, the NHTSA recommends the following action by fellow motorists:
- Don't drive distracted or drunk.
- Allow motorcyclists a full lane width.
- Always use your turn signals before you merge or change lanes or turn.
- Check your blind spots before changing lanes or merging.
- Bear in mind that even a few raindrops can pose a significant hazard to motorcyclists. Be especially courteous of them in inclement weather.
- Allow yourself more of a distance when you are behind a motorcycle so that he or she can navigate a safe stop or quick maneuver in an emergency.