Fatal Motorcycle Accidents in Indiana and Illinois: How Great is the Danger?

Fatal Motorcycle Accidents in Indiana and Illinois: How Great is the Danger?

Last Friday, there was another tragic motorcycle accident in our part of the country where the motorcyclist died in the crash. It happened a little after ten o’clock in the evening, on South Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, near the Museum of Science & Industry.

From police reports, all that’s know at this point is this motorcycle crash involved a 35-year-old man riding through the Hyde Park area of the city, when he crashed into an SUV there on LSD, rear-ending the larger vehicle.

Sadly, there was no need for paramedics to rush the motorcyclist to the nearest hospital or for any airlift with emergency care, because according to the attending medical examiner, he died there at the scene.

This is a horrible way for Indiana and Illinois to welcome in May as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. However, maybe this tragedy can serve as a means of increasing public awareness about how real the dangers are for motorcycle riders to suffer serious injuries and even death in traffic accidents.

If we can all become more aware of the risks associated with driving the roads alongside motorcycles, as well as driving as a motorcyclist, then lives may be spared and accidents may be avoided.

Danger of Motorcycle Accidents Highest May to September

We know that the risk of motorcycle accidents is rising now and will continue through the spring and summer. Most fatal motorcycle accidents (62%) occur in this country during the warmer months of May through September, according to studies undertaken by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

We also have the warning that these fatal motorcycle accidents are more likely to occur in cities on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night. Research shows that most motorcycle fatalities happen on the weekend (52%), after six o’clock in the evening, in urban settings.

Finally, we have research that reveals the most likely spots where a fatal motorcycle crash will occur is not on the big, multi-lane interstates that crisscross our neck of the woods, but instead on our thoroughfares and familiar roads. Studies show that fatal motorcycle accidents are more likely to occur on local, busy city streets.

Right now, according to the Federal Highway Administration, there are over 8,400,000 motorcycles riding on American roads. In 2013, 56 out of 100,000 registered motorcycles were involved in a fatal motorcycle accident. That doesn’t seem like a major risk until it’s considered alongside the number of fatalities during the same time period where a car was involved: out of 100,000 passenger car accidents, only 9 deaths were reported.

Do the math and you find that in 2013, it was 26 times more likely that a motorcyclist would die in a fatal traffic accident than if he or she had chosen to drive a car.

The good news is that in 2014, less motorcycle accidents resulted in death (4586) — the risk of dying in a motorcycle crash fell a little over 2% that year.

Still, it’s very dangerous for anyone to ride a motorcycle alongside heavier vehicles that are moving at high rates of speed. Even more so when the motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) still warns that the fatality rate for motorcyclists is SIX TIMES that of someone who opts for riding in a car.

Which Motorcyclists are at the Highest Risk of a Fatal Crash?

There is not one simple answer to decreasing the danger of a serious or fatal motorcycle crash here in Indiana or Illinois. Several factors contribute to the higher risk of death or permanent injury in a motorcycle accident, including things like age, impairment, speeding, motorcycle weight and style, and more.

1. Age

According to NHTSA data, the older the motorcyclist, the higher the danger of death in a motorcycle accident. Over half of all motorcyclists who die in a crash in this country are over the age of 40 years. Why?

Of course, there are arguments that older riders don’t see as well or react as fast as younger motorcyclists, however other factors may also be involved. These include the popularity of larger motorcycles for older riders. These are prone to rollovers, and they are also heavier and harder to control at high speeds.

2. Impairment

Shockingly, there are accidents where someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs has chosen to jump on his or her motorcycle and drive away. NHTSA reports that in 2014, 29% of fatal motorcycle crashes involved a motorcyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (B.A.C.) of 0.08 percent or over (which is considered driving drunk in both Indiana and Illinois).

3. Speeding

Motorcycles are extreme fun to drive, and it’s very tempting to ride fast despite the posted speed limit. Sadly, over a third (34%) of fatal motorcycle accidents in 2013 involved the motorcycle speeding at the time of the crash.

4. Type of Bike

As discussed earlier, the bigger motorcycles preferred by some older motorcyclists (touring cycles) are cumbersome and more prone to rollovers or crashing. However, “super sports” motorcycles are considered to be the most dangerous kind of motorcycle to ride, with a FOUR TIMES greater risk of a fatal accident than other bikes. Why? They are light and fast (some can exceed 190 mph).

With warmer weather upon us, how can we help to keep our loved ones safe from a fatal motorcycle accident this year? What are ways that we, as drivers sharing the roads with motorcycles riding alongside us on the way to work, home, school, or shopping, etc., can help to avoid a crash here in Indiana and Illinois? We’ll consider safety issues in our next post. Be careful out there!


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