Motorcycles are popular forms of transportation here in Indiana and Illinois. Our pleasant spring and summer weather tempt many riders out onto our roadways to enjoy the feeling of freedom that motorcyclists enjoy. However, as most riders know, there’s a risk to riding.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the risk of a motorcyclist dying in an accident is 26 TIMES HIGHER than someone who is involved in a traffic accident and riding in a car.
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month
For several years now, organizations interested in keeping motorcyclists safe on the roads have joined together in a national public awareness campaign begun by NHTSA back in 1997: Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.
The focus of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is three-fold: (1) to try and prevent motorcycle crashes; (2) to mitigate rider injury when crashes do occur; and (3) to provide rapid and appropriate emergency medical services response and better treatment for crash victims.
Again this year, we join with this effort to boost public awareness of the dangers facing anyone riding a motorcycle on the roadways of Indiana and Illinois. It’s important not only to educate those who share the lanes with motorcyclists – drivers of cars, minivans, SUVs, big rigs, semi-trucks, buses, etc. – but also those who ride motorcycles as well.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles for the State of Indiana operates a specific website dedicated to motorcycle safety here in Indiana, RideSafeIndiana.com. It coordinates with the RSI division of the BMV, which offers a basic motorcycle rider course as well as an advanced course for motorcyclists of all experience levels.
Motorcyclist Laws in Indiana and Illinois
For anyone wanting to ride in Indiana or Illinois, they must know the specific laws and statutes designed to protect the rider from harm. These include having a driver’s license for motorcycles as well as knowing the state helmet laws.
The laws may be different if you are riding on private property. The laws may also be different if you are riding something akin to a motorcycle, but not the same, like an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) or a Scooter or Moped.
Motorcyclists in Indiana must be licensed with a valid Indiana Driver’s License that carries an endorsement for operating a motorcycle. If the rider is learning how to ride, he or she needs a learner’s permit.
Motorcyclists in Illinois must have either a Class M or Class L (for smaller engines) license issued by the Secretary of State for the State of Illinois. An Illinois Class M motorcycle license allows the rider to operate any kind of motor-driven bike. While learning to ride, the motorcyclist must have an instruction permit.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Wearing a motorcycle helmet is a very controversial subject. Many riders argue that the helmet puts them at great risk of harm because the helmet hinders movement, visibility, and more. Helmet proponents argue that wearing a helmet in a motorcycle crash can mean the difference between life and death, and suffering permanent damage with a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord trauma.
The National Security Council advises that motorcycle helmets protect both riders and passengers. According to Injury Facts 2017, a motorcycle helmet is 37% effective in protecting the rider from death in the event of an accident, and 41% effective for his or her passenger.
Helmets in Indiana
Motorcycle helmets are required by law for those motorcyclists age 17 years or younger. If you are over the age of 18 years, then you are not legally required to wear a helmet in the State of Indiana.
Helmets in Illinois
There is no law requiring a motorcyclist to wear a helmet in the State of Illinois.
Rising Number of Motorcycle Fatalities
Of course, the reason for all this discussion about motorcycle safety involves the concern that people in Indiana and Illinois as well as the rest of the country are going to die in a preventable, fatal motorcycle accident this year.
According to the recently released Injury Facts Report for 2017 published by Illinois’ National Safety Council, more and more motorcyclists are dying in roadway accidents.
There was an 8% increase in fatal motorcycle accidents in 2015 alone. Moreover, while motorcycles are only a small part (3%) of the total number of motor vehicles registered to be driven on our roads, deaths of motorcyclists made up a much larger percentage of total traffic deaths (14%).
Of all motorcyclist deaths, the greatest risk appears to be the older rider. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) statistics, it is the 50+ years old motorcyclist who made up 35% of all motorcycle fatalities in 2015.
If you are in an accident while riding a motorcycle, then you face an 80% chance of serious injury or death according to NHTSA.
Motorcyclist Safety Tips for the Rider
For those riding a motorcycle, it’s important to respect the increased risk that a motorcyclist faces on the road. There is a great danger whenever you choose to operate this kind of vehicle.
Here are some safety tips offered to those who ride:
- Check your license to insure you are current. If you are riding across state lines, then make sure you are legally compliant with all state statutes. Motorcycle laws (especially helmet laws) vary greatly from state to state.
- Consider wearing a motorcycle helmet even if the law does not mandate that you do so.
- Be alert and prepared before you ride. It takes balance and coordination to operate a motorcycle. Don’t ride if you’ve been drinking or if you have taken medication that might sway your abilities (including things like over-the-counter cough syrup or other flu medications, for example).
- Have experience with your motorcycle before you enter into heavy traffic. Know your bike and know your route, as well as how weather conditions may hamper your drive. Rain can make streets slick in the summer in ways that create greater risks for motorcycles than for heavier motor vehicles.
- Check your motorcycle before each ride. This is especially important for things like tires in the summer, where the heat can change the tire pressure quickly. Also make sure that your signals are clean and in good working order as well as your brakes (hand and foot).
Our firm has a long history of representing victims of fatal motor vehicle accidents of all types; including motorcycle crashes. Let’s hope that all the work being invested this month in boosting public awareness of the danger of fatal motorcycle accidents in Indiana and Illinois will be productive and lives will be saved. Be careful out there!