For motorcycle enthusiasts, there are few things in the world quite as exhilarating as the open road. Unfortunately, roads also pose extreme hazards for motorcyclists. Other roadway users, such as passenger cars, trucks, vans, or commercial motor vehicle drivers, create many of these hazards. However, motorcyclists bear some responsibility for their safety. This responsibility extends to the type and size of the motorcycle a rider chooses.
The truth of the matter is that the safest type of motorcycle you can ride is the one you can handle well.
Read on for more information below about motorcycle safety. If someone else caused injured you in a motorcycle accident, an experienced motorcycle accident attorney can help you seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injuries.
The Dangers of All Types of Motorcycles
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die while on the road than passenger car occupants. Many of the reasons for this terrible statistic have to do with the nature of a motorcycle.
Some of the major safety issues posed by all types of motorcycles include:
- The slimmer, smaller profile and fewer headlights make motorcycles harder to see than other vehicles.
- The two-wheeled structure provides less stability during emergency maneuvers such as swerving or braking.
- Motorcycle instability increases with speed. A motorcycle’s front end may begin shaking at high speeds—often from poor tire alignment—which can make the vehicle even harder to maneuver.
- It is easy to underestimate how different it is to operate a motorcycle than a car, and some riders fail to obtain the proper training to ride safely.
- A lack of protective features such as a steel frame, airbags, and seat belts in other vehicles that prevent injury or death during a collision.
- The size of the motorcycle compared to the rider. Balance is one of the requirements for riding a motorcycle. When the rider stops, they are required to put their feet down and balance the bike. If the motorcycle is too big for the rider, they may have trouble holding the bike upright.
Types of Motorcycles
Not all motorcycles are created equal when it comes to safety. Riders look for different things when selecting a motorcycle, and there are many types of motorcycles that can accommodate different rider preferences and experience levels.
The common types of motorcycles include:
- Standard motorcycles: Standard motorcycles are often the top choice for inexperienced or hobby riders. These bikes feature current styling, and mid-sized twin engines usually power them. Standard motorcycles are mellower than other motorcycle types but carry a sporty look.
- Cruiser motorcycles: Commonly referred to as pirate bikes, the cruiser features a relaxed seating position and mid-forward foot controls. Twin engines usually power these are big, heavy bikes. While they aren’t the fastest or most powerful motorcycles, many riders say they are the most comfortable to ride. Because of the cruiser’s lower seat height, they’re often a good choice for newer riders.
- Dirt bikes and dual sport motorcycles: A dirt bike is a small, lightweight vehicle with a single-cylinder motor and knobby tires designed for riding off-road. Dual sport motorcycles are dirt bikes that are legal to ride on the street due to their less-powerful motors (which produce fewer emissions) and tires that are better suited for the roadway.
- Adventure bikes: An adventure bike is a dirt bike designed for long distances. They usually include a luggage compartment, dual-sport tires, long-travel suspension, and an upright riding position that makes them more comfortable for long-distance rides.
- Touring motorcycles: Touring motorcycles are large, heavy bikes that provide features designed for the rider’s comfort, including wind protection, ample storage space, and seating meant to accommodate two on a long-distance ride.
- Superbikes and supersport motorcycles: Commonly referred to as crotch rockets, manufacturers modified these racing bikes for public roads. They require a crouched or tucked riding position to protect the rider from the wind at high speeds. Superbikes include motorcycles in the 1,000cc class, while the term supersport refers to motorcycles of this type in the 600cc class.
- Naked motorcycles: Often referred to as street fighters, naked motorcycles are sportbikes that feature more comfortable ergonomics. These bikes provide the power of a sportbike but are more often used for daily riding than for street racing.
Additional Dangers Posed by Supersport Motorcycles
The driver death rate for riders with supersport motorcycles is four times higher than other motorcycle types. Despite only accounting for about 10 percent of the motorcycles on roads in the U.S., this class of motorcycles accounts for 25 percent of the nation’s motorcycle accident fatalities.
Here are some of the additional dangers posed by these powerful motorcycles:
- Too much power and speed. Manufacturers initially designed supersport motorcycles for the racetrack, then modified them for street use. However, these modifications did not decrease the vehicle’s power and speed or eliminate the dangers of riding a racing bike in traffic.
- The rider’s pitch. Supersport motorcycles keep the rider in a tucked, forward-leaning position that can increase the likelihood of the rider flying forward in an accident.
- Even poorer handling in inclement weather. No motorcycle is necessarily easy to maneuver on wet or slippery roads. The light weight of a supersport motorcycle makes it even more likely to skid on slippery road surfaces than other types of motorcycles.
- Risk-taking. Supersport motorcycles are often the bike of choice for younger, newer riders who do not have the experience to handle their power and speed and who risk severe injury or death by pushing their skills or the motorcycle too far.
Injuries Commonly Caused by Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycles lack the stability and protective features of other vehicle types.
Because of this, the injuries riders sustain in motorcycle accidents are often catastrophic, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs): TBIs damage the brain due to a blow to the head or body. They are the most frequent fatal injury incurred in motorcycle accidents. The brain is responsible for all of the body’s functions and involuntary responses. Unfortunately, despite its importance, the brain has only a limited ability to heal from injury. This means that TBIs commonly result in permanent disabilities, including memory loss, inability to control behavior or impulses, difficulty with balanced and coordinated movement, and difficulty speaking or understanding spoken language.
- Spinal cord injuries (SCIs): Like the brain, the spinal cord has only a limited ability to heal from injury. The spinal cord—a bundle of nerves extending from the base of the skull to the waist area and shielded by the spinal discs and vertebrae—is responsible for relaying messages from the brain to other parts of the body. An injury to the spinal cord often results in a loss of function and sensation below the injury. Those with SCIs in the cervical (neck) area generally suffer quadriplegia (also called tetraplegia), which destroys sensation or function in all limbs, the chest, diaphragm, torso, and pelvis. Those with injuries occurring lower on the spinal cord often suffer paraplegia, which is paralysis occurring below the waist.
- Road rash: While it isn’t usually the most serious injury a rider can suffer in a motorcycle accident, road rash is among the most common injuries motorcyclists suffer. A form of friction burn, road rash scrapes off skin on a rough surface, such as pavement. This injury carries a risk of infection, as well as scarring and disfigurement.
- Broken bones: With ejection likely and every part of the motorcyclist’s body exposed to vehicles and objects nearby, broken bones are among the most common injuries riders suffer in motorcycle accidents.
- Burns: Motorcycle accidents often result in a fire due to a ruptured gas tank on the bike.
- Internal injuries: Ejection and the potential of the body colliding with vehicles and other objects near the scene also increases the risk of internal injuries, including damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, or spleen. A common internal injury suffered in motorcycle accidents is a pneumothorax, which is a lung punctured by a broken rib.
Tips for Selecting the Safest Type of Motorcycle for You
The safest type of motorcycle is one you can handle well, as that will provide you the best opportunity to compensate for the other dangers that this type of vehicle presents.
Here are some tips for choosing a motorcycle you can handle:
- Consider your experience level. If you are just starting, go with less power. Standard motorcycles often come in many sizes, colors, and styles to suit any new rider. Cruisers are also comfortable motorcycles to start if you have the strength to hold a larger-sized bike up during traffic stops.
- Consider your strength. Remember that an important facet of safely operating a motorcycle is balancing a stopped bike. You should be able to place both feet flat on the ground when stopped so that your legs can help balance the motorcycle.
- Consider your height. In addition to placing both feet on the ground, you should reach your hand and foot controls without stretching.
- Remember that the engine size doesn’t always tell you how powerful the motorcycle will be. A 600cc engine in a standard motorcycle will likely have a lot less power than a 600cc engine in a sport motorcycle.
- Consider how you plan to use the motorcycle. If you simply plan to use it as an affordable way to get back and forth to work, you don’t need a big, powerful engine.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident? A Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help You
While selecting a motorcycle to fit your size, strength, and experience level is something you can control, unfortunately, you can't control many hazards when riding a motorcycle. Other drivers pose major risks to motorcyclists when they drive recklessly or carelessly, including drivers who are distracted, driving too fast for road conditions, or impaired by alcohol or drugs.
If a motorcycle accident that someone else caused injured you, you can seek compensation for the expenses and quality-of-life impacts of your injury. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can explain this process to you and seek the maximum amount of compensation possible in your case.