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Riders at Risk: Motorcycle Accidents in Tennessee

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists are approximately 37 times more likely to lose their lives in motor vehicle accidents than passengers riding in an enclosed vehicle, and they have a 98 percent of becoming injured. In 2013 alone approximately 4,600 motorcyclists in the United States were killed in motor vehicle crashes, with 137 of those occurring in Tennessee. With the number of motorcycle accidents resulting in serious injury or fatality over the past few decades on the rise, it is vital that motorists evaluate common causes of such accidents and injuries in order to help make the roads safer.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Tennessee

Some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents in Tennessee include:

  • Impaired Riding: The Governors' Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) reports that a significant number of motorcycle accidents that result in serious injuries or fatalities involve an impaired rider. In fact, in 2013 an alarming 28 percent of motorcyclists who lost their lives in accidents were impaired with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent of higher.
  • Licensing and Training: Riders who fail to complete the proper motorcycle training and licensing procedures run a high risk in becoming involved in a motorcycle accident. According the GHSA, an estimated 25 percent of motorcyclists who were involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2013 were not driving with a valid motorcycle license.
  • Speeding: Speeding is a major factor in an increased risk for motorcycle accidents that result in fatality in the United States. Approximately 34 percent of motorcyclist fatalities involved a rider who was speeding in 2013.
  • Awareness: Due to their shape and size, motorcycles can be difficult for drivers of passenger vehicles to see. A significant number of motorcycle accidents occur each year due to automobile drivers failure to detect motorcycles at intersections and while merging into traffic or passing. Share the Road, a motorcycle safety campaign, encourages automobile drivers to be extra alert to help spot inconspicuous motorcyclists and asks riders to take extra precautions to help ensure their visibility.

Reducing Motorcycle Accident Related Injuries and Fatalities

Because motorcycles offer no protection to riders, when a motorcyclist is involved in an accident the injuries are frequently severe and often result in fatality. Fortunately, there are steps that riders can take to help reduce their chances of suffering serious injuries or fatality when riding on Tennessee roadways.

  • Helmet Use: According to the NHTSA, proper helmet use saved the lives of 1,630 motorcycle riders in the United States in 2013. An estimated 715 additional lives could have been saved had all riders worn helmets. In addition to helping prevent fatalities, helmets reduce the risk of serious brain injuries and spinal injuries as well. Riders of all ages are encouraged to use only DOT certified helmets and avoid helmets that fail to meet current DOT standards. A report by the NHTSA states that wearing a helmet that conforms with DOT standards can reduce the risk of fatality in a motorcycle accident by up to 37 percent. Unfortunately, many riders (an astounding 32 percent in 2010) wore no helmets at all, and an estimated 14 percent wore novelty helmets that were non-compliant. Such novelty helmets are ineffective at protecting motorcyclists from impact or penetration, and are less likely to remain on a rider's head in the event of an accident.
  • Protective Clothing: Helmets are not the only form of protective clothing available to motorcyclists, and protective motorcycle clothing has been shown to reduce the occurrence of serious injuries in motorcycle accidents significantly. Suggested items include motorcycle jackets, gloves, pants and fitted body armor.

Who's to Blame

The aftereffects of a motorcycle accident can be devastating to the injured rider. Given the severity of many accident related injuries, individuals can suffer extensive medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and continuous costs for rehabilitation. Although there is a common misconception that motorcyclists are generally to blame for motor vehicle accidents, in many cases automobile drivers are the cause.

  • 42 percent of motorcycle crashes involving more than one vehicle were caused by an automobile driver turning left while the motorcycle was continuing straight, changing lanes or passing.
  • 78 percent of all fatal motorcycle accidents involving two or more vehicles include the automobile striking the motorcycle head-on.

In the state of Tennessee, even motorcyclists who are deemed to be partly at fault may be eligible to receive compensation. Unfortunately, motorcyclists are often treated unfairly by insurance companies and inadequately compensated for their personal injuries. Persons who have been involved in a motorcycle accident should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who is familiar with the laws in Tennessee before accepting a settlement from an insurance company in order to ensure that they receive the maximum amount of compensation.

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