Many motorcyclists enjoy the sense of freedom when riding. But the design of a motorcycle also affords little protection in the event of an accident.  A collision that would cause minor injuries to a car or truck driver can cause catastrophic injury or death to a motorcyclist.

Though motorcycles made up only 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States in 2012, they represent a disproportionately high number of accidents. The fatality rate for motorcyclists in accidents was six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office says 92 people were killed and 1,189 were injured in motorcycle crashes in our state in 2013. Motorcycle accidents occurred more frequently on weekends. They occurred most often between 4 p.m. and 7:59 p.m. Crashes peak during summer months when the weather is more conducive to riding and more bikers are on the road.

Oklahoma Motorcycle Crashes by Day of Week

Oklahoma Motorcycle Crashes by Day of Week

Source: Oklahoma Highway Safety Office

There are several types of motorcycle accidents involving other vehicles that injure and kill riders in Oklahoma. Among the five most common types are:

  1. Failure to yield or “not seeing” the motorcycle. Many motorists involved in accidents with motorcycles quickly exclaim that they never saw the motorcycle. This happens at intersections and as motorists make turns. The NHTSA says that in 41 percent of the two-vehicle motorcycle crashes in 2012 that resulted in a fatality, the other vehicles were turning left while the motorcycles were going straight, passing or overtaking other vehicles.
  2. Speeding. About one third of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involve excessive speed, including exceeding the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions or racing. According to the NHTSA, in 2012, 34 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 22 percent for passenger car drivers, 18 percent for light-truck drivers, and 8 percent for large-truck drivers.A quarter of motorcycle operators involved in crashes in Oklahoma in 2012 were driving at an unsafe speed, according to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.
  3. Drunk driving. Alcohol plays a major role in motorcycle accidents. It is often the motorist who is drinking after driving, but motorcyclists drink and drive, too. In fact, the NHTSA says among all fatal crashes in 2012, a higher percentage of motorcycle riders (27 percent) had blood-alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .08 percent or more than any other type of motor vehicle driver (23 percent for passenger cars, 22 percent for light trucks, and 2 percent for large trucks.)OK DPS says 10.2 percent of motorcycle operators involved in crashes in 2012 had been drinking.
  4. Road conditions. Because they are smaller and lighter, motorcycles are more vulnerable to poor road conditions than cars and trucks. Potholes and other broken pavement and the buildup of sand, pebbles and debris on roads can cause motorcyclists to lose control of their bikes and crash.
  5. Lack of experience. Riding a motorcycle requires specific skills developed with instruction and practice. Motorcyclists must know how to ride so that they are seen by other motorists and recognize how motorcycles handle, particularly in poor weather or road conditions. To obtain an “M” endorsement on an Oklahoma driver’s license, a motorcyclist must pass a driving test (in addition to vision and written test) or show that they have completed a Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course.

Motorcycle accidents occur most often on city streets, rather than on the open road. Often other drivers in the city fail to see motorcyclists. The most fatal accidents and most accidents resulting in incapacitating injuries occurred on city streets. Many serious motorcycle crashes also occurred on interstates such as I-40 and I-35.

Top Five Types of Oklahoma Roads Where Motorcycle Accidents Occur

Top Five Types of Oklahoma Roads Where Motorcycle Accidents Occur

Source: Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. Click to view larger image. Red: Fatal, Blue: Incapacitating, Gray: Total Crashes

Helmets Make Motorcycle Riding Safer

The best thing a motorcyclist can do to guard against serious injury in a motorcycle accident is to wear a helmet. Helmeted motorcyclists are significantly less likely to experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a motorcycle crash.

Of 92 Oklahoma motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2013, 61 were not wearing helmets, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.

Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers, the NHTSA says. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.

Who Are the Oklahoma Motorcyclists Involved in Accidents?

The NHTSA recorded 126,882 motorcycle registrations in Oklahoma in 2013. The 92 fatalities the Oklahoma Highway Safety Offices reports during the year represented 72.5 fatalities per 100,000 registered motorcycles. The number of fatal motorcycle crashes increased 11 percent from 2012 to 2013.

Oklahoma Counties with Highest Number of Motorcycle Accidents in 2013

Oklahoma Counties with Highest Number of Motorcycle Accidents in 2013

Source: Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. Click to view larger image.

Eighty-three of the 92 motorcyclists the OK DPS reported were killed in 2013 crashes were male. Eight of the nine female riders killed were motorcycle passengers.Source: Oklahoma Highway Safety Office

According to the Highway Safety Office, the ages of those killed in Oklahoma motorcycle accidents in 2013 were:

  • Younger than 20 years old – 5
  • 21 to 30 – 16
  • 31 to 40 – 20
  • 41 to 50 – 18
  • 51 to 60 – 20
  • Older than 60 – 13.

If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident in Oklahoma caused by the fault of another driver, talk to a knowledgeable motorcycle accident attorney at Burch George & Germany about your legal rights to seek compensation. Call us today at 405-213-1444.