Southern California Public Radio analyzed the state data and discovered that between 2003 to 2012 motorcycle collisions and fatalities increased 23 percent. Los Angeles County had the largest increase of 49 percent. Orange County and San Diego County also saw a significant amount of injuries and fatalities. There have been very few years in which the rate of motorcycle accidents in California went down rather than up.
Many experts have cited helmet laws as the best way to decrease motorcycle deaths. Helmets are shown to decrease death by 37 percent and head injuries by 69 percent, but it doesn’t appear to be the issue in California where universal helmet laws have been in place since 1992.
The motorcycle accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Michael Pines aren’t surprised by these injury and fatality statistics. In the last few years, their San Diego-based firm has seen an influx in cases involving motorcycle injuries and deaths. In their experience, there are two key factors that play a role in accidents: inexperienced motorcycle drivers and vehicle drivers that are unaware motorcyclists are present.
Lane splitting, when motorcyclists ride up the line between lanes, has been allowed in California for many years. However, the practice leads to a number of motorcycle-related accidents. In most cases, motorcyclists are hit by drivers who are changing lanes and don’t see the biker. Recently, California became the first state to provide lane-splitting guidelines. It’s unclear how this could impact the motorcycle fatality and injury statistics in coming years, but state lawmakers are hopeful it will improve safety and traffic congestion.
The amazing weather in California also plays a role. Many consumers are unaware that during the summer injuries involving ATVs and motorcycles spike. In southern California in particular, the year-round temperate weather means there’s no off-season for motorcycle riding – people enjoy summer riding all year long. This is also a reason why there are more motorcyclists in California than any other state.
One other notable statistic shines light on why the incidence of injuries and fatalities has increased. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found between 2005 to 2014 fatalities involving motorcyclists who were 40 years old or older increased 14 percent across the country. During that same time period, fatalities increased just one percent for younger cyclists. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has noted an increase in older motorcycle riders since 2010, which is impacting the state’s motorcycle accident statistics.
The NHTSA and California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) recommend that motorcyclist always take the following precautions:
- Drivers and passengers should always wear a Department of Transportation approved motorcycle helmet regardless of the state laws.
- Protective gear, such as a motorcycle jacket, gloves and durable pants, should also be worn to prevent injury.
- Never operate a motorcycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drugged-driving motorcycle accidents have been on the upswing in California. CHP cautions that being under the influence of prescription medications is also considered drugged-driving.
- New riders should take safety courses and refrain from high speed highway driving until they get experienced driving on the road.
- New riders should also refrain from carrying passengers and cargo until they gain experience driving solo.
- Motorcyclists should only practice safe lane splitting according to the new state-established guidelines.
- Perform an inspection before each ride to ensure all components are working properly, particularly the brakes, lights and throttle.
The California Office of Traffic Safety provides data and analysis on vehicular uses, accidents, injuries and fatalities in the state. Their mission is to improve traffic safety guidelines using traffic safety grants that fund law enforcement programs, educational programs and research. California OTS also oversees numerous campaigns to build traffic safety awareness among all drivers.