Across the United States, millions of motorcyclists are hitting the road this summer and fall. While the beloved pastime is a great way to enjoy sunny weather, motorcycles can pose serious and unique safety concerns.
McNabola Law Group founder Mark McNabola has seen the risks firsthand.
The Chicago-based attorney obtained a $6 million result on behalf of a father and his teenage daughter, who were seriously injured in a motorcycle crash in Joliet, Ill.
The father was driving a motorcycle with his daughter as rear passenger when a car turning left into traffic caused a collision. Among the man’s injuries was a broken right ankle that required surgery. His daughter suffered a broken right leg and ankle, which required multiple surgeries and skin grafts.
Additionally, McNabola filed a lawsuit on behalf of a motorcyclist who was severely injured when a car struck him from behind in the northern suburbs of Chicago. The man was acting as sweep, or last rider, in a group of Harley-Davidson motorcycles when his engine stalled. McNabola obtained a $995,000 result for his client.
“What might be a simple fender-bender in a car can cause serious injuries on a motorcycle,” McNabola said. “It’s imperative that motorists watch out for motorcycles and keep a safe following distance.”
Motorcycles make up three percent of all registered vehicles in the U.S., but accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2017, according to the National Safety Council.
Illinois is one of just three states with no motorcycle helmet laws. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists’ lives in 2018 — and that 749 more lives could’ve been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.
Data show motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled since 1997. According to the National Safety Council, 5,172 motorcycle riders and their passengers died in crashes in 2017.
Despite the dangers, there are a number of ways to keep safe.
• Wear a helmet. It’s the simplest way to protect yourself from death or serious injury. Choose a full-coverage helmet that shields your face and be on the lookout for a sticker that shows your helmet has been approved by the Department of Transportation.
• Keep your skills sharp. In 2017, riders 50 and older made up more than a third of all motorcycle fatalities — in part because many are so-called “re-entry riders” who haven’t been on a motorcycle in years. These riders must adapt to more traffic, more powerful bikes and more distracted drivers than ever before.
• Don’t ride after drinking. Nearly 30 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2017 had blood alcohol levels at or above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
• Drive defensively. Motorcycle riders are far more exposed than car and truck drivers, and many motorists aren’t conditioned to watch out for motorcycles. Be especially vigilant at intersections, where half of all collisions occur. Drive as if you are invisible.
• Wear protective gear. Long sleeves and pants can protect against some degloving injuries. Boots can keep your feet and ankles safe in a crash, and a high-visibility vest makes you easily noticed by others on the road.