Americans love motorcycles: the wide-open road, the sense of freedom, the “Born to Be Wild” spirit of adventure. As summer nears and warm weather beckons, you too might be thinking about a biking adventure. You won’t be alone. According to numerous government and industry sources, motorcycle ridership in the United States is at an all-time high. But while crash fatalities involving cars and light trucks are at an all-time low, motorcycle deaths nearly doubled from 1998 to 2010. No doubt motorcycling is exhilarating, but before climbing aboard you should know more about motorcycle safety.
Injuries, Insurance and Prevention
Motorcycle Riders Face Special Challenges. Common sense tells us that motorcycling is simply more dangerous than driving a car. Aside from four wheels over two, cars are equipped with numerous safety features including seat belts, air bags and a surrounding structure that protects occupants in a crash. Motorcycles are also less visible to other drivers, and require more mental and physical skill to operate safely. Finally, motorcyclists are more vulnerable to bad weather and hazardous road conditions. Not surprisingly with motorcycle ownership at an all-time high, injuries and deaths are also on the rise. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatalities nearly doubled from 2,294 in 1998 to 4,502 in 2010. Injuries also shot up from 49,000 in 1998 to 90,000 in 2009. Yet, deaths in auto and light truck accidents are at an all-time low. Aside from the inherent dangers of motorcycling, riding without a helmet, while intoxicated or speeding are often cited as contributing factors as well.
Insurance May Not Cover Personal Injury
After strapping on your helmet, the next best protection you can have in case of a motorcycle accident is insurance. While all 50 states require minimum insurance coverage to operate a motorcycle, be aware that the minimums may not adequately protect you in a serious accident. Like any type of insurance, how much you’ll need will depend on many different factors including the type of bike you own, how often you ride, your marital status, your personal assets and your budget. Liability covers bodily injury and property damage that you may cause to others involved in an accident. Other coverages include uninsured or underinsured motorists, which covers personal injury and damages caused by the driver of another vehicle who either does not have insurance or does not have sufficient coverage; collision, which covers physical damage to the motorcycle involved in a crash with an object, tree or another vehicle; comprehensive, which covers a loss from non-collision sources like theft, vandalism, fire or hail; and medical payments or personal injury protection (PIP), which covers physical injuries to the rider and passenger. Beyond liability, your first priority should be the coverages that pay you – and your passenger – for medical treatment, lost wages and other damages. These include uninsured/underinsured and PIP. Note, however, that the risks associated with motorcycling often make it very expensive to increase these coverages. In some cases, for example, PIP may not even be available or be so expensive that it is out of reach for most individuals. As with purchasing any type of insurance, seek the advice of a qualified advisor and carefully review policies from several different insurers.