Somewhere on a desert highway
She rides a Harley-Davidson
Her long blonde hair
Flyin’ in the wind
She’s been runnin’ half her life
The chrome and steel she rides
The very air she breathes…
Unknown legends like the woman in the Neil Young song could hardly hope for a better place to ride a motorcycle than Utah: Thrilling switchbacks, long stretches of highway, unincorporated desert scenery, woodland landscapes, and sunshine to spare make this fair state a popular gathering place for any cyclist who doesn’t mind a paucity of liquor.
However, many of the very elements that make motorcycling in the Beehive State so rewarding also imperil the rider—long roads invite high speeds, a beautiful backdrop can be distracting, and twists and turns on gravelly roads require more concentration than many people realize. Therefore, knowledge of the risks is needed to help motorcyclists circumvent the traps that claim 1,000 motorcycle casualties each year in Utah.
1. Turning without Looking
According to the Federal Highway Administration, 29% of drivers who struck motorcyclists did so while executing a left-hand turn. Whether because of the blind spots inherent in most automobile structure or because many drivers don’t expect to be flanked by a motorcyclist, this is a relatively common occurrence. Motorcyclists cannot make car drivers pay attention to them, but mindfulness of this risk allows them to spot and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Longing for wind in one’s hair makes speeding a particular temptation to the motorcyclist, who experiences each bounce, jostle, and smooth glide in a direct way. However, speeding contributed to 14% of Utah motorcycle accidents in 2010. The more quickly one is driving, the more easy it is to lose control in a pinch. Remember: It’s easier for you to withstand temptation than it is for Fate.
3. Lane deviation
The diminutive size of a motorcycle sometimes seems like an excuse to bend the rules. This is a mistake for two reasons: First, motorcyclists are legally bound to the same rules as any motorist; second, other drivers cannot predict illegal maneuvers like lane splitting, making them more dangerous. Most of the time, playing it safe requires that you play by the rules.
4. Tailgating/riding the bumper
No driver should ride another vehicle’s bumper. It’s rude and alienating. For the tailgating motorcyclist, however, it isn’t just discourteous, but risky. A tailgating sedan suffers body damage in the event of a sudden stop. A tailgating motorcyclist suffers bodily harm.
Yet another reason to drive at reasonable speeds and at a reasonable distance from the next car is the danger of over correcting: Nearly 10% of motorcycle accidents occur when the bike swerves or makes some other evasive maneuver. Clearly, preventative action is better taken early than late.
6. Running offroad
The bodily involvement required to steer a motorcycle is part of what makes it so much fun. However, this fun comes at a cost exacted from control and stability. A smaller vehicle with 2 or 3 wheels is not only statistically more likely to lose traction; it flies farther when it does so. For this reason, motorcyclists should be wary of slippery, granular, or other conditions that may compromise their contact with the road.
For those motorcyclists who have suffered injury on Utah roads owing to the actions of an inattentive or careless driver, their treatment should be covered by their own insurance, that of the author of the motorcycle accident, or a combination. If it feels like appeals to these resources are being met with cold, stony silence, personal injury attorneys Christensen & Hymas can defend your right to recovery. To discuss your own difficulties in a motorcycle accident, call toll-free at (801) 506-0800.
Image Courtesy of Alex Pearson