Riding a motorcycle is a beloved American pastime — and with over 8.4 million registered bikes on the road, it’s a tradition with no sign of slowing down.
But without following the proper safety protocols, motorcycle riding can also be a dangerous hobby that can result in serious injury, or even death.
As a leading firm in transportation safety, including motorcycle safety, Cavanagh Law Group knows this all too well.
In October 2012, Cavanagh Law Group attorney Tim Cavanagh obtained a $1.9 million settlement for his client, Bill Egbert, who was struck from behind while standing at a red light on his motorcycle in 2006, causing serious bodily harm.
Ebgert, who was 38 at the time, was hit from behind by Father Raymond Garbin, a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Joliet. Egbert was thrown onto the hood of Garbin’s vehicle — shattering the car’s windshield with his helmet — while his motorcycle was thrust 150 feet down the road.
The impact left Egbert, a former police officer, with multiple injuries, including a closed head injury.
Cavanagh Law Group was prepared to introduce 159 pieces of evidence and call 27 witnesses, including head injury experts from Michigan, New York and North Dakota. A day before trial was set to begin before Judge Susan O’Leary in the Circuit Court of Will County, the case was settled in the amount of $1.9 million.
“This case demonstrates just how vulnerable motorcycle riders are on the road, especially when encountering larger vehicles,” attorney Tim Cavanagh said. “If drivers are following the rules of the road and providing ample space for motorcyclists, then these types of crashes can typically be avoided.”
According to the National Safety Council, more than 88,000 motorcycle riders were injured in 2016, and 4,976 were killed while riding — a three percent increase from 2006, largely spiked by an eight percent increase in 2015 alone.
Though motorcycles only make up about three percent of all registered vehicles, and less than one percent of those driven on the road, motorcyclist fatalities accounted for 13 percent of all traffic deaths in 2016, according to the safety council. Of those who were killed, 91 percent were male, and 36 percent were aged 50 or older.
In 2015, which saw more than 5,000 motorcyclist fatalities nationally, Illinois saw a 24 percent jump in motorcycle deaths from the previous year, a study for the Governors Highway Safety Association found.
While impaired driving and aging drivers were noted as factors, researchers found that perhaps the most significant way to decrease motorcyclist deaths would be to mandate helmet laws in the majority of U.S. states that don’t have them — including Illinois, which is one of only three states with no helmet laws at all. Experts in other studies have also found that when motorcycle crashes involve other vehicles, it’s often the non-motorcyclist who is at fault, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Here are some critical motorcycle safety tips for both motorcycle riders, and those who share the road with them:
For Other Drivers
Motorcycles are much smaller than four-wheeled cars and trucks. Drivers should provide extra room between themselves and motorcyclists.
Provide ample stopping space at traffic signs and signals when a motorcyclist is ahead.
Anticipate the motorcyclist may move or change lanes.
Check blind spots: Motorcyclists are often not seen by drivers because they are obstructed by the vehicle's’ blind spot, or other cars on the road.
Stay vigilant and remove distractions: Don’t text, make phone calls, or do any other activity that may take your attention away from driving.
Use Gear: Helmets are imperative for motorcycle safety and can help prevent loss of life. In 2016, 1,876 motorcyclists killed in crashes were not wearing a helmet, according to the National Safety Council.
Helmets safe for wearing are approved by the Department of Safety and include a DOT sticker. New helmets are safer than used ones.
Choose bikes that fit you properly and that contain anti-lock brakes.
Know the Rules of the Road and utilize motorcycle safety courses, as well as refresher courses.
Never ride impaired by drugs or alcohol; don’t speed
Assume other motorists can’t see you: Use headlights at all times; don’t weave throughout traffic or ride on shoulders; wear bright and reflective clothing, goggles or face shield and boots that cover the ankles
Use defensive driving techniques, and take extra precaution at intersections, where the chance for crashes increases
Watch for and avoid dangerous debris or roadway hazards like potholes, gravel, railroad tracks and oil slicks
Riding with passengers is different than riding alone and requires more skill