Kansas City Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

Missouri’s Record Motorcycle Fatalities in 2023: A Call for Enhanced Safety Measures

Motorcycles bring a thrill and a sense of freedom, yet they carry significant risks. Motorcyclists face a much higher risk of fatal accident injuries than those traveling in passenger vehicles because motorcycles are less stable and less visible and when they crash, motorcyclists lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle. Despite these inherent risks, only 17 states and the District of Columbia mandate helmet use by all riders. At Kendall Law Group LLC, as committed Kansas City Motorcycle Accident Injury & Wrongful Death Trial Lawyers, we prioritize your safety and always advocate for helmet use.

Missouri’s Motorcycle Helmet Laws and Their Impact

The issue of motorcycle safety urgently needs attention in Missouri, particularly after a concerning rise in fatalities in 2023, despite a general decline in statewide traffic deaths. This increase follows the relaxation of helmet laws in Missouri beginning in August 2020 under Statute 302.026. Citing “personal freedom,” this law now permits motorcyclists over the age of 26 with health insurance to ride without helmets. Since this legislative change, we have observed a worrying increase in motorcycle fatalities:

2019106 Deaths
2020111 Deaths
2021151 Deaths
2022153 Deaths
2023175 Deaths
Missouri Motorcycle Fatalities by Year

In 2023 alone, the Missouri Department of Transportation noted a 14% increase from the previous year and an almost 57% increase since 2020.

The Unquestionable Importance of Helmets

Evidence strongly supports helmets in reducing motorcycle fatalities and head injuries. Studies show helmets reduce the death risk by 37% for riders and 41% for passengers and decrease the risk of head injuries by about 69%. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motorcycle crash injuries and deaths are preventable, with a state universal helmet law as the single most effective way to save lives and save costs related to motorcycle crash injuries. Their research shows that the United States could save $1.5 billion in economic costs if all motorcyclists wore helmets.

Motorcycle Helmet Myths v. Facts

A 2021 Micodothelmet.co article investigated why individuals do not wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, highlighting some common helmet myths:

Myth: Motorcycle helmets affect peripheral vision.  

Facts: Most standard motorcycle helmets are designed to not obstruct peripheral vision. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, motorcycle helmets are required to allow for a minimum of 105 degrees of peripheral vision from the center of the face. Most human peripheral vision spans approximately 180 degrees, and the typical helmet design accommodates this by not covering this range.

Myth: Motorcycle helmets make it impossible to hear street sounds.

Facts: While it’s true that helmets can muffle sound slightly, they do not significantly impair the ability to hear important traffic noises. Research indicates that the primary factor that affects the ability to hear traffic sounds is the noise from the wind and the motorcycle itself, rather than the helmet. Helmets can help by reducing the wind noise, thereby allowing riders to hear more relevant sounds.

Myth: In a crash, helmets cause neck and spine injuries.

Facts: Studies have consistently shown that wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces the risk of head and brain injuries and does not increase the risk of neck or spine injuries. The weight of a helmet is relatively small compared to the human head and is not enough to increase the risk of neck injuries in most crash scenarios.

Myth: Helmet laws violate individual constitutional rights.

Facts: Courts have generally upheld motorcycle helmet laws as a valid exercise of state power, intended to protect the safety of motorcyclists and the general public. The U.S. Supreme Court and other courts have found that these laws do not violate constitutional rights, as they are designed to mitigate the public expense of accidents involving unhelmeted riders and to enhance public health and safety.

Myth: “If I kill myself, it is my business, only I will harm myself.”

Facts: Choosing not to wear a motorcycle helmet has consequences that extend beyond the individual rider. In the event of a crash, the injuries sustained by helmetless riders are generally more severe, leading to higher medical costs which often involve public funds, especially in systems with public healthcare coverage. Additionally, severe injuries can lead to long-term disabilities that require ongoing care, which can be a financial and emotional burden on families and society. There are also broader implications such as increased insurance premiums and potential losses in workforce productivity. Thus, the decision to not wear a helmet impacts more than just the individual rider.

Myth: Motorcycles make up a small percentage of registered vehicles, making motorcycle accidents a small burden on society.

Facts: While motorcycles do constitute a smaller percentage of total vehicles on the road, their involvement in fatal crashes is disproportionately high. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycles represent about 3% of all registered vehicles in the United States but account for a significantly higher percentage of traffic fatalities. The risks associated with motorcycle accidents include higher medical expenses, increased insurance premiums, and significant impacts on emergency services and healthcare systems. Thus, the societal burden of motorcycle accidents is more substantial than the raw numbers might suggest.

Exploring Factors Behind Motorcycle Accidents

Several factors contribute to motorcycle accidents, involving complex interactions between the rider, the environment, and other vehicles. Key factors include:

  • Visibility Issues: Motorcycles’ smaller size increases risks, especially at intersections or in poor weather.
  • High Speed: Excessive speeding reduces a rider’s ability to react and increases crash severity.
  • Rider Inexperience: Novice riders often struggle with complex traffic situations or emergency maneuvers.
  • Impairment: Alcohol or drugs severely impair a motorcyclist’s judgment and reaction abilities.
  • Challenging Road Conditions: Hazards like potholes, uneven surfaces, or debris pose significant risks.
  • Adverse Weather: Conditions like rain or fog can severely impact visibility and road grip.
  • Non-use of Protective Gear: Skipping helmets or other safety gear increases injury severity.
  • Left-Turn Collisions: Misjudgments in speed or presence by other vehicles can lead to accidents.
  • Lane Splitting: This practice can be dangerous if not performed safely or if it’s illegal.
  • Mechanical Failures: Poor maintenance can lead to critical failures resulting in accidents.

Safety Tips for Motorcyclists

Here are some safety tips that can help motorcyclists stay protected on the roads:

  • Wear a Helmet: Always use a DOT-approved helmet.
  • Use Proper Gear: Wear gloves, boots, and protective jackets and pants.
  • Be Visible: Wear bright or reflective clothing and keep your headlights on.
  • Follow Traffic Rules: Obey traffic laws, ride at safe speeds, and signal your intentions.
  • Ride Sober: Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Take a Motorcycle Safety Course: Learn advanced defensive riding techniques.
  • Perform Regular Maintenance: Regularly check and maintain your motorcycle.
  • Use Defensive Riding Strategies: Be cautious at intersections and near larger vehicles.
  • Avoid Bad Weather: Try to avoid riding in poor weather conditions.
  • Plan Your Route: Avoid heavy traffic areas and poorly maintained roads.
  • Stay Focused: Avoid distractions and stay alert.
  • Practice Good Lane Positioning: Keep a safe distance and stay visible to other drivers.

How to Keep Bikers Safe: Tips for Motorists

To enhance road safety, motorists must adopt practices that ensure biker safety. Important tips include:

  • Check Your Blind Spots: Always be thorough before changing lanes or merging.
  • Maintain a Safe Following Distance: Give yourself and the motorcyclist ample time to react.
  • Use Signals Early: Signal well in advance to inform motorcyclists of your next move.
  • Be Cautious at Intersections: Look twice for motorcycles at stops or when turning.
  • Respect Motorcycle Lane Rights: Never share a lane with a motorcycle.
  • Be Extra Careful in Poor Weather: Allow more following distance in adverse weather.
  • Watch for Turning Motorcycles: Note that motorcyclists may slow down without activating brake lights.
  • Avoid Distractions: Stay focused on the road.
  • Understand Motorcycle Signals: Ensure a motorcycle has completed its maneuver before you proceed.
  • Be Patient: Understand motorcyclists may need to adjust speed or position.
  • Educate Yourself and Others: Raise awareness about motorcycle safety.

Missouri’s motorcycle riders face increased dangers on the road, particularly since the amendment of helmet laws. It’s imperative for all road users to adopt more stringent safety practices and for riders to consider the potentially life-saving benefits of wearing a helmet. At Kendall Law Group LLC, we’re committed to supporting our community in fostering safer roads and providing skilled and compassionate legal representation to the victims of motorcycle accident injuries. If you’re seeking guidance after a motorcycle accident, please contact us.

The surge in motorcycle-related fatalities in Missouri highlights the critical need for increased safety and responsibility among riders and drivers alike.

Let’s work together to enhance road safety in Missouri. Remember, your choices can save lives.

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