Motorcycle accidents make up seven to twelve percent of all the accidents that end in fatalities. While, initially, these statistics donít seem too bad, they become much larger when you realize that motorcycle riders only make up about two to four percent of the drivers in America. Iowa falls within these national statistics. In 2005 they had 45 fatal motorcycle accidents, which made up about ten percent of the total accidents that ended in fatalities. In 2006 there were 57 fatalities that made up thirteen percent of the total. Again, Iowa conforms with national averages. Motorcycle fatalities have risen every year for the past nine years to reach the highest levels since 1981.
Inherently, motorcycles are much less safe in a crash situation than most other motor vehicles. Safety features that are commonplace on passenger vehicles donít exist on motorcycles and scooters. Adding safety roll cages, side impact door beams, air bags and seat belts would make a motorcycle not a motorcycle anymore. Riders with little experience on a motorcycle and under-trained riders are most likely to have an accident. Most accidents give a driver less than two seconds to take avoidance actions.
Safety helmets are not required for all riders in Iowa. It is mandatory for riders under eighteen to wear helmets at all times, but all other riders can decide what is right for them. Riders must hold a valid driverís license and pass a written exam to gain a motorcycle permit. Iowa offers a motorcycle rider education program that covers items such as turning, riding in a straight line, shifting and stopping. Iowans under eighteen must take the course and pass a road skills test administered by the state to gain the endorsement. Those eighteen and over may be able to waive the road skills test with the completion of the education program.
There are many causes of motorcycle accidents beyond simple inexperience. About 75 percent of motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle. Drivers of passenger vehicles often do not see motorcyclists. Bikes are obviously much smaller than automobiles and, as a result, can be very hard to see. Most drivers of passenger vehicles that are involved in a wreck with a motorcycle claim not to have seen the rider. Intersections are the most dangerous places for motorcycle riders, as that is where most multi-vehicle accidents occur. According to Iowa law, headlights must be on at all times to help with visibility. It is also suggested that riders wear bright clothing to help them stand out from the landscape.
Surprisingly, weather is a factor in only about two percent of accidents. Vehicle failure, such as a gas leak or flat tire, accounts for about three percent. Roads full of potholes and uneven pavement cause about two percent and animals in the road count for about one percent. Almost half of all fatal motorcycle accidents, however, involve alcohol.
Motorcycle helmets are optional in Iowa for those 18 and over, as mentioned above. It is important to note, though, that the worst and deadliest injuries occur to the head, chest and neck in a motorcycle crash. It is estimated that 1, 658 lives were saved by helmets in 2006. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also estimates that another 752 lives could have been saved by helmets.
Iowa welcomes motorcyclists to cruise their highways and byways. There is a lot of peaceful countryside to ride through and experience. If you choose to ride a motorcycle in Iowa, be sure to obey all traffic laws, do not drink and drive, pay attention to what is happening around you and drive defensively at all times.
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