Spring Checklist

Spring Motorcycle Readiness Checklist

A spring look at risk and how to assess the real dangers of the road

It's been a really long winter. Fortunately, we have motorcycle shows, magazines and websites to keep us thinking about the first ride. Is this your springtime checklist?

  • Brakes in good shape?
  • Tires?
  • Insurance and license tabs up to date?
  • Helmet?

As a lawyer who has represented clients involved in motorcycle crashes for nearly 20 years, I've helped victims who were and weren't wearing helmets. I've seen significant crashes with no helmet yielding no head injury whatsoever. I have also seen crashes where the helmet flew off on impact.

My goal is to represent the injured person, making sure that the responsible party, insurance companies and law enforcement agencies fulfill their duties. Working with clients, I don't interject my opinions regarding helmet usage. It's clearly a personal choice.

Knowing and assessing the risk of motorcycle riding requires personal judgment. Fortunately, state and federal government agencies provide more data than ever, not just about motorcycles, but about distracted drivers and intoxicated drivers as well. Regardless of how long you've been riding, think about the risk you bring to yourself, your family and also your equipment. We share the road with others.

The State of Minnesota's Office of Traffic Safety reported these stats from 2011:

  • 72,117 crashes
    • The most common factors in 2011 all crashes are in order of frequency:
    • driver inattention/distraction; failure to yield right-of-way, and illegal or unsafe speed.
  • 368 fatalities involve motorists
    (271); motorcyclists (42); pedestrians (40); bicyclists (5); ATV riders (8); and farm equipment occupants (2).
  • 30, 295 injuries, of which 1,159 were severe, life-altering injuries.
    261 deaths (71 percent) occurred in the 80 counties of greater Minnesota, while 107 deaths (29 percent) occurred in the Twin Cities' seven-county metro area.
  • Driver-distraction related crashes resulted in 72 deaths.
  • Speed-related crashes resulted in 83 deaths.

It's sobering that in Minnesota, motorcycle deaths account for more than 11 percent of the total, about 2.5 percent below the national average. Yet, we still need to remind drivers to "Start Seeing Motorcycles." In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that motorcycle travel only represents about 1 percent of all national traffic.

The CDC's 2012 report tallied a helmet's financial impact in a motorcycle crash:

"Costs saved were estimated to be $1,212,800 per fatality, $171,753 per serious injury, and $7,523 per minor injury (in year 2010 dollars) (NHTSA, unpublished data, 2012). Costs saved included injury-related costs (e.g., medical and emergency services costs, household, and work productivity losses) and excluded costs (e.g., property damage and travel delay).

Nearly 40 percent of motorcycle crashes involve riders 40 years and older. It goes without saying, but a recent study shows that "Baby Boomers" have a harder time rebounding from injuries and are more likely to suffer serious back and neck trauma than younger riders. I've seen that in my practice too.

A footnote in the CDC's report: As of April 2012, 19 states and the District of Columbia had universal helmet laws, 28 states had partial helmet laws, and three states had no helmet law. Minnesota and Wisconsin require helmet usage for those riding with an instructional permit or under age 18. However, when traveling, make sure you know what each state requires before you set out.

As for eye protection, well that's a no brainer!