Riding a motorcycle presents more safety risks than driving a car, especially at night. This is true in Chicago just as it is everywhere else. In fact, around 80 percent of all motorcycle accidents result in injury or death, whereas only 20 percent of car accidents result in injury or death. However, many still ride their motorcycles, whether it is for enjoyment or better fuel efficiency.
The Dangers of Riding a Motorcycle
A motorcyclist, especially one without a helmet, is at greater risk of an injury when in an accident than a person driving a car. While many states have laws requiring helmet use, Illinois is one of three states with no helmet laws whatsoever for motorcyclists. Motorcycles are also more difficult to operate than cars and have a much higher fatality rate as well. According to a 2013 report released by the National Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA), the number of fatalities on motorcycles per mile traveled was more than 26 times that of the number fatalities in cars. Motorcyclists were also five times more likely to be injured in an accident than a driver or passenger of a car.
The Dangers of Riding a Motorcycle at Night
Considering how much more dangerous it is to ride a motorcycle than it is to drive a car, it can be even more dangerous to ride a motorcycle at night. According to the Department of Transportation, out of the 4,281 motorcycle fatalities reported in 2013, 2,047 occurred between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM. This is around 46 percent of all motorcycle fatalities, a huge number considering that more motorcyclists likely ride during the day. The risks increase for two primary reasons:
- Lowered visibility – not just for motorcyclists but for drivers as well – makes night-time driving more dangerous. Motorcycles smaller size make them more difficult to see on the road.
- Riding while drunk – Getting on the road while under the influence of alcohol isn’t just a problem for drivers, it’s a serious problem for motorcyclists as well – especially at night. According to the NTSA, 27 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal accidents in 2013 had a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level of over 0.08, which is above the legal level when operating a vehicle and is considered drunk driving. Motorcyclists killed while riding at night were around four times as likely to have a BAC of over 0.08 than those that were killed during the day.
Ways to Improve Motorcycle Safety at Night
While riding a motorcycle has its risks during the day, doing so at night increases those risks substantially. However dangerous night-time riding may be, there are ways of mitigating the risk. The following are a few safety precautions that motorcyclists should take in order to reduce the risk of riding at night:
- Adjust the motorcycle’s headlights – Most manufacturers will position the headlight at an angle that is lower than state law requires. In order to provide the motorcyclist with a better cone of vision the headlight needs to be adjusted in order to match the riding position and height of the motorcyclist. For most motorcyclists, raising the angle to the legal limit will provide them with the best vision at night. Doing so will help increase visibility at night for the motorcyclist as well as for any cars on the road.
- Wear more visible clothing – It’s much more difficult for car drivers to spot motorcyclists on the road at night. While the motorcycle’s headlights should provide amble warning, it’s a good idea for motorcyclists to wear a reflective jacket, such as a Hi-Vis reflective jacket, to make themselves more visible at night.
- Avoid alcohol use – It may seem like common sense not to ride a motorcycle after drinking, but a surprising number of people put themselves in the unfortunate position of riding their motorcycles at night after consuming alcohol.
- Don’t speed – Out of all of the motorcyclists that were involved in fatal motorcycle accidents in 2013, 34 percent of them were speeding. That’s a much higher than the 21 percent of drivers involved in fatal car accidents that were speeding.
The risk of getting into an accident increases substantially when riding at night in Chicago. Motorcyclists who feel like they cannot avoid riding their motorcycle at night or simply choose to do so anyway should make sure that they take as many safety precautions as possible. Unfortunately, doing so won’t eliminate the risk altogether. Motorcyclists that have been injured in a motorcycle accident, whether at night or during the day, should seek the assistance of a Chicago personal injury attorney.