Texas Motorcycle Drivers Have a Greater Risk of Suffering Death or Serious Injury Compared to Drivers of Other Vehicles
Riding a motorcycle – especially when you hit the open road – can be a freeing experience. But that doesn’t mean that there are no risks, especially when other vehicles are near.
According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, there were 335,361 motorcycles registered in Texas in 2021 and the total number of motor vehicles registered that years was over 25 million.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2022, motorcycle accidents in Texas resulted in 562 motorcycle rider deaths, and 2,422 motorcycle riders suffered serious injuries. That works out to more than one motorcycle operator/rider a death per day. In total, 4,489 people died on Texas roadways in 2021 – and increase of more than 15% from 2020.
Although Texas motorcycle riders make up less than 2% of the motor vehicles on Texas roads, motorcycle riders account for between 10-15% of all deaths caused by crashes on Texas roads in any given year. These percentages are largely consistent over time, as a 2016 report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute analyzing multiple years of data regarding motorcycle crashes in Texas provided similar data for the time period of 2010-2015.
Unfortunately, these statistics are not unique to Texas, as numerous studies have found that there is a significantly greater risk of serious injury or death for motorcycle drivers compared to drivers of other vehicles throughout the United States and other countries. For the United States as a whole, the rate of motorcycle fatalities per vehicle mile traveled is 26 times than the rate of passenger car occupants, and overall injury rates for motorcycle passengers per vehicle mile traveled are five times higher than passenger car occupants.
Why are motorcycle operators and riders more likely to be injured or killed in an accident?
1. Motorcycles Lack the Structural Protections and Safety Features of Passenger Vehicles.
The most obvious answer to why motorcycle drivers and passengers are at a higher risk to suffer serious injury or death from an accident is because of the structural differences between a motorcycle and other vehicles. Compared to motorcycles, cars and other vehicles are heavier. Unlike motorcycles, cars and other vehicles fully enclose drivers and passengers, resulting in a lower possibility of direct exposure to contact with the road or another vehicle in an accident. Cars and other vehicles have seatbelts while motorcycles do not, making motorcycle drivers and passengers more likely to be thrown from the vehicle in an accident. Because of their design, motorcycles also lack the safety technology which protects drivers of cars and most other vehicles such as airbags, automatic braking, lane assist, and similar safety features. So the chances are good that if a motorcycle is hit by a car or truck, or if an operator is forced off the road attempting to avoid a collision with a vehicle or other object, his or her injuries will be more severe.
The findings of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute support these conclusions. According to the report, 28% of Texas motorcycle crashes were reported to involve a serious injury, compared to 4% of non-motorcycle crashes. Similarly, only 11% of the motorcycle crashes examined in the report involved reported property damage only without bodily injury, compared to 61% of non-motorcycle crashes in Texas over the same time period which resulted in reported property damage only with no bodily injury.
2. Other Drivers May Have Trouble Seeing Motorcycles and Accurately Predicting their Movements.
Additionally, because motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles, they may not be spotted as easily by other drivers – and this is a significant concern. Even though the blind spots on cars are smaller than they are for trucks, motorcycles are still small enough to fit in them. If a driver is drunk or impaired, distracted, or speeding, he or she may not see the motorcycle (this is true even if it is not in the blind spot) and may not check those blind spots before merging, turning, or entering/exiting a roadway.
Similarly, because motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles, they may be harder for other drivers to see at intersections. Moreover, some motorcycles in Texas do not have turn signals, as Texas law does not require motorcycles to have them. Because of this, Texas motorcycle riders are at a higher risk of being involved in crashes caused by another driver being unable to see a motorcycle or accurately understand and anticipate where the motorcycle is going, particularly if the other driver is intoxicated or distracted.
The research of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute seems to also support these findings. For the motorcycle crash data reviewed in preparing its 2016 report, just over half of all Texas motorcycle crashes involved collisions with another vehicle, with 90% of those crashes involving a passenger vehicle. When those crashes took place at an intersection, the most common crash was caused by the failure to yield right-of-way at an intersection while one vehicle was going straight and the other was turning. This specific scenario accounted for over 20% of all intersection crashes between a motorcycle and another type of vehicle.
3. Motorcycle Riders and Passengers in TX are at a Higher Risk of Being Injured or Killed in a DUI Crash than Passenger Vehicle Occupants
Some of the more unexpected findings from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute regarding motorcycle crashes relate to the unique dangers faced by motorcycle drivers and passengers in relation to DUI crashes. According to the crash data analyzed for the report, the vast majority of DUI crashes causing severe injuries occur between the hours of 6 P.M. and 3 A.M. During these hours, 65% of all Texas DUI crashes resulting in serious injury occurred. The percentage of Texas DUI crashes involving motorcycles resulting in serious injury during these same hours was 77%.
For Texas DUI crashes causing serious injury which did not involve motorcycles steadily increased from the hours of 6 P.M. to 3 A.M., peaking around 3 A.M. However, for Texas DUI crashes involving motorcycles, the crashes causing serious injury were evenly distributed between the hours of 6 P.M. and 3 A.M. The data seems to suggest that the overall frequency of Texas DUI crashes causing severe injuries for all vehicles increases as the evening turns to night due to more alcohol being consumed as the night goes on resulting in higher levels of intoxication and higher numbers of intoxicated drivers on the road, peaking in the hours between 2 A.M. to 3 A.M. when motorists head home after the bars and other drinking establishments have closed.
Presumably, one would also expect DUI crashes resulting in serious injury involving motorcycles to follow this broader pattern. However, the data for motorcycle crashes does not follow this pattern, and DUI crashes involving motorcycles resulting in serious injuries are uniformly distributed over the hours between 6 P.M. and 3 A.M. rather than increasing. This suggests that while alcohol is an increased risk for severe injury car crashes in Texas for both motorcycles and other vehicles, the extra risk of being on the road later around more intoxicated drivers may be more statistically significant for passenger cars than motorcycles in Texas. This does not mean that a motorcyclist driving in Texas between 2 A.M. and 3 A.M. has a lower chance of being seriously injured by a collision with a drunk driver than a passenger vehicle. It could mean that because motorcyclists in Texas already face significantly higher statistical risks of serious injury from a car accident than drivers of passenger vehicles, they take on less relative additional risk of being injured in an accident by driving between 2 A.M. and 3 A.M. than the relative additional risk of being injured that a driver of a passenger vehicle takes on by doing the same thing.
This possible explanation seems to be supported by the report’s other surprising finding that showed no correlation between DUI crashes involving motorcycles and geographic proximity to a bar, liquor store, or other establishment where alcohol is sold. Before analyzing the data, the authors of the report hypothesized that there would be a clear relationship between geographic proximity to alcohol vendors and DUI accidents involving motorcycles. This would make sense logically, as one would expect a higher concentration of both intoxicated motorcyclists and intoxicated passenger car drivers closer to bars and liquor stores, making it more likely that motorcyclists would be involved in DUI accidents within a close geographic proximity to these establishments. However, the data showed no statistically significant relationship between the rate of DUI accidents involving motorcycles and distance from alcohol vendors. Again, one possible explanation for these surprising results is that because motorcyclists already have a statistically much higher risk of being involved in a crash than a passenger vehicle, the relative additional risk taken by a motorcyclist from driving near an alcohol vendor is less than the relative additional risk of a crash taken by a passenger car driver by doing the same thing.
What to do after a Houston motorcycle accident
The very first thing to do after a motorcycle accident in Houston is seek medical attention. That could mean calling 9-1-1 or getting to a doctor or hospital in some other way. Even if you don’t think you are injured, you should still seek medical advice because some injuries may take longer to who symptoms. For example, brain trauma may be visible through tests, but you might not experience all of your symptoms right away. The delay in diagnosis and treatment could lead to a longer recovery time.
Do I need a Houston motorcycle accident if I was injured in a crash?
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident in Texas due to the fault of someone else, there will likely be a need to deal with the insurance company of the at-fault driver. Generally speaking, it is probably a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable Houston personal injury attorney as early in the process as possible before dealing with the insurance company to make sure your interests are being represented and you are not being taken advantage of by the insurance company during a difficult time.
You will also want an attorney in case the insurance company refuses to pay or tries to offer you an unfair settlement. Having a Houston motorcycle accident lawyer by your side means you will have an advocate. The most severe injuries – like traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, and so forth – may leave you with mounting medical bills and no ability to work. You may lose your health insurance if it is tied to your job. Your attorney can help you seek damages for:
- Your medical costs
- Your loss of income and potential earnings
- Your pain and suffering, both physical and mental
- Your property damage
- Physical impairment
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of services
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a motorcycle crash due to someone else’s fault, contact us today for a free consultation to discuss how we may be able to help you and what you can do to obtain the maximum recovery you are entitled to by Texas law.
The Kishinevsky Law Firm is a personal injury law firm in the greater Houston area. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or died as a result of a motorcycle accident caused by someone else, contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.
In April 2015, Leonid Kishinevsky started the Kishinevsky Law Firm, focusing his practice primarily on personal injury litigation. As a personal injury lawyer providing representation to clients throughout the greater Houston area, he assists people who have suffered economic and noneconomic losses and harms due to the fault of other people or companies.