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Roadside barriers, such as guardrails, are designed to provide protection for vehicles to keep them from running off the roadway or bridge and prevent collisions with trees and other obstacles. Unfortunately, guardrails can also pose a danger to operators of motorcycles. As Joplin personal injury attorneys know, if a motorcycle strikes a guardrail, it is very likely that the rider will be thrown from their bike and seriously injured.

Fatal guardrail accidents

A study of fatal motorcycle collisions with guardrails in the U.S. was conducted several years ago. Motorcycle collisions were found to be the leading source of fatalities in guardrail crashes. In 2005, motorcycle riders suffered more fatalities than passengers of cars. Furthermore, motorcycle riders are dramatically more likely to die from an impact with a guardrail. From 2000-2005, the number of car passengers who were fatally injured in guardrail collisions decreased by 31% from 251 to 171 deaths. On the other hand, the number of motorcyclists fatally injured in guardrail crashes increased by 73% from 129 to 224 fatalities during that same time period.
While guardrails certainly save many lives and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries for many, they can pose a safety risk to motorcyclists. A motorcyclist was fatally injured last year in Florida after he crashed into a guardrail.  He had difficulty maneuvering on a left curve and went off the road, crashing into the guardrail and ejecting him from his motorcycle.  Although he was wearing a motorcycle helmet, his injuries were too severe.

Guardrail designs may be defective according to some studies

The results of several nationwide studies have raised serious concerns about the real safety of these devices. According to one study, the new design of some guardrail terminals may be more likely to lead to serious injury or death. The guardrail “terminals” or “heads” are the start and end pieces of the metal guardrail. The purpose of these terminals is to absorb the energy from the impact of a vehicle. Yet, according to widespread news reports, the new guardrail terminal design has been piercing through vehicles. You can only imagine what happens to a motorcyclist.

Handling unexpected corners on your motorcycle

Motorcyclists far too often find themselves trying to negotiate a curve only to realize they may not be able to make it around successfully. The best way to handle this situation is to straighten up, taking as much lean out of the bike as much as possible, and try to control the bike as smoothly as possible.  The best way to avoid this situation is to only ride as fast as you can see the road ahead of you.  The key is to give yourself sufficient time to see and respond to the visual clues that suggest the road’s direction.

Riding a motorcycle generally leads to a higher risk of injury

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, in 2011 that 4,612 motorcyclists were killed in accidents. This was an increase of 2 percent from the 4,518 motorcyclists killed in 2010.  Another study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), reported that also in 2011, Arkansas reported 60 motorcycle accidents and 77 in Missouri.

Why motorcycles are so different from cars

One obvious reason that motorcyclists are at higher risk of injury is because of the nature of a motorcycle. As Joplin personal injury attorneys understand, motorcyclists are more exposed to injury literally because they lack any substantial protective barrier between themselves and the road or any obstacles they hit. Another unique factor is that most other motorists are not used to anticipating or looking for a motorcycle. Due to the minimal safety features that are provided by passenger vehicles (e.g., seatbelts, airbags, and a metal frame), motorcyclists usually suffer more extensive, and often catastrophic, injuries.

Steps you can take to protect yourself

Luckily, there are steps you can take as a motorcyclist to help reduce the risk of being injured in a collision. The first step is to take good care of your motorcycle.  The better you maintain your vehicle the less likely the bike itself will be the cause of an accident. Also, wearing protective clothing and equipment cannot be overlooked.  Since motorcycles provide no outer protection, gear like a helmet, goggles, boots, gloves and other protective clothing are crucial for protecting your skin and body in an accident. All Joplin personal injury attorneys can tell you that protecting yourself is the key to limiting injuries.

Tips for avoiding motorcycle accidents

It is important for motorcyclists to be seen and heard by other motorists around them. You can do this by keeping your lights on so you are more visible.  Never hesitate to use your horn to signal other motorists and help them to recognize where you are.  Again, stay watchful in turns and curves and avoid heavy traffic when at all possible.  If you cannot avoid multi-lane interstates, the safest place to be is in the far left lane.  That way you have a better opportunity to avoid merging and exiting traffic.
If you have questions regarding motorcycle accidents or any other personal injury concerns, contact us online or call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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