The Colorado Department of Transportation has a new campaign urging drivers to look twice for motorcycles on the road. There have been 52 motorcycle fatalities so far this year the year — 12 just since June. Last year, 92 motorcyclists were killed on Colorado roads.

Although motorcycles make up just 3 percent of all vehicles on the road, they account for 18 percent of the overall fatalities. Per mile traveled, fatal motorcyclist accidents occur about 26 times more frequently than fatal car accidents.

Who’s At Fault?

Motorcyclists traveling on the scenic roads of Colorado are more prone to make sharp turns and get distracted by surrounding landscapes. More than 64 percent of all motorcycle accidents are the fault of the motorcyclists themselves, who were driving recklessly or under the influence. In 2012, nearly 40 percent of the 75 motorcyclists who were killed on Colorado roads had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.

Speeding is one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents, because speeding drivers do not have time to slow down or react to vehicles around them, particularly motorcycles that may be difficult to see because of their size. Many motorcycle accidents involving speeding drivers result in serious or even fatal injuries, since motorcycles offer little or no protection to riders in the event of a crash.

Helmet Laws

Despite overwhelming evidence that motorcycle helmets reduce accident injuries and deaths, U.S. state legislatures have scaled back on motorcycle helmet use laws during the past 30 years, and currently only 19 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws, which require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Three states — Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire — have no motorcycle helmet use laws whatsoever.

Colorado is one of 28 states that does not require motorcyclists 18 years or older to wear helmets. Head injury remains the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes, and it is estimated that 715 lives could be saved across the nation each year if all motorcyclists would wear helmets.

Driver Inattention

Drivers who are preoccupied on their cell phones also put motorcyclists in jeopardy and cause deadly accidents. Under Colorado law, it’s illegal for drivers of all ages to text while driving, although drivers 18 years old and older are allowed to use cell phones to make calls during certain specific situations, such as to report an accident, criminal activity, or reckless driving.

Drivers using their smartphones aren’t just texting, they’re also emailing, surfing the Web, tweeting, and even video chatting, according to a survey commissioned by AT&T. The survey was conducted in conjunction with the company’s It Can Wait campaign, which was launched in 2010 to raise awareness about the dangers of using smartphones while driving.

According to the survey, texting is the most popular activity among distracted drivers, but one-third said that they emailed on their phones while driving, and one-tenth admitted that they were on Snapchat.

Image by Quinn Dombrowski

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