3 Questionable Things Riders Do That Can Lead to a Motorcycle Accident
Motorcyclists are required to obey the same traffic laws as other motorists. There are some laws intended specifically for Colorado motorcyclists, and although some of these regulations seem to encourage dangerous behavior on the part of motorcyclists, they remain in effect.
Riding Without a Helmet
Head injury remains the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. Experts estimate that 715 lives could be saved across the nation each year if all motorcyclists would wear helmets, but in spite of overwhelming evidence that wearing a motorcycle helmet can decrease the severity of injuries and prevent deaths, many states have scaled back on motorcycle helmet use laws during the past three decades.
Currently, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws, which require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet. It is legal for adults to ride a motorcycle without a helmet in Colorado, although all operators and passengers under 18 years of age are required to wear helmets that comply with the standards established by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Three states, Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire, do not require motorcycle helmets for riders of any age.
Lane splitting, which is operating a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic, is illegal in Colorado, although riding two abreast in a single lane (co-riding) is allowed in the state. Critics of lane splitting say the possibility of a car changing lanes, cutting off a motorcycle, and causing an accident make the maneuver extremely dangerous, but not everyone agrees. In 2011, the Motorcycle Industry Council issued a statement supporting state laws that allow lane splitting under certain conditions, such as heavy traffic in urban areas.
According to a May 2015 report published by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center at the University of California Berkeley, motorcyclists who practice lane splitting in heavy traffic situations are much less likely to:
- Be hit from behind by other motorists.
- Sustain head or trunk injuries.
- Suffer fatal injuries in an accident.
California is currently the only state without a law to prohibit lane splitting, and in 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law allowing the California Highway Patrol to develop guidelines for the practice.
Big Is Not Necessarily Better
In the U.S., as soon as a rider gets his motorcycle endorsement, he is free to ride as large and powerful a motorcycle as he chooses, while in other countries such as the United Kingdom, riders are required to begin on a smaller bike and work their way up.
While new riders overconfident in their abilities often choose a big motorcycle to compensate for their inexperience, large motorcycles can weigh more than 700 pounds, making them much harder to handle in slippery conditions and when making tight maneuvers. The greater torque of a bigger and more powerful engine also requires a higher level of skill that most new riders don’t yet possess, and even a small twist on the throttle could result in disaster.
When it comes to motorcycle safety in Colorado, there is just no substitute for a little common sense, even if the law does not require it. But fortunately, there is no law against being a safe and conscientious motorcyclist.