An average of 72 motorcycle riders and passengers are killed on Maryland roads every year, while more than 1,400 are injured. According to police reports, almost half of the motorcycle accidents in Maryland do not involve another vehicle, with speeding and driving under the influence being the top causes of fatal crashes.
However, motorcycle riders in Maryland can prevent such accidents from happening by wearing proper safety gear and equipping themselves with the right knowledge and skills needed to ride a motorcycle. Motorcycle accidents may not be entirely avoidable, but with the appropriate protective clothing and right knowledge about safe riding, the likelihood of death can be reduced and the severity of injuries can be lessened.
Motorcycle accidents in Maryland
According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), for four years beginning in 2013, the number of fatalities from motorcycle accidents in Maryland had been steadily increasing. From 62 deaths in 2013, the numbers reached a period high of 85 deaths by 2017.
Both speeding and driving under the influence (DUI) are the leading causes of motorcycle accident deaths in Maryland. Over the years, these two have cost the lives of many Maryland riders, which is why it is important to remember that going too fast and riding while drunk is not only illegal but also fatal.
However, speeding and DUI are common not only in Maryland but also across many states. In 2016, 33% of fatalities from motorcycle accidents in the United States involved speeding, while 25% of motorcycle accident deaths involved drunk riders. Of these deaths, 7% involved riders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.01% and 0.07%.
Other causes of motorcycle accidents in Maryland
Despite the low number of motorcycles on Maryland roads compared to any other type of vehicle, data from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) reveal that there are approximately 1,500 motorcycle accidents that happen in Maryland every year.
The highest number of total crashes occurred in 2014 when 66 motorcycle riders were killed and 1,186 were injured. However, the deadliest year overall was 2017 when 85 people lost their lives in 83 fatal crashes.
Aside from speeding and drunk driving, there are other reasons why motorcycle accidents continue to happen in Maryland. These include:
• Lane splitting
Lane splitting is when a motorcycle rider passes between two lanes of traffic, often when vehicles are stopped at a red light or traffic is moving slowly. However, despite being illegal in Maryland, many motorcycle riders still practice this dangerous maneuver, often risking their lives in the process.
• Road hazards and unfavorable weather conditions
Riders should always watch out for any road hazard such as debris, potholes, and uneven pavement. If possible, riding in bad weather should also be avoided because wet roads are significantly more dangerous for motorcycles than typical four-wheeled vehicles.
• Sudden and improper lane changes
Motorcycles are smaller than any other type of vehicle, making them less visible to other motorists on the road. If another driver misses the presence of a motorcycle rider when changing lanes, an accident is likely to occur.
• Rear-end crashes
Rear-end collisions often happen when a motorcycle is too close behind another vehicle or if another vehicle is too close behind a motorcycle. When either vehicle suddenly brakes, the driver behind may find it difficult to avoid the vehicle in front, thereby causing a rear-end accident.
• Cars turning left
Accidents involving cars turning left usually occur when a car hits a motorcycle going straight through an intersection, passing the car, or trying to overtake the car. Because of a motorcycle’s size, the other driver may not even see the approaching motorcycle, so in this situation, it is the responsibility of the motorcycle rider to anticipate what the other driver is going to do and to leave enough room between the motorcycle and the other vehicle.
• Defective motorcycle parts
Sometimes, motorcycle accidents are caused by manufacturing mistakes such as faulty components and poor design. In such cases, an injured rider may hold the motorcycle’s manufacturer liable for the accident.
Factors that contribute to motorcycle accidents in Maryland
According to the MVA, certain factors increase the likelihood of motorcycle accidents. These include:
The MVA reports that most motorcycle accidents in Maryland occur during the warmer months from April to October, with the cases at peak during June, August, and September. The motorcycle accidents become less frequent once the colder weather sets in.
The MVA also found that motorcycle accidents are more likely to happen from Friday to Sunday, with 50% of all life-threatening accidents occurring during Saturdays and Sundays.
Time of day
According to the MVA, 40% of the nearly 1,500 motorcycle accidents recorded in 2017 occurred between 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, with the most fatal ones happening during the early evening hours.
Age and gender
In Maryland, most riders who got into motorcycle accidents from 2013 to 2017 are young adults and middle-aged men who are 25 to 49 years old. On average, about 134 riders who are injured and 27 who are killed are males who belong to this age bracket. But while men are more likely to get involved in a motorcycle accident, female passengers are injured and killed more. From 2013 until 2017, 88.9% and 90% of female passengers were injured and killed, respectively.
Maryland highways have one of the highest rates of motorcycle accidents across all states, with around 54% of all road mishaps occurring on these thoroughfares. These route types also have the highest number of both rider and passenger injuries and fatalities.
Areas in Maryland where most motorcycle accidents occur
Of all the motorcycle accidents in Maryland from 2012 until 2016, 28% occurred on country roads while 33.9% percent occurred on state routes. Motorcycle accidents also occur in Maryland parking lots, accounting for 25 cases each year.
The MVA also reported that from 2013 to 2017, the majority of motorcycle accidents in Maryland happened in urban areas, with the Baltimore metropolitan area recording 47.2% of all crashes. The area includes Baltimore City and the counties of Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford, and Howard.
Meanwhile, 32.1% of the motorcycle accidents in Maryland during the same four-year period happened in the Washington metropolitan area which is comprised of the counties of Charles, Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George.
Maryland’s helmet law
Maryland has been implementing a universal helmet law since 1992 which requires all riders to wear a helmet while they are riding on public roads.
Moreover, the helmets must also be approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) following Section 21-1306 of the Transportation Article of the Maryland Code. Aside from being DOT-approved, the helmets must also meet the requirements of Maryland’s MVA which uses the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 as its minimum standard for compliant helmets.
In addition to this, it is also mandatory for motorcycle riders in Maryland to wear eye protection such as goggles and face shields if their motorcycles are not equipped with a law-compliant windshield. The goggles or face shield should be non-tinted and must comply with impact-resistance regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If the motorcycle already has a windshield installed, it must be securely fastened to the motorcycle at a height that will protect the eyes and face while the rider is sitting upright on the motorcycle.