According to data from the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation, there are a number of factors that are the most common to both fatal and non-fatal single-vehicle motorcycle crashes in that state.
The top five are:
1. Failure to control the bike: This could include failure to negotiate a corner, crashes while attempting to stunt, wheelie, stoppie, etc.
2. Inattentive driving: this could include the rider taking their eyes off the road at a critical control point, such as entering a corner or allowing the distance to a vehicle ahead to get too small and being unable to stop.
3. Speed too fast for conditions: This can also be influenced by road conditions such as oil, gravel, sand or other material on the pavement, or overdriving the bike’s headlight at night or riding too fast in fog.
4. Driver condition: this might include incidents involving intoxicated or impaired operator.
5. Exceeding the speed limit: Speaks for itself.
Wisconsin is increasing efforts to improve motorcycle safety after seeing a 14.2 percent increase in the number of riders injured in 2012 single-unit motorcycle crashes compared to 2011. That represents a 17 percent increase over the rate a decade ago.
According to the state’s report, alcohol and/or excessive speed were the primary contributing factors in 56 percent of fatal single unit motorcycle crashes in 2012. There were 233 alcohol-related motorcycle crashes in the state in 2012. Of those, 82 percent occurred between the hours of 4 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Motorcycle/deer collisions are a particularly common event in the upper Midwest and in Wisconsin, 69.9 percent of such crashes resulted in death or injury for the motorcyclist.
Helmet use in Wisconsin is mandatory only under certain circumstances such as when the operator has a temporary permit. In 2012, 78 percent of riders fatally injured in Wisconsin motorcycle crashes were not wearing a helmet. State data shows that only 38 percent of riders involved in motorcycle crashes, fatal and non-fatal, were wearing a helmet.
Somewhat surprisingly, the report says 90 percent of motorcycle crashes occurred on dry pavement.
Another surprising statistic is that the largest increase in the number of fatal crashes occurred not among young, presumably less experienced riders, but rather among those over age 45.
This trend has been noted nationwide, as well and one theory holds that these riders are often people who rode motorcycles in their youth, left the sport for several years and then started riding again, with modern bikes that are larger and more powerful than what they may have ridden before.
This, the theory goes, may make them vulnerable to making mistakes due to that lack of familiarity with the newer equipment.
Some county sheriff’s departments are utilizing motorcycle safety grant funds from the state DOT to ramp up prevention and education efforts around the state in September. In Dane county, for example, outreach and education activities to prevent drunk driving, to encourage safe riding practices and teach about protective riding gear will be happening throughout the month of September.
For a PDF file of the Wisconsin motorcycle crash report, visit click here.