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Motorcycle Accidents: A Historical View

Motorcycle accident lawyer

Motorcycles hold a special place in the fabric of Americana. Whether it’s Arnold Schwarzeneger playing a futuristic shot-gun toting cyborg or Tom Cruise racing a fighter jet down the runway, motorcycles add a level of coolness that can not be duplicated. I have witnessed our local motorcycle club racing across the Newport Bridge on a number of occasions. Seeing someone going 70 mph on one wheel is something you don’t easily forget.

Developed around the same time as the automobile, motorcycles provide a less expensive means of transportation. One of the earliest motorcycle developers was a German engineer named Gottlieb Daimler. In 1885, he mounted an internal gas-powered combustion engine he had invented onto a bicycle. His first model did not have a moveable steering wheel and instead relied on a form of training wheels to hold the bike upright during turns. While Mr. Daimler’s motorcycle design did not stand the test of time, his automobile efforts proved more popular. Mr. Daimler was one of the founding partners of Mercedes-Benz. At the dawn of the 20th Century, American engineers began producing motorcycles. In 1903, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company was formed. William Harley and the Davidson brothers produced a reliable bike that could travel at 25 miles per hour, an un-heard of speed at the time.

World War I launched motorcycle production into the stratosphere. Manufacturing numbers jumped from several hundred a month to several thousand. The United States Army alone ordered around 80,000 motorcycles from manufacturers all over the country. While Harley-Davidson was the preferred bike of the military, other manufactures such as Indian Motorcycle produced thousands of bikes to meet war-time demand.

Veterans returning from the battle fields of Europe fueled a post- war boom for motorcycles. Having experiencing the thrill of riding a bike first hand, soldiers purchased thousands of bikes for use in civilian life. This scenario repeated itself on a larger scale 30 years later during and after the Second World War. Starting in the 1940’s, the motorcycle culture came into its own in the United States. Hollywood both glamorized and vilified motorcycles and the people who ride them. For every “Easy Rider” film that was released, there was invariably a “Wild One” counter-part. Ridership levels increased dramatically during this period and motorcycle accidents of course went up as well.

For obvious reasons, accidents involving motorcycles often result in very serious injuries. Between 1966 and 2008, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that approximately 148,000 people died in motorcycle accidents. While it is true over 1.6 million people died in automobile accidents during the same period, the number miles driven by cars more than offsets the difference. The bottom line is that people are injured 80% of the time when they are involved in a motorcycle and only 20% of the time when they are involved in an auto accident, according to the NHTSA. This article is not intended to be a “hit piece” on motorcycles, but the raw data is impossible to ignore.

While many of the fatalities are caused by the carelessness of the automobile drivers around the motorcycle riders, nearly 50 percent of the people killed on motorcycles are the result of 1 vehicle crashes. Translation: nearly half of all fatalities are caused when the driver of a motorcycle loses control and crashes the bike. There are ways to reduce the innate danger of riding a motorcycle, namely helmets. While each state regulates whether or not motorcyclist must wear a helmet, your chance of surviving a crash jumps significantly if you are wearing a helmet during a crash. The NHTSA estimates that a person’s overall chance of surviving a motorcycle crash increases by 37% when they are wearing a helmet.

This time of year is ideal for riding motorcycles. Keep a look out for bikers while you are driving, and you are on a bike yourself, enjoy the open road! If you or anyone you know has been involved in an automobile or motorcycle accident, call the Law offices of Blake R. Maislin at 513-444-4444. One of our attorneys will answer your questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also visit our website and fill out a free evaluation form here:

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