It’s easy to think of Arizona as nothing but open space and the perfect place to really open up your motorcycle.
But it’s not only an inaccurate image of the state, but that kind of high-speed high-octane behavior is illegal as well as very dangerous.
Yes, the Grand Canyon State has long stretches of highway going through the desert, but it also has dense urban centers with dense urban traffic to go with it and everything in between.
In 2018, it had the fifth-highest rate of fatalities for motorcycles in the country, according to the National Traffic Safety Administration.
Mississippi has 28,124 registered motorcyclists and 40 fatalities, a rate of 14.22. This was followed by Texas with 364,690 motorcyclists, 490 deaths and a 13.44 rate, then South Carolina with 12.27, Florida with 10.06. Arizona had 164,055 motorcyclists and 163 deaths, with a rate of 9.94.
For purposes of comparison, Montana and South Dakota were both at the bottom of the list with a rate of .75 and 1.36 respectively.
Motorcycle fatalities do appear to be trending down nationally, but not necessarily in Arizona.
Nationally, there was a 5.6 percent decrease in all motorcycle deaths nationwide, from 4,990 to 5,172.
But in Arizona, the number of deaths actually increased by 14.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, with 165 deaths in 2016 and 144 in 2017. The state also saw an 8.6 percent decrease in all vehicle accidents in the same period, from 5,251 to 4,798.
These statistics also continue an unpleasant safety trend. Arizona was ranked No. 10 in all 50 states with motorcycle fatalities in 2015, with 130 deaths. A total of 17 percent of all state traffic fatalities that year were from motorcycles.
But the most recent year, 2018, shows that the numbers dropping slightly, from 165 fatalities to 150. Overall motorcycle crashes and injuries also decreased slightly.
Safety experts continue to seek reasons to explain why the risk of injury or death from motorcycle use remains high in Arizona.
- No helmet. Although riders or drivers under age 17 are required to wear a helmet, they’re optional for motorcycle riders and drivers age 18 and older. State law recently lifted this restriction, which allows tourists and residents to put their helmets aside when they zip through the state. Critics of helmet use say they limit visibility and inhibit personal freedom, while promoters say they are a good tool to reduce death by 37 percent or brain damage by 67 percent. (Only 19 states and Washington, D.C., have universal helmet laws for adults. Of the 150 motorcycle fatalities in the state in 2018, at least 64 weren’t wearing helmets.
- No motorcycle licenses. Although the state encourages people to earn a valid motorcycle license, the Governors Highway Safety Administration says that 27 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents nationwide involved drives without proper paperwork.
- Intoxication. Even with years of education about the increased risks of alcohol or other substances, people continue to get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t. This behavior increases the risk of hurting themselves or others. The GHSA reports that 25 percent of alcohol-impaired drivers ended up in fatal crashes, a higher figure than passenger cars (21 percent), light trucks (20 percent) or large trucks (2%).
- Speeding. High speeds contribute to more serious accidents, and the longer strips of roadway between different communities may encourage people to go faster – increasing their risk of accidents. Speed overall is the most common cause of all vehicle collisions in Arizona, according to the Department of Transportation.
- Age. The GHSA reports that the number of motorcyclists, including those new to the vehicles, are getting older. The largest age group of riders involved in fatalities is over 40. Reflexes decrease over time, and it does require some effort that someone age 40 or 50 is trying to learn from scratch.
- Environment. Weather, such as rain or dust storms, could also be dangerous to motorcycle riders. Though motorcycle training programs encourage drivers to pull over and until the worst part of the storm hits, such as under a highway overpass, some riders may not be able to do so.
- Time of day. Driving at night can make it difficult to see obstacles and a driver may be fatigued, a physical condition that is believed to be as unsafe as driving under the influence of alcohol. Night driving also has the possibility of another vehicle not seeing you. At the same time, driving too long in the hot sun can also be unsafe. During weekends, crashes take place most often between 6-9 p.m., and during afternoon and morning commutes during the week.
- Time of year. Interestingly, October 2018 saw the highest amount of crashes, while December 2018 saw the most fatalities.
How we can help
We at Petersen Johnson are familiar with the pros and cons of motorcycle riding. We’re also experienced in the laws surrounding motorcycles, and we’ve been successful in assisting victims of accidents involving motorcycles recover damages.
A motorcycle accident can happen anytime and not aren’t fault of the driver. So, this means that you might be due for compensation for medical costs if you’ve been severely injured. Or, if a family member has been killed in a motorcycle accident you may be able to seek damages, especially if someone else may have been at fault.
Were You Involved in a Motorcycle Accident in Arizona? Contact Petersen Johnson
Ron Petersen and Brad Johnson built their personal injury law firm with the founding principle that the victims of accidents deserve commitment and compassion. We’ll help you get the compensation justified for your injuries, pain, and suffering.
Contact us today at 602-910-4952 to learn more.