Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Safety

Biker putting on safety gear
Posted: March 14, 2024

The number of registered motorcycle riders in New York State has steadily increased, rising from just under 250,000 in 2002 to more than 360,000 in 2021 

The appeal of riding a motorcycle, many bikers say, is the sense of freedom that comes with it. There’s nothing like getting on a powerful bike and hitting the open road, the wind is in your face. For many bike enthusiasts, a motorcycle isn’t just a mode of transportation; it’s a way of life, something that defines them.  

There are also practical considerations. Motorcycles are generally less expensive than cars to buy and maintain, use less gas, and fit into tight parking spaces. 

But motorcyclists aren’t blind to the fact that they’re always one small patch of loose gravel away from meeting the road up-close and personal. On the contrary, a biker is more keenly aware than anyone else that the machine giving him so much joy could become a source of grief for loved ones. Motorcycle accidents aren’t uncommon, and they’re uniquely dangerous. Consider the most recent data from the New York State Health Department: Between 2012 and 2014 in New York 

  • the average annual number of emergency room visits resulting from a motorcycle accident was 4,458; 
  • the average annual number of hospitalizations was 1,558; and 
  • the average number of deaths was 141. 


What a crash looks like 

According to the Federal Highway Administration study, the top-five primary factors in motorcycle crashes with other vehicles are 

  1. “Other Vehicle Driver Perception Failure” 
  2. “Other Vehicle Driver Decision Failure” 
  3. “Motorcycle Rider Decision Failure” 
  4. “Motorcycle Rider Reaction Failure” 
  5. “Motorcycle Rider Perception Failure” 


Motorcycle crashes happen in the following ways or for the following reasons: 

  • Head-on collision 

Data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that 76 percent of motorcycles involved in crashes involving another vehicle were struck head-on, while only seven percent were hit in the rear. 

  • Left-hand turn 

Per the NHSTA, 42 percent of fatal motorcycle-on-car accidents occurred while the driver of the motor vehicle was turning left and the biker was going straight or passing other vehicles.  

  • Lane-splitting 

A motorcyclist slicing between two lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic can be seriously injured or killed because of her proximity to the cars and drivers’ not anticipating their presence. 

  • Speeding 

According to NHTSA, speed is a contributing factor in about one in three fatal motorcycle accidents.  

  • Impaired riding 

Operating a motorcycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in a serious accident injuries or death to all parties involved. In 2017, 28 percent of motorcyclists killed in a motorcycle accident were alcohol impaired. Alcohol and drugs impair a motorcyclist’s reaction time, alertness, and judgment making it difficult for the rider to control the bike and make swift lifesaving decisions. 

  • Fixed object 

A motorcyclist colliding with a fixed object such as a light pole or sign is likely to suffer severe injuries or death. According to the NHTSA, motorcycles have more fatal collisions with fixed objects than with motor vehicles. 

  • Road hazard 

Potholes, construction zones, slick pavement, dead animals in the road—these hazards and many more imperil motorcyclists. Even grass clippings can cause a motorcycle accident. Debris in the road can come between a motorcycle tire and the pavement, compromising traction and putting a rider at risk of losing control. If grass clippings do end up in the street, homeowners may be legally obligated to remove them as soon as possible; New York State law prohibits placing anything in the road that might cause an accident. 

  • High-performance motorcycle 

According to 2017 data, the number of fatalities on motorcycles with engine sizes of 1,000 cc or less decreased by nine percent while the number killed on motorcycles with engine sizes of 1,501 cc or higher increased by more than 100 percent. 

A major cause of motorcycle accidents is when a motorist doesn’t see a motorcyclist and cuts off or turns in front of the biker. 

Common motorcycle accident injuries  

Roadway hazards are especially dangerous for motorcyclists, who lack the steel shell that protects passenger-car drivers from coming into direct contact with the road, other vehicles, and hot or moving parts of their own vehicles. At the mercy of every hard and unforgiving surface they pass or pass over, bikers suffer injuries unique to riding a motorcycle. Others are killed.  


Here is a list of injuries common in motorcycle accidents:  

  • Road rash from contact with abrasive surfaces such as asphalt, dirt, and pavement 
  • Deep cuts and scratches from twisted metal, broken glass, rocks, or other vehicles  
  • Broken bones from the force of the impact 
  • Organ damage—sometimes permanent—to the liver, spleen, lungs, or other body systems  
  • Traumatic brain injury caused by violent shifting or striking of the head   


As this list suggests, wearing protective gear is imperative for a motorcyclist.  


Motorcycle safety starts with a helmet 


The New York State Department of Health explains that New York bikers are required to wear a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved motorcycle helmet—one with a DOT sticker on the back. This isn’t merely a tip; it’s the law: New York requires every motorcycle operator and passenger to wear a helmet.  


Why? Because a helmet is a biker’s most important piece of safety equipment, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Helmets prevent serious injuries and save thousands of lives every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 


Among the features and aspects of motorcycle helmets that are federally regulated are contour and vision—the helmet must provide “peripheral vision clearance of at least 105° to each side of the mid-sagittal plane.” 

To make sure you buy a helmet that conforms to federal standards, shop for yours at a reputable dealer and check to see that the helmet bears a sticker guaranteeing it’s certified by the Department of Transportation. It is the motorcyclist’s responsibility to follow the law.  

Common sense dictates that bikers also wear other protective gear, making sure it, too, is approved or of high quality.  

Other motorcycle safety gear 

In addition to a helmet, the protective gear motorcyclists should wear includes: 

  • Gloves 

We tend to put our hands down to catch ourselves when we fall. Good gloves can protect them. Gloves also improve a biker’s grip on the handlebars. Look for a pair that’s all these things plus comfortable and functional. 

  • Jacket 

Motorcycle jackets, some of which are safety-rated, protect riders from harsh weather and lessen the severity of injuries in an accident. Look for a jacket with impact protectors. 

  • Boots 

Motorcycle boots protect the feet and ankles while riding and during an accident. They also keep harsh weather conditions at bay. 

  • Eye protection 

New York law requires bikers to wear approved a pair of goggles or a face shield that meets the standards of the American National Standard Institute. 

Not all motorcycle protective gear is created equal, so research what you’re buying to make sure it complies with applicable laws and receives high marks from bikers. 

Advances in motorcycle safety equipment and technology 

Even if you have motorcycle safety gear you trust, you’ll want to keep up with the latest innovations. Every year, it seems, better safety equipment and more innovative technology emerges to potentially lower the odds of being injured or worse when you ride. According to some sources, among the newer developments in motorcycle safety equipment that motorcyclists of all abilities may want to consider include:  

  • the smart helmet, with features such as Bluetooth connectivity, built-in cameras, and sensors that detect impact and alert emergency services; 
  • the airbag vest, which inflates to protect you from impact if you crash;  
  • protective clothing made of high-tech materials such as Kevlar or Gore-Tex, which are tough but lightweight; 
  • gloves that are heated and protect your wrists; and 
  • high-tech boots with ankle support and airbag technology. 

Motorcycle safety requirements 

Of course, nothing in this article should substitute for the training and education that all New York motorcycle riders must undertake to ride in the state. Experts stress the importance of motorcycle safety training. 

Sometimes, no matter how careful they are, other riders on the road can negligently injure motorcycle riders. If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident, consider talking to an experienced attorney today. Insurance companies are in business to make money; while you want to be compensated for pain and suffering and financial loss, they want to protect their bottom line.  

The attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. can help injured motorcyclists deal with insurance companies after a motorcycle accident. If a company refuses to negotiate in good faith, our attorneys can help you advocate for maximum compensation. Contact our lawyers for more information. Our legal team is available 24/7, so call 844-noswap444-4444 now, or complete our online form requesting a free initial consultation.  

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