With open roads, rolling hills, and miles of coastal highway, it’s no wonder that Maine is a favorite destination for motorcyclists. Visitors from all over the country join the 59,000 registered motorcyclists here in Maine.
But along with the proliferation of motorcycles comes an increase in the number of accidents leading to serious injury and death. 2015 was the deadliest year for motorcyclists in 20 years, and we took a look why.
A Record Year For Maine Motorcycle Accidents
According to statistics published by the Maine Department of Public Safety / Bureau of Highway Safety, motorcycle accidents have been on the rise since 2005, with notable spikes in some years. We’re seeing this trend across all counties, with 269 crashes right here in Androscoggin county:
Motorcycle Fatalities by County – 2011 – 2015
In 2015, Maine suffered 32 motorcycle fatalities, the most in over 20 years. Piscataquis County saw the highest number of accident fatalities with a total of 5.91 deaths per every 100,000 people. Oxford came in at a close second with 5.24 deaths followed by Androscoggin with 4.66.
All Motorcycle Crashes by County: 2008 – 2012
In this chart, we review all motorcycle crashes between 2008 and 2012, as listed on the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety website.
Reasons for the Increase in Motorcycle Accidents & Fatalities
There is general agreement on why crashes occur & how to increase safety. 75% of those killed weren’t wearing a helmet, and another 75% were riding too fast. Here are the biggest factors contributing to the increase in accidents & fatalities:
- Failure to wear a helmet
- Distracted Drivers: Erik Payne, an administrator with the safety group Motorcycle Rider Education Of Maine, pointed out that riders are also at more risk from distracted drivers these days, those who are texting or checking their cell phones while they drive, or looking at a GPS unit.
- Riding while intoxicated
- Speeding and otherwise driving recklessly
- Too little training
- Older Motorcyclists: One local motorcycle dealer and instructor noted that older riders are often taking the hobby up again after a long hiatus, and they’re hopping on motorcycles that are simply too big or too high performance for their rusty skills, and find themselves in situations they’re unable to handle.
- Beautiful Weather: 2015 brought more sunny days than usual, which led to more people out on their bikes.
- Wildlife: Although not a factor in this year’s fatalities, out-of-state riders often aren’t aware of the wildlife they might encounter on the road, such as deer or moose.
Simple Precautions To Save Lives
These fatal accidents and their causes can serve as a sober lesson for motorcycle riders in Maine and elsewhere. Here are the top tips to stay safe out there:
- Wear a Helmet. It may be an annoyance and it may not be cool, but it’s a proven lifesaver. Maine required riders to wear helmets until the law was repealed in 1977, though they’re still required for riders under the age of 18, while on a learner’s permit, and during the first year of riding. Also, if the operator is required to wear a helmet, so is the rider.
- Take a Class. The state requires Motorcycle Operator Education to obtain a learner’s permit, but we’d recommend the Basic Rider Course (BRC), which is mandatory for obtaining a motorcycle endorsement. It is a 15 hour course over 2 days: 5 hours classroom and 10 hours on a motorcycle. There is another new course called the Advanced Rider Course (ARC) in which riders spend the day riding their own motorcycle on a closed course.
- Ensure You’re Visible: There is a growing trend of riding black bikes, black riding gear and black helmets, which can be hard to see against a dark background.
- Drive Safely, and don’t drink and ride under any circumstances.
Following these simple guidelines would make motorcycle riding in Maine much safer. If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, don’t wait. Contact Fales & Fales, P.A. today for a free and confidential consultation.