The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, in its 2010 Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Facts Book, reported that 98 riders and passengers were killed in traffic accidents in 2010, which represents a 16 percent increase over 2009 and 34 more than 1999. In general, that aligns with national statistics, which have showed a surge in fatal motorcycle accidents in recent years after gradually declines in the 1990s.

While the number of deaths from other motor vehicles still far outpaces motorcycle fatalities, that’s mostly because there are many more cars and trucks on the road. Some 17 percent of all traffic crash fatalities in Wisconsin were motorcycle riders or passengers, which is far larger than the proportion of motorcycles in general traffic. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “While 20 percent of passenger vehicle crashes result in injury or death, an astounding 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death.”

Looking for the root causes

If we want to know why Wisconsin motorcycle crashes are so often deadly, we again turn to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Over a number of publications, WisDOT officials have suggested several reasons why motorcycle accidents more often inflict critical or fatal injuries. Some of the factors include: 

  • Failure to control the vehicle. Motorcycles are inherently less stable than four-wheeled vehicles. They are capable of high acceleration. Together, those factors can explain why riders can lose control of their machines when braking, turning, or negotiating difficult surfaces. This category also includes instances where a car or truck driver loses control of her vehicle and crashes into a motorcyclist.
  • Speed issues. This category includes exceeding the posted speed limits as well as speeding too fast for the conditions. riders need to remember that two-wheeled vehicles have better maneuverability than cars only at relatively low speeds. At highway speeds, a bike is both harder to steer and harder to brake than a larger four-wheeled vehicle.
  • Intoxication. Alcohol is a huge factor in motorcycle accidents. Various studies have shown that between 30 and 60 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes have been drinking. Most often these are the classic single-vehicle crashes, where a drunken rider slams his motorcycle at high speed into an immobile object without braking. In two-vehicle crashes, it’s more likely that another driver who is intoxicated injures the motorcyclist.
  • Inattentive driving. Car and truck drivers are notorious for distracted driving accidents. Given that drivers of larger vehicles often overlook motorcycles anyway, inattentive driving poses an enormous risk to rider safety.
  • Relative lack of protective equipment. When an accident occurs, a rider is more easily thrown from his vehicle to collide with the roadway or a hard, immobile object. Protective clothing helps—but there are limits to how effectively leather jackets and boots can prevent injuries. Many Wisconsin riders reject wearing a helmet, even though that’s the most important protective gear. Over 70 percent of the motorcyclists killed in Wisconsin traffic crashes in 2010 were not wearing helmets.

The next step to take

If your close relative was killed in a fatal motorcycle accident in eastern or northeastern Wisconsin, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person responsible. Even a Wisconsin motorcycle crash that led to serious but nonfatal injuries should result in someone being held accountable.

At Hupy and Abraham, our Wisconsin motorcycle wreck lawyers are eager to work with you to get you every penny of compensation you deserve. Contact us at 414-223-4800 (local) or 800-800-5678 (toll-free) for free, confidential evaluation of your case. In return, we would like to give you a FREE copy of our book, The Ultimate Guide for Motorcycle Accident Victims, without obligation to hire us as your legal team.