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1st year has highest accident risk for motorcycle riders

Posted on in Motorcycle Accidents

California is a motorcyclist haven, with its year-round bike-friendly weather and a seemingly endless supply of routes through mountains, forests and deserts. But driving a motorcycle without adequate training puts the driver, passenger and other motorists at great risk of an accident.

Safety studies show that the most dangerous time period for motorcyclists is their first year, and especially the first month. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, a new motorcycle rider's first 30 days are about four times more risky than the entire second year of riding. A study from the institute showed that 22 percent of almost 57,000 accident claims from 2003 to 2007 happened in the first month after the rider's insurance policy took effect. The rate dropped by a third in the second month and almost two-thirds after six months.

The type of training classes riders take can make a difference in their accident risk. One study says licensing classes that fast-track the time it takes to get a license don't lower the risk of a motorcycle crash, and may even increase that risk. In an analysis of four states that require training programs for riders under age 21, including California, the accident claim frequency was 10 percent higher than in 28 states without that requirement.

That's not to say that mandatory training isn't effective, but riders shouldn't assume that's all they need before heading for the open road. Driving a motorcycle takes skill, coordination and a lot of practice. Pulling out on a hill, for example, requires a driver to do a half-dozen things at once: balancing on one foot, braking, shifting, feathering the throttle, watching for traffic and releasing the clutch.

Given the complexity of riding even in perfect conditions, motorcycle riders need even more experience to anticipate dangerous situations. Many car and truck drivers still fail to look for motorcycles on the road. In a close call with another vehicle, motorcyclists need the ability to react in a split second to avoid a crash. More extensive training courses, combined with controlled driving and many miles of experience, can help drivers learn these skills and decrease the odds of getting into an accident, even when the risk is caused by another driver's negligence.

Source: The Republic, "Motorcycle crash risk drops sharply after the first month on the road," The Associated Press, April 15, 2012

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