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Missouri Motorcycle Fatalities Are on the Rise

April 19, 2022

Motorcycles are a popular form of transportation because they are fun to ride and are more economical than cars. But they are also much more dangerous than cars. As of 2018, there were 153,213 motorcycles registered in the state of Missouri and over 369,214 licensed operators. Even though motorcycles only account for 2.7% of Missouri registered vehicles, motorcyclists make up 10% of roadway fatalities.

In August of 2020, Missouri repealed the law requiring all riding to wear a helmet. Since the repeal of that law, the Missouri Highway Patrol reports an alarming 33% increase in motorcycle fatalities. The new helmet laws permit properly licensed cyclists over the age of 26 with health insurance to operate a motorcycle without a helmet. The mandatory helmet law remains in effect for those under the age of 26, operating on a permit, or without health insurance.

Not wearing a helmet exposes riders to a higher risk of severe injury to the head, spinal cord and face. Severe brain and spinal cord injuries can result in permanent brain damage, coma, partial paralysis, paraplegia and/or death. If the rider is lucky enough to escape a brain or spine injury, their life may also be forever altered by a facial injury or a serious form of road rash. Most non-helmeted motorcycle facial injuries require significant reconstructive plastic surgery.

Motorcycles are more vulnerable in a collision than their heavier, two-axle plus counterparts since they offer the rider little external protection. All cyclists should attend an approved rider training course to learn how to operate their vehicle safely and skillfully. It is every driver’s responsibility to look out for motorcycles, especially at crash-prone areas, such as intersections, which make up most of all motorcycle crashes.

Statistically, the top five causes of motorcycle crashes in Missouri are driving too fast for conditions, exceeding the posted speed limit, failure to yield, improper lane usage/lane changes, and alcohol or drugs. To stay safe, cyclists should do the following:

  • Wear proper safety gear – look for the DOT-approved sticker inside the helmet

  • Ensure all bike lights are properly functioning

  • Check fluid levels (fuel, oil, hydraulic, coolant, etc.)

  • Inspect spokes, wheel alignment, and tires for wear a tear and proper inflation

  • Check for proper chain tension (if applicable), there should only be about ¾ of an inch of “play”

  • Ensure your kickstand and center stand remain in an upright position while riding

  • Perform periodic inspections of your engine area and frame for loose parts and remember to tighten per manufacturer specifications

  • Check your throttle for sticking, ensuring smooth operation

  • Check your clutch and brake levers for smooth operation and lubricate and adjust according to manufacturer specifications

  • Ensure your front and rear brakes are operating properly

  • Check battery for fluid levels and corrosion

In addition to the above list, you should also select a motorcycle that fits you. You should be able to touch both feet on the ground while astride the vehicle. To safely carry passengers, your bike should have a passenger seat and footpegs for your passenger. It is also important to not purchase a bike too powerful for your skill level and you should be able to reach all controls comfortably.

Helmets save lives by reducing the chances of suffering a traumatic brain injury in the event of a crash. Your helmet should fit comfortably, but snuggly and should be fastened at all times in motion. You should also wear appropriate clothing shoes and gloves. Thick and protective attire shields riders from the elements and road rash in the event of a crash.

Most accidents involving motorcycles are caused by the drivers of cars and trucks. In many cases the passenger vehicle driver simply does not see the smaller vehicle in time to avoid a crash. Potentially dangerous situations for motorcycle riders include cars making a left-hand turn, a motorcycle in a vehicle’s blind spot, hazardous road conditions and obstructed lines of sight. Car and truck drivers should take all steps necessary to share the road. This can be accomplished by respecting the cyclist, looking out for motorcycles, and paying close attention to blind spots. Car and truck drivers can keep bikers safe by anticipating motorcyclist maneuvers and allowing them plenty of space. Do not follow motorcycles too closely and allow enough room for them to take evasive action in an emergency.

Being involved in a motorcycle collision often results in devastating effects that can permanently change the trajectory of a biker’s life. If the biker is permanently or severely injured, the associated medical bills will be high. Common treatment required after a motorcycle accident includes ambulance transport, hospitalization, surgery, physical or occupational therapy, home health and in some cases short or long-term care.

Missouri law requires all motorcyclists (and all motorists) to carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage of at least $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident. If you are in an accident on your motorcycle caused by an uninsured driver, you can get compensated through your UM coverage. But if you are involved in a crash caused by another vehicle with minimum available coverage, there will only be $25,000.00 available for you to recover as compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. So we strongly suggest that motorcyclists carry a much higher level of UM coverage -- at least $100,000/$300,000 is recommended. And unlike Kansas, Missouri law does not require motorcyclists (or motorists) to carry underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. UIM coverage applies when the person who caused your accident has some liability insurance but not enough to fully compensate you for your injuries. All Missouri motorcyclists (and motorists) should carry UIM coverage in addition to UM coverage – and should have at least $100,000/$300,000 of UIM coverage.

If you or your loved one has been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident or if a loved one has been killed in an accident, the experienced attorneys at Kendall Law Group have the skills necessary to ensure you are fairly compensated. If you would like a complimentary case evaluation, contact our firm at (816) 531-3100 or sign up here.