Open Roads Turn Deadly For Motorcyclists During July 4th Weekend

America’s Birthday! What starts off as a three-day weekend of motorcycle rides and biker fun is also a period known for highway fatalities. Clutch and Chrome has some riding tips to help bikers survive this deadly weekend.

There are two categories that are at most risk over the July 4th weekend, young drivers and motorcycle operators, so bikers should settle in and be prepared to take notes.

This article isn’t as much as a lecture about riding while intoxicated, although that in itself is a pretty dumb thing to do, but to make riders more aware and prepare them for the possible drunk-drivers out on the road.

As this article is published, motorcycle enthusiasts are dreaming of open roads and extended saddle time over the upcoming three-day weekend to celebrate America’s birthday, July 4th. Every year Americans head out on our nation's highways to celebrate the Fourth of July at picnics, parties, parades and more. Unfortunately, for many, the celebrating includes drinking alcohol, which too often leads to drunk driving on one of the most heavily traveled holidays of the year. In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes nationwide-almost a third of all crash fatalities.

To get more specific on the data, there were 397 people killed nationwide in motor vehicle crashes in 2014 over the Fourth of July holiday. This period is considered as 6 p.m. July 3rd to 5:59 a.m. July 7th.

Of those fatalities, 164 people (41%) were killed in crashes involving a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. And from 2010-2014, 39 percent of all traffic fatalities over the Fourth of July period occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.

As mentioned above, NHTSA data shows that young drivers, those who are 18 to 34 years old are especially at risk of driving drunk. In fact, 58 percent of the drivers 18 to 34 years old who were killed over the July Fourth period in 2014 were driving drunk (BAC of .08 or higher). Add the distraction of texting and a myriad of other things young drivers find to do aside from actually driving and they are a potential threat to motorcyclists.

However, bikers can’t throw stones in this argument as the data shows we like to sin. Motorcycle operators are also over-represented as the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes. In 2014, more than a quarter, 29% to be exact of motorcycle operators in fatal crashes had BACs of .08 or higher. Bikers should bear in mind, when riding drunk it’s not necessarily other vehicles that may be the killing moment, but traffic lights or curves in the road. Essentially anything that requires judgement and reflexes, both of which are diminished with alcohol. Unlike automobiles, motorcycles offer no protection in a crash making a riding mistake deadlier than those made by drivers.

The most dangerous time for riders is at night, when it’s more common to find drunk drivers on the road. Over the July Fourth holiday in 2014, more than two-fifths, 42% of the drivers in nighttime fatal crashes were alcohol-impaired, compared to 12 percent of drivers in fatal crashes during the day.

Aside from safety issues, mixing alcohol and motorcycles could lead to a costly mistake. This Fourth of July, area law enforcement will be out in full force, cracking down on drunk drivers by aggressively targeting those who they consider are ‘putting lives in danger’. If caught driving drunk this Independence Day, bikers will be arrested. A DUI arrest means a loss of freedom and money, including going to jail, losing your license, and paying steep financial expenses.

The average DUI cost? About $10,000. Clutch and Chrome detailed the costly results of being caught riding while impaired in our article ‘Riding Safe - Sobering Facts About Riding Drunk’.

To wrap up;

  • Riders shouldn't ride while impaired. If they find they unexpectantly drank alcohol while out, leave the motorcycle and get home by taxi or friend.
  • If a fellow rider who is clearly under the influence of alcohol is getting in the saddle, stop them. It’s what being a biker buddy is all about.
  • While riding during the weekend, increase the safety cushion between yourself and other vehicles.
  • Profile surrounding drivers. If they are young, distracted or appear reckless give them even more room.
  • When a traffic light turns green, wait and look for any vehicles running their red light.

Finally, if you see a drunk driver on the road, don't hesitate to contact local law enforcement. It could save a life.

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