Motorcycle Fatalities in Tennessee

January found me at Montgomery Belle State Park for our annual Motorcycle Rider Education Program coach recertification.  On this gloomy, cold Saturday morning I sat in a room with other Tennessee motorcycle safety coaches disheartened to hear that fatal motorcycle crashes had increased in 2018.  

2018 experienced 161 fatal crashes with 164 fatalities on Tennessee’s roadways.  (Three of these fatalities were passengers.) This number is up from 2017 by 29 fatalities.    The data presented here is from TITAN (Tennessee Integrated Traffic Analysis Network) and the TN Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Research, Planning and Development Division.  

Motorcycle Fatalities in Tennessee 2018

Total Motorcycle Crashes 20182,671
Fatal Crashes161
Fatalities 164
Alcohol Related Fatalities19
Not Helmet/Improper Helmet Fatalities28
Speed Related26

A motorcycle accident typically occurs from a combination of contributing factors.  

These factors include, but are not limited to:

  •  Alcohol use 

  • Not wearing a helmet (or improper helmet) 

  • Speed 

  • Day vs. night 

  • Dry vs. wet roads 

  • If the motorcyclist is tired (or angry) 

  • Rider action (inexperience, improper passing, overcorrecting, inattentive) 

  • Motorcycle preventive maintenance (tire pressure) 

There are a number of things that you can do to prevent being a statistic in 2019.  First up, go back to school.  If you are a new rider you will greatly benefit from a rider education course.  The Motorcycle Safety Foundation and many Harley-Davidson dealerships offer safety courses.  Been riding for a while?  Experienced riders benefit from refresher courses as we often become complacent the longer we ride. One additional benefit for new and experienced riders is the discount from your insurance company for passing a motorcycle safety course.  

Crashes By Age

Age GroupTotal CrashesFatalities
0 to 2032819
21 to 3062530
31 ro 4046418
41 to 5046232
51 to 6040732
61 to 702520

Wear all of your gear all of the time.  Long pants with boots that cover your ankles, a jacket made for motorcycle riding, gloves with all the fingers covered, eye protection and your DOT approved helmet.  Regarding your helmet, a full-face helmet is going to give you the most protection.  Helmets should be replaced every three to five years and after a crash.  Do you have a habit of sitting your helmet on your seat?  Just falling from three feet is detrimental to the integrity of your helmet.  When you’re thinking of your gear, think of being seen as well.  Many motorists report, “I just didn’t see the motorcycle”.  As motorcyclists, we can help those motorists see us by wearing bright colors with reflective materials and presenting yourself in the lane so that you are most visible to motorists.  You’ve taken the safety course and you’ve got the right gear, what else can you do?  

Be alert!  It’s easy to get comfortable and settled in to your seat enjoying the road and scenery, be ready for lane changes and swerves.  Watch ahead for potholes and other road hazards.  And, always be on the lookout for distracted motorists.   The Motorcycle Safety Foundation teaches the majority of crashes occur in intersections and curves.  Being cautious when approaching these and adjusting your speed will be of great benefit should you need to respond quickly to a situation.  

Alcohol is never a good idea when you are riding your motorcycle. Judgment and vision are impaired after one drink and this puts you at a greater risk.  

Watch your speed and be ready for those turns, curves, swerves, road hazards, motorists, deer, dogs ……. I’m sure you’ve noticed those black marks on the asphalt going into curves and you know why and how they got there.   Proper speed for your skill and experience level goes a long way in getting you to your destination.  

During the cold, rainy, snowy days of winter take a few minutes to find a safety course and register for it.  Here in North East Tennessee where this rider coach lives, safety courses can be found at Appalachian Rider Education Program, Knoxville Rider Education Program and Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson. Check out your gear and think about driving habits.  As you look forward to a day just warm enough to get out on your motorcycle, remember safe riding starts with you.  

Thunder Roads Tennessee, February 2019

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