Riding a motorcycle involves a higher risk of getting involved in an accident or sustaining severe injuries than driving a vehicle. Add alcohol to it, and the risk goes way too high.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 34% of all motorcycle-related fatalities involved alcohol. Unfortunately, many riders still choose to ride home after a few drinks, often resulting in tragedy.
So, why are motorcycle riders more vulnerable on the road?
Even where alcohol is not a factor, fatality rates are higher for motorcycle collisions because riders are more vulnerable than other road users. Several factors make riding a motorcycle dangerous.
Unlike cars, bikes lack safety features to shield riders from a motorcycle accident which increases the chances of a crash turning fatal, especially if the accident happens at high speed.
Additionally, motorcycles have two wheels which means they are less stable than cars. That increases the chances of losing balance if a bike makes minor contact with a vehicle or even a pothole.
The size also plays a part in increasing the chances of a motorcycle accident because it compromises their visibility.
How alcohol can impair your riding
- Reduced reaction time. Accidents often happen in a fraction of a second. But a quick reaction could save a rider from what could have been a fatal accident. Unfortunately, when alcohol gets into a person’s system, it slows their ability to process information and, consequently, their reaction time. A slower response means that the person is more prone to an accident should anything get in their way, such as if the vehicle ahead stops suddenly.
- Reduced concentration. Concentration is a key factor in staying safe on the road for riders and all road users, including pedestrians. Concentration when riding a motorcycle includes adequately controlling your speed, staying in your lane, and paying attention to other road users. When alcohol gets in the system, it significantly affects a person’s concentration span. Besides reducing a rider’s concentration, alcohol also affects a person’s ability to make a rational decision, further increasing the chances of getting hit or bumping into other vehicles.
- Impaired vision. Alcohol consumption tends to impair vision, especially when one has had one too many. To many people, alcohol causes blurred vision or double vision, which means getting on your bike under such circumstances creates a dangerous situation for you and other road users. Compromised vision can result in misjudging the distance between you and other vehicles, objects, and people, making you prone to making decisions that could result in an accident.
- Lack of coordination. The most common indicator of alcohol impairment is lack of coordination, which is evident in loss of balance and slurred speech. Lack of coordination is the first thing law enforcement officers will check for whenever they stop a driver or a rider for suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Riding a motorcycle requires balance and proper coordination between the rider’s feet and hands. With alcohol impairing coordination, maintaining balance, braking, and accelerating, getting involved in an accident is very likely.
- Overconfidence. Some people take alcohol to boost their confidence, and it works. Once alcohol gets into the system, it triggers the brain to release dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure. Dopamine can also make a person feel quite confident or lose their inhibition. But such confidence may not be a good thing on the road. It can encourage a person to take risks that they would otherwise not take if it were not for intoxication, increasing the chances of an accident.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.
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