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Motorcycles: Does High Performance Mean High Risk?

While motorcycles are never inherently dangerous, evidence indicates that deaths are more likely to result from motorcycle collisions than from car crashes. Specifically, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that there are 30 times more deaths on motorcycles than in cars per mile traveled. As a result, riders would do well to identify risk factors that might decrease their likelihood of accidents. It goes without saying that driving safely and soberly should always remain a top priority. The way one drives, however, may not be the only way riders can limit their risks on the roads, as studies indicate that the type of motorcycle an individual chooses to ride also plays a role in the likelihood of crashes.

Does supersport = superdangerous?

During the past 15 years, high-performance sport and supersport motorcycles have gained popularity, primarily among young riders who are drawn not only to their horsepower but also to the lower price tags these vehicles carry. For example, a relatively new preowned bike fetches somewhere around $3,000 in Florida. While sport bikes are ostensibly designed for high speeds in isolated areas like racetracks, riders often push them to the limit on city streets and highways. With sport motorcycles capable of quickly reaching speeds between 150 and 200 miles per hour, their lure often proves irresistible to young riders.

The statistics demonstrate the disproportionate number of deaths these motorcycles cause, accounting for close to 30 percent of motorcycle fatalities while comprising only around 10 percent of all motorcycle registrations. A report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also revealed that the death rate for supersport riders was four times higher than the death rate for riders of cruiser Harley-Davidson–style motorcycles. The IIHS also reported that speed plays a role in over half of the supersport motorcycle crashes.

Hard lessons

Such riders as Ocala, Florida’s Joel Hickman, who broke his leg when he careened around a corner at top speed and hit a telephone pole, often learn the hard way that sport bikes are not toys. Hickman is one of the fortunate ones, as many sport bike crashes end in death, not a leg cast. Inspired and seemingly chastened by his experience, Hickman now collaborates with the Ocala Police Department to teach others about motorcycle safety, with any stunts reserved for closed courses.

When supersports or other high-performance motorcycles are involved in collisions, it’s in the best interests of all parties to seek legal counsel to address liability and damages.

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