How Safe Is Las Vegas for Motorcyclists?

Nevada is an amazing place to ride. It’s no wonder that thousands of bikers are drawn to Las Vegas’ legendary motorcycle bars, festivals and group rides each year. And who could deny the incredible beauty of a ride through Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, or Mount Charleston? To top it off, Nevada’s amazing weather means you can experience the pleasure of riding year-round.

But how safe are Las Vegas’ roadways for bikers? Let’s have a look at how Las Vegas and our state in general stacks up when it comes to motorcycle safety?

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Nevada Motorcycle Safety Report

Nevada has the 14th highest motorcycle fatality rate in the nation, according to 2016 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures comparing fatalities per motorcycle registration. Nevada faired especially well compared to states with similar year-round riding sessions. Our state had fewer motorcycle fatalities than both Arizona and New Mexico, which ranked 5th and 7th respectively for most motorcycle fatalities.

Nevada is considered a leader in motorcycle safety. Nevada has had a universal helmet law for motorcyclists since 1972. Nevada also requires eye protection unless you have a windshield, and does not allow motorcyclists to “split lanes,” a maneuver that may help beat the traffic but whose risks outweigh any benefit. Nevada also requires riders to inspect and register motorcycles and meet high training standards.

VALLEY OF FIRE – LAS VEGAS, NV

Motorcycle Safety in Clark County

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, motorcycle deaths in Clark County have declined considerably since reaching a high of 56 in 2016. Many credit stricter enforcement of moving vehicle laws in general in and around Las Vegas. 

In 2018, the last year for which national data is available, 39 motorcyclists died on Clark County roads. Despite the decline, motorcycle riders still make up a disproportionate share of total fatalities–close to 20 percent. Roughly 1-in-4 motorcycle fatalities in Clark County involves a rider who was not wearing a helmet.

National Trends in Motorcycle Safety

Roughly 5,000 motorcyclists die each year on U.S. roadways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The percentage of roadway fatalities that involve a motorcycle has increased year over year, as deaths from other vehicle crashes have leveled off or gone down and motorcycle deaths have held steady.

Whether you enjoy the excitement of city life or observing nature along a gently winding highway, part of what makes riding so exhilarating is the feeling of being close to the road and the world around you. Their size and weight can make motorcycles thrillingly responsible and maneuverable. Those qualities, however, are the same ones that make riding more dangerous.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which compares fatalities per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely than people in passenger cars to die in a traffic crash. A motorcycle’s size and weight compared to a typical passenger vehicle, as well as a rider’s exposure to physical impact during a crash make riding more dangerous. Motorcycles are more susceptible to loss of traction in wind and on wet roads. Motorcyclists can be more difficult to see and are more vulnerable to injury in a crash.

While there have been safety advances in recent years including roll-bars and even airbags on some models, motorcycles lack many safety features of passenger vehicles. “They do not have bumpers, crumple zones, airbags, and a metal structure around them,” said Peter Vander Aa, administrator of the motorcycle safety program within Nevada’s Department of Public Safety. Speaking to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he explained that for motorcyclists, “the only protection is the riding gear they are wearing.”

These factors are outside of a rider’s control. Still, there is much that is within a rider’s control, such as never riding under the influence and always wearing an approved helmet. Both of which can dramatically reduce risk of death or serious injury.

What You Can Do to Always Ride Safe

1. Always wear a helmet that meets national safety standards. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), helmets reduce the risk of head injuries from motorcycle crashes by 69 percent and deaths by 37 percent. Nevada requires all riders to wear helmets meet standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. All DOT-approved, legal motorcycle helmets have a “DOT” sticker or painted symbol on the back–always check for it when purchasing or renting gear.

2. Never ride impaired. Between 2013 and 2016, nearly half of all motorcycle fatalities in the U.S. involved a rider with a blood-alcohol content over the legal limit (BAC > 0.08 g/dL). Many states have also seen an increase in traffic fatalities involving drivers and riders impaired by other substances including THC. Fatigue is also a leading factor in many motorcycle crashes, so take frequent breaks if you are on a long ride–and when in doubt, rest or call it a day.

3. Wear high-visibility gear. A leading cause of motorcycle-involved crashes and deaths is drivers not seeing motorcyclists, and making lane changes or left hand turns directly into riders. Many state highway authorities and the Federal Highway Safety Administration have undertaken education campaigns urging drivers to “Start Seeing Motorcycles” and to “Share the Road,” but one of your best defenses as a rider is making yourself as visible as possible. Recently many gear manufacturers have added reflective and high-visibility features to all styles of bike gear. Consider the investment–it might just save you an accident.

4. When riding, always maintain situational awareness. Unfortunately today’s drivers are more distracted than ever, and our busy lives mean more drivers than ever are making risky maneuvers as they rush from place to place. Drive defensively and anticipate potential dangers from road features, weather, and erratic drivers. Assume that drivers don’t see you and always try to avoid riding in a driver’s blindspot. While motorcycle safety is the responsibility of everyone on the road, we can’t always count on drivers to do their part. Protect yourself whenever possible from dangerous drivers.

5. Take a state-approved motorcycle safety course and keep your motorcycle in inspection shape. Make sure that your lamps, signals, breaks, and tires are in good working order–especially after a break from riding. Don’t forget about your bike’s mirrors and reflectors. It’s always a good idea to brush up on your motorcycle safety knowledge and skills with a certified instructor. Check out the Nevada Rider Motorcycle Safety Program — under the Department of Public Safety, it provides motorcycle training that meets state standards at a reasonable cost.

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