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A History of Deadly Michigan Motorcycle Accidents — and How to Avoid Joining Their Ranks

A History of Deadly Michigan Motorcycle Accidents — and How to Avoid Joining  Their Ranks

Unlike automobile accidents, which often involve multiple vehicles and are frequently caught on dramatic videos (like this recent rollover on the Lodge Freeway or this Detroit debacle on Woodward Avenue), motorcycle crashes often involve a single bike, or perhaps an unlucky bike and one other vehicle. But while they don’t often lend themselves to shocking viral videos, motorcycle collisions are nonetheless terrifying and sometimes deadly… especially for riders.

For example, take this fatal April collision between a motorcycle and an SUV in Dearborn, which horrifically resulted in the biker being thrown onto the roof of a nearby building. Even rural areas see their fair share of tragic incidents, like this crash between a pickup and a motorcycle near Frankenmuth, which resulted in the biker being taken to the hospital emergency room by medevac helicopter. And even this devastating Lapeer County single-bike accident where alcohol is said to have played a role in the rider’s untimely death.

More Than a Century of Deadly Michigan Motorcycle Crashes

Accidents like these have been happening with painful regularity in Michigan ever since the first recorded motorcycle crash took place, a collision in Grand Rapids back in June 1917. In that historic case, the driver of a classic Chevrolet was found at fault for running into an early motorcycle. This case even went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court to determine liability! If you’re interested in researching old-school law, this case is described in great detail starting on page 536 of an 800-page tome published in 1919 titled “Michigan Reports: Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of Michigan.” Yes, we own the fact that we’re huge legal nerds here at Mike Morse Law Firm. But that’s why you can always depend on us for reliable help with motorcycle-related personal injury cases.

While we don’t know for certain what brand of motorcycle was involved in that history-making 1917 crash, we can speculate it might have been an antique Detroit 1911 – one of which still survives in the National Motorcycle Museum. But that vintage model was far from the earliest motorcycle ever made, an honor which goes to the Daimler Reitwagen, first produced in Germany in 1885.

Nowadays there are countless motorcycle manufacturers producing millions of bikes every year worldwide. In fact, there are so many motorcycles on the road – and they are involved in so many accidents – that the World Health Organization has even created a website designed to illustrate the dangers of careless riding by counting the ever-increasing number of global motorcycle deaths. They estimate someone dies in a motorcycle accident every 83 seconds, which adds up to over 379,000 annual deaths – equal to more than half the population of Detroit!

In Michigan, our contribution to those fatality numbers has been growing almost every year, too. In fact, biker deaths in the Great Lakes State spiked to a record high of 166 unfortunate souls last year (for reference, the number back in 1992 was just 31!), and the overall number of motorcycle crashes here in 2021 totaled more than 2,700.

How to Avoid Becoming a Michigan Motorcycle Fatality Statistic

To help reduce those frightful statistics, the state has published a website dedicated to motorcycle safety, along with an 80-page motorcycle operators manual which is made available by the Secretary of State’s Office. One particularly interesting aspect of that manual is an introductory section which asks readers a series of 10 thoughtful questions to help them determine whether or not they’re a good fit for safely riding a motorcycle. The first of those questions: “Are you a higher risk-taker than others you know?” We strongly suggest giving this book a close look and doing some introspection if you or someone you love are considering buying a bike of your own.

But it’s not just motorcyclists who should consider the essential need for safety. Other drivers are also encouraged to keep their eyes open for bikers, especially through the Look Twice initiative that’s long been promoted by the state. One of the more interesting elements of this safety awareness campaign is a map that highlights hot zones for motorcycle accidents (something we wrote about last year), which shows a strong concentration of crashes in metro Detroit especially on the highways south of Eight Mile Road. Another statistic that had us shaking our heads is the Michigan State Police report citing that half of all Michigan motorcycle fatalities involve bikers who don’t possess the state’s mandatory motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s licenses. Remember – anyone who rides a motorcycle in Michigan is required by law to obtain that endorsement by either taking an approved Michigan Rider Education Program training course, or by obtaining a Temporary Instruction Permit at the Secretary of State’s office. This enables fledgling motorcyclists to practice riding along with an experienced biker and then pass a rider skills test given by a state-approved driver education facility.

Also working toward enhanced motorcycle safety is a Michigan-based group called SMARTER (Skilled Motorcyclist Association–Responsible, Trained and Educated Riders). It has published a number of first-person stories of bikers who have survived close encounters with deer, cars, and other highway hazards. A common thread that runs through many of these stories is that motorcycles are often simply not noticed by other drivers, which leads to large numbers of collisions where innocent bikers are hit by inattentive operators of cars, trucks and SUVs.

Accident Hotspots That Should Put Michigan Motorcyclists on High Alert

More often than not, most riders return home safely. But some Michigan bikers are unlucky enough to encounter the perfect storm of hazards. To help Michigan motorcyclists hit the highways safely, we’ve identified some of the most dangerous places in the state for riders. Think of them as our state’s very own “Bermuda Triangles” for unwary bikers.

WAYNE COUNTY — Far and away, this is the leading location for motorcycle mayhem in the state. Detroit and the surrounding suburbs have the most motorcyclists, and so it just makes sense that here’s where you’ll find the most motorcycle accidents. In 2019, there were 485 crashes in Wayne County alone. When you consider that winter weather makes it challenging for all but the most diehard riders to get on a bike, you can probably imagine the daily accident average is a lot higher starting in late April and running into October. The motorcycle crash timeline graphic (see below) bears out that idea. The large number of crashes in Wayne County might also explain why motorcycle insurance rates are higher in Detroit than anywhere else in the state. So where are the most dangerous Detroit and Wayne County hotspots for motorcycle accidents? You’ll definitely want to avoid areas near Grand River Avenue and the Fisher Freeway. Also keep your eyes peeled if you’re traveling the roads in DearbornRedford and Hamtramck.

OAKLAND COUNTY — The northern suburbs aren’t too much better off. In 2019, for example, there were more than 200 (207 to be exact) motorcycle accidents north of 8 Mile Road and west of Dequindre. Some of the most dangerous areas in Oakland County are in Madison Heights and Royal Oak around the intersection of I-75 and I-696, along with the exits and entrances onto I-75 and 8 Mile Road in Hazel Park. The Southfield Freeway, Telegraph Road, and Woodward Avenue corridors (especially around I-696) all have more than their fair share of motorcycle mishaps, too.

MACOMB & KENT COUNTIES — These jurisdictions witnessed 192 and 180 motorcycle accidents respectively in 2019. In Macomb County, several accidents occurred around the I-696 and Mound Road area in Warren, I-696 and Van Dyke at the border of Center Line and Warren (along with other nearby intersections), and just about anywhere along the M-59 corridor from Utica going into Sterling Heights, particularly as you get close to Lakeside Mall. Kent County’s most significant motorcycle accident hotspots tend to be found along US-131, especially near the exits to Wealthy Street, Pearl Street, and Bridge Street.

All of this leads us to conclude that while motorcycles are definitely an enjoyable transportation method, riding a bike can also result in tragic, life-changing (or life-ending) accidents. If you or someone you love is the victim of a motorcycle crash due to someone’s poor driving, let us do whatever we can to help. We’re always ready to take your call at 855-MIKE-WINS(855-645-3946) or feel free to use the contact form on our website to get in touch.

A History of Deadly Michigan Motorcycle Accidents — and How to Avoid Joining  Their Ranks

Content checked by Mike Morse, personal injury attorney with Mike Morse Injury Law Firm. Mike Morse is the founder of Mike Morse Law Firm, the largest personal injury law firm in Michigan. Since being founded in 1995, Mike Morse Law Firm has grown to 150 employees, served 25,000 clients, and collected more than $1 billion for victims of auto, truck and motorcycle accidents. The main office is in Southfield, MI but you can also find us in Detroit, Sterling Heights and many other locations.