Guard rails prevent cars and trucks from going off the road and entering terrain that may cause rollovers, falling into bodies of water, or colliding with dangerous objects. Because they are designed with cars and trucks in mind, guard rails do little to enhance the safety of motorcyclists. In fact, they are often more dangerous to the biker than the roadside terrain itself.
Hitting a guard rail head-on can eject the rider over it. However, the more common motorcycle accidents involve collisions at a slanted or oblique angle with the barrier. This causes the loss of limbs and other severe injuries, many of which are fatal.
On the other hand, the occupants of a car don’t directly interact with guard rails with their bodies. They remain within a relatively secure and protected “cage” with bumpers, crumple zones, airbags, and seatbelts. In contrast, motorcycles lack these protection systems and interact differently with guard rails because they are narrow, two-wheeled vehicles.
As seen in this crash test video, an oblique collision with a guard rail contains the bike but causes the motorcyclist to slide along the top edge of the rail. Some w-beam guard rails have a sharp top edge that can sever limbs or cut directly into the torso. Cable barriers also have a similar cutting effect. The unprotected posts of cable barriers have a snagging effect that may cause body parts to get stuck, which result in the worst of injuries. Any barrier with openings causes this problem as well as barriers with protruding parts.
Unfortunately, replacing road barriers with ones that also protect motorcyclists, is beyond the fiscal means of many local governments in the United States. However, one non-barrier modification is possible that will reduce fatalities somewhat. That, is to increase the size of the shoulders on our roads and highways. This provides the motorcyclist with more recovery space before impacting the guard rail or other road barrier type.
For now, roadside barriers are yet another hazard that motorcyclists must keep in mind. If an accident injured you and you require legal assistance, contact us at Hogan Injury.