Every year thousands of outdoor enthusiasts flock to Colorado in the springtime to enjoy the beautiful scenery and majestic landscapes. Winding mountain roads offer some of the best motorcycling in the country, drawing thousands of motorcyclists to Colorado every year. In 2008, there were 173,873 motorcyclists registered in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). But while motorcycling in the Colorado countryside is certainly thrilling, it can also be very dangerous. 2008 was a record year for motorcyclist deaths and a shocking 98 people were killed in motorcycle accidents, up from 90 in 2007. If you choose to hit the Colorado roads this spring or summer, there are several safety tips to consider.

Protect Yourself with a Helmet

While Colorado law does not require motorcycle helmets to be worn at all times, and it is certainly a personal decision, experts urge motorcyclists to always wear a helmet while riding. Wearing a helmet is one of the best ways to prevent catastrophic injuries from occurring. Collisions with other automobiles, trees or other objects can cause life-threatening injuries to motorcyclists even at low speeds. From 2003-2007, over 400 motorcyclists were killed in Colorado traffic accidents and 80 percent of those were not wearing a helmet, according to CDOT. Brain hemorrhages, contusions, lacerations and spinal injuries can all be significantly reduced by wearing a helmet whenever operating a motorcycle.

Be Vigilant and Get Training

Watch out for the blind spot or “no-zone” spot behind large trucks and vehicles. Truck drivers operating on Colorado roads often cannot see motorcyclists when they ride in these blind spots. As a result, a large truck may decide to change lanes quickly and easily push an unsuspecting motorcyclist off the road. Always maintain a proper distance between automobiles and trucks and never assume another vehicle is aware of your presence.

It is also critical for motorcyclists to receive proper training. The Colorado DOT estimated that of riders killed, 39 percent did not have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license or had no license.

Recent Changes in Law Favor Motorcycle Accident Victims

Some recent changes to Colorado’s insurance laws favor individuals who have been involved in motorcycle and other motor vehicle accidents. Colorado Revised Statute § 10-4-609, which became effective in 2008, deals with uninsured and underinsured motorist protection (UM/UIM). This protection is in addition to any legal liability coverage the at-fault driver may carry, and is intended to cover the difference between the amount of liability coverage carried and the actual damages sustained by the motorcyclist. This provision at least doubles the minimum amount of insurance available in a motor vehicle accident from $25,000 to $50,000. In many cases, the amount of total coverage for the injured cyclist can be considerably more. Under this provision, UM/UIM coverage “stacks” on top of the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage. This was the first positive development in Colorado statutory law that motorcyclists have seen in many years.

Another recently enacted law that has a positive effect for anyone involved in a motorcycle or other motor vehicle accident is § 10-4-635 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, which became effective in 2009. This section provides for a mandatory $5,000 medical payment benefit for injury, sickness or disease “resulting from the ownership, maintenance, or use of the motor vehicle.” If the insurance company fails to offer this medical payment coverage to the insured, the policy is presumed to include it, but an insured does have the option of rejecting the coverage in writing. This medical payment coverage is available regardless of who is at fault in the accident and under this section, the insurance provider has no subrogation rights, meaning that it does not have a right to be repaid from any settlement that the motorcyclist may obtain from the at-fault driver. In addition, the insurer does not have a direct cause of action against the at-fault party for benefits paid under the medical payments coverage. This is a significant improvement over the previous statutory scheme in Colorado.

If You Are Injured in a Motorcycle Accident

The cost of medical care for injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident can easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. While you may assume you already have adequate insurance coverage, most policies are quickly exhausted after a catastrophic motorcycle accident. Colorado is considered an “at-fault” state, which means that if you are in an accident, you will need to seek compensation for your injuries from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Talk to a personal injury attorney to ensure that your case is handled quickly and efficiently.