Even if you’ve never driven one, you’ve almost certainly seen three-wheeled motorcycles, otherwise known as ‘trikes’, navigating the streets of your town or city. They have become so popular that they inspired a non-profit group called Brothers of the Third Wheel, which has an annual ‘trike-in’ at different locations.
In 2012, the New York Times suggested that trikes were largely the domain of aging motorcycle enthusiasts whose slower reflexes and aching joints forced them to abandon their bikes in favor of something steadier and apparently safer. Enthusiasts of all ages soon proved the Times wrong, but the article – and the design of the trike – has led to questions about whether it is a safer alternative to the traditional two-wheeled motorcycle.
Comparing Three-Wheeled and Two-Wheeled Motorcycles
Two-wheeled motorcycles have traditionally been disadvantageous in three areas:
- Stability: Riders have to lean into curves to prevent tipping and rollover injuries.
- Control: Many accidents are caused by motorcyclists losing control of their machines. When turning, they must slow down and then accelerate through the turn, something that inexperienced riders fail to do.
- Protection: Even when they wear helmets and other protective gear, riders are exposed in ways that motor vehicle operators are not. If an accident occurs, they don’t benefit from the safety of being in a 6,000-lb vehicle equipped with safety mechanisms.
Three-wheeled motorcycles address at least two of these issues: stability and control.
- When you’re riding a three-wheeler, the third wheel keeps the bike steady so that you don’t have to lean into curves to prevent tipping over. In addition, there is less pressure on your muscles because you don’t have to use your body to stay balanced.
- Three-wheelers turn more like a car than a bicycle and some models have lower seats to enable you to maintain control of the machine at slower speeds.
Other advantages include:
- Better equilibrium because the third wheel supports better weight distribution. The weight of the machine and its passengers is distributed onto three points instead of two, which can increase the equilibrium and traction that the tires have on the pavement as you brake, accelerate, and turn corners.
- A unique design that makes a trike easier for motorists to spot. When you see one, you probably do a double-take, and so do other drivers. Hundreds of cyclists are injured every year because motorists are too busy watching for trucks and other cars to notice something smaller. The novelty of the trike makes it fall across the visual radar more naturally.
- Trikes are not generally narrow enough to slip between vehicles caught in traffic, so you won’t be struck by a fuming driver who is changing lanes or crash into a car door as it opens.
Trike Safety Concerns
Despite these advantages, three-wheelers share some disadvantages with their two-wheeled counterparts. They are open-air machines that don’t adequately protect riders who collide with another object and/or are thrown from their seats. There are no airbags, enclosed spaces, or other safety features to reduce the risk or severity of a collision injury.
Most motorcycle accidents occur from the front, so you’re likely to be thrown into the road or against the object you hit, with possibly fatal results. At the very least, injuries can include deep bruising, lacerations, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and other conditions that can result in expensive medical bills and time missed from work.
Maine roads can be dangerous for motorcyclists. In 2015, 32 riders were killed, which broke a 20-year record. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration includes two-wheeled and three-wheeled motorcycles in the same category, so exact crash data statistics for trikes aren’t yet known yet. The same safety message holds true for both: stay within the speed limit, wear protective gear, remain alert, and driving defensively.
What’s the Bottom Line?
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a Maine motorcycle accident, a personal injury attorney will help you hold any negligent parties responsible and get you the compensation needed to cover your losses and help you rebuild. At Fales & Fales, P.A., we have experienced motorcycle accident attorneys who will help you get justice. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us.