Are three-wheeled motorcycles safer than two-wheeled machines?

multiple motorcyclesThe latest data from The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that motorcycle death rates in 2014 were 27 times higher than car accident fatality rates—27 times higher. This rate is not only astounding but extremely alarming. Despite these risks, motorcycle sales are continuing to increase. However, as a result of the dangers associated with motorcycle collisions, the popularity of three-wheel motorcycles, also referred to as trikes, may keep riders safer.

Comparing Three-Wheel and Two-Wheel Motorcycles

The primary disadvantages of motorcycles focus on three main factors: stability, protection, and control. Therefore, manufacturers are trying to increase motorcycle safety by altering designs to cater to the correction of these disadvantages, including promoting the stability and comfort of riding a three-wheeled motorcycle.

Many motorcycle purists refuse to acknowledge that trikes are real motorcycles. However, according to Florida statutes, wheels alone don't define a motorcycle.  

Here are three main factors to consider when evaluating trikes and traditional motorcycles:  

  • Increased equilibrium. The addition of a third wheel allows for a more balanced distribution of weight. Rather than having the weight of the bike and passengers (which can exceed 1,000 pounds) distributed onto two points, the weight is triangulated and distributed onto three points. This equal appropriation of weight not only decreases the amount of effort the driver has to exert to keep the bike upright, but also increases the traction and equilibrium that the tires have on the road as he turns corners, brakes, and accelerates.
  • Increased stability. Riders on trikes don't have to lean into curves to prevent tipping, as the third wheel holds the bike steady throughout a curve. This stability is also present at stoplights. In addition to decreasing rollover injuries, a trike's design takes the pressure off the rider’s knees and muscles, as he no longer has to steady the bike with his body.
  • Increased peace of mind. Trikes are more rigid, and turn more like a car than a bike. A bike relies on counter-steering and a calculated lean to negotiate the perfect turn. Some three-wheel models have lower seats to allow the rider to maintain control at slower speeds. These factors contribute to the belief that trikes are safer.

However, according to a 2012 article in the New York Times, although trike riders applaud the stability and comfort of these machines, many remain nostalgic for the lean of a two-wheeled bike.

Are Trikes Safer Than Two-Wheeled Motorcycles?

The question of whether trikes are safer than motorcycles is somewhat subjective, because regardless of the above advantages, some of the dangerous disadvantages remain the same. For instance, trikes are still open-air vehicles and provide little to no protection for riders who are thrown from their seats, especially if they're riding without helmets. And while trikes may have a broader perspective of the road, that doesn't mean other motorists see them as easily as they do cars and trucks.

Stay Informed About Motorcycle Safety

After helping hundreds of accident victims build strong foundations for their injury claims, we've learned that just about anything can cause a collision. This is why we like to take the initiative to educate our clients before an accident occurs.

The best way to protect yourself and your family from a motorcycle or trike catastrophe is by staying well-informed. Like and follow us on Facebook for periodic safety updates and resource notifications to ensure you have the facts and guidance you need to stay safe.