What every motorcyclist should know
Why are motorcyclists over-represented in overall crashes and fatalities?
Motorcyclists now represent approximately 14% of all motor vehicle-related fatalities, up from just 5.7% in the 23 years since 1994. In 2016, 5,286 motorcyclists lost their lives on America's roads.
Based on preliminary, state-reported data, GHSA projects a 5.6% decline in motorcyclist fatalities in 2017 – a difference of 296 lives nationwide. The nationwide decline is good news, but not all states are showing improvement. Compared with 2016, motorcyclist fatalities decreased in 30 states, and increased in 18 states.
- 8.7% rate of Motorcycle Deaths out of Total Motor Vehicle Deaths
- 13% increase from 23 to 26 deaths (from 2016 to 2017).
- Partial Law for helmet use, required for all riders under age 18. Universal helmet law repealed in 1978.
- 15.1% rate of Motorcycle Deaths out of Total Motor Vehicle Deaths
- 21% decrease from 81 to 64 deaths (from 2016 to 2017).
- Universal Law for helmet use, enacted in 1990.
- 10.9% rate of Motorcycle Deaths out of Total Motor Vehicle Deaths
- 3.6% decrease from 55 to 53 deaths (from 2016 to 2017).
- Universal Law for helmet use, enacted in 1988.
- 8.9% rate of Motorcycle Deaths out of Total Motor Vehicle Deaths
- 29.4% increase from 17 to 22 deaths (from 2016 to 2017)
- Partial Law for helmet use, required for all riders under age 18. Universal helmet law repealed in 1977.
Four Reasons For Motorcycle Fatalities
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides these statistics on motorcycle safety in the United States:
- Helmet Use – NHTSA estimates that motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,859 lives in 2016. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 802 lives could have been saved
- Licensing Issues – Twenty-seven percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2016 were riding their vehicles without valid motorcycle licenses at the time of the collisions
- Impaired Riding – In 2016, there were 4,950 motorcycle riders killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 1,259 (25%) were alcohol-impaired (BAC of .08 or higher).
- Speeding – In 2016, 33 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding.
State responses indicate a variety of factors may have been contributing to motorcyclist fatalities in 2017, including:
With recreational marijuana legalized in several states, there may be a higher number of drivers and motorcyclists under the influence of drugs. Marijuana impairment is known to increase a person’s crash risk, and a 2017 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study found that overall vehicle collision claims in states with legalized recreational marijuana were three percent higher than would have been expected without legalization.
Several states reported an increase in distracted riding fatalities in recent years, with one state (Virginia) recording more than double the number of distracted riding fatalities from 2016 to 2017.
An aging riding population
Riders over the age of 40 now comprise the greatest share of motorcyclist fatalities nationwide, a shift from a previous overrepresentation of younger riders in fatal crashes. The average age of motorcyclists killed nationally in 2016 was 43 years old, and one third of states reported that the majority of their 2017 motorcyclist crashes involved older riders.
States are using both national and statewide data to find the right mix of rider education, enforcement and laws to decrease deaths and injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes.
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Source: Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) Report on Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State and Motorcycle Safety page and Motorcyclists Helmet Laws page