Motorcycle Accident Statistics

Motorcycle statistics suggest quite a bit about the dangers associated with riding. Many of these statics lead to the idea that the practice of riding a motorcycle is one of great danger, and while this may be true, statistics also revel much more.

Several reports claim that, on average, between two and three thousand motorcyclists die each year in the United States. Motorcycle fatalities have been on the rise ever since the late 1990s, reaching a record high of 12 percent—a total of 5,037 motorcycle fatalities—of all vehicle crash-deaths in 2007 in the United States. These statistics suggest what many believe to be true: Motorcycles are dangerous, which may be true, but the general public should also know they are dangerous because of their very nature—existing in the open, without protective barriers between the rider and outside elements on the road—not because of the way motorcyclists are trained to operate. In fact, during research conducted by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) during 2003, it was found that in all motorcycle accidents occurring between motorcyclists and cars, the motorcyclist was either not at fault or less at fault than the other driver 80 percent of the time. This statistic should clear up the misconception that all motorcyclists operate on the edge, seeking danger. The very opposite is true; most motorcyclists take advantage of defensive driving courses and other educational classes related to riding.

A frightening statistic from a 2000 study reveals how often car drivers are at fault in fatal motorcycle crashes. The study reports that in 2000 there were over 1,280 two-vehicle fatal crashes between motorcycles and other vehicles. Of these fatal collisions, the other vehicle was turning left while the motorcyclist was traveling straight in their lane or lawfully passing another vehicle 35 percent of the time. This is only one scenario demonstrating driver negligence killing a motorcyclist.

Helmet laws are being put into place on a state-by-state basis in an attempt to improve motorcyclist safety. The federal government encourages states to adopt helmet laws by offering additional funding to states that enact helmet laws. Most of the funds are allocated to federal highway initiatives in the state. Despite this incentive, only 20 states currently require all motorcyclists to wear helmets while riding. Other states leave it up to the rider, and some require riders under a certain age to wear one. Nearly half of all fatally injured motorcyclists under the age of 21have been found to be operating without a helmet. Overall, helmets can prevent fatalities for riders of all ages; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that riders not wearing helmets are 40 percent more likely to die while riding, and 15 percent more likely to incur a non-fatal injury. Many drivers report that wearing a helmet not only offers more protection, but also helps with improving hearing abilities. This is because the sound is streamlined into the ears, reducing wind noise found without a helmet.

Wearing a properly fitted helmet can help reduce the risks associated with riding, but will not offer the same amount of protection as a car. Without protective barriers—seat belts, the car's windows and doors, and safety airbags—motorcycles are, and always will be, more dangerous than cars. The NHTSA found that, based on a 2006 study, motorcyclists are eight times more likely to be injured in an accident than single-vehicle travelers. While there may be no one method to buck that trend overall, every rider should realize the dangers of motorcycling every time they hit the road—this revelation, on its own, can help.

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