Motorcycle Accidents: Death and Injury Statistics - Motorcycle Legal Foundation

Motorcycle Accidents: Death and Injury Statistics

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By their nature, motorcycles fare worse in a crash compared to enclosed vehicles. They are also more demanding to ride, and less visible to other drivers on the road. This is why motorcycles have one of the highest accident rates and fatalities among all types of vehicles.

In this section, we’ll look at what percent of motorcycle accidents result in injury and death for the rider or passenger, based on the latest available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as other sources.

Percentage of Motorcycle Accidents that Result in Injury

  • An estimated 82,000 motorcycle riders were injured in 2018, or 1% of all registered vehicles.
  • 89% of motorcycle crashes result in nonfatal injuries. 
  • Motorcyclists are 4x more likely to be injured than passenger car occupants in terms of distance traveled.
  • The most frequent type of motorcycle accident that results in rider injury is when the other vehicle violates the motorcycle’s right of way, according to the Hurt Report.
  • About half of motorcycle accidents result in lower body injury, particularly the thigh, leg, knee, ankle or foot regions.
  • The average cost of motorcycle injury treatment ranges from $6,000 to $30,000. However, severe cases such as brain and spinal injuries can cost up to $4 million.

10-year Overview of Motorcycle Injuries: 2008 – 2018*

YearInjuredInjury rate per 100,000 vehiclesInjury rate per 100 million miles traveled
200896,0001,238461
200989,0001,129430
201082,0001,028445
201182,000968441
201293,0001,103436
201389,0001,056436
201492,0001,093461
201589,0001,032453
2016104,0001,203511 
201789,0001,017440
201882,000944408

*From the NHTSA’s 2018 Factsheet on Motorcycle Safety, based on data from the DOT Federal Highway Administration. 

Motorcycle Injury Rate Compared to Other Vehicles (2017)

Injury RateMotorcyclesPassenger carsLight trucks
Per 100,000 registered vehicles1,0171,151691
Per 100 million miles traveled44010764

*From the NHTSA’s 2017 Factsheet on Motorcycle Safety

Percentage of Motorcycle Accidents that Result in Death

  • Motorcycles have the highest fatality rate among all vehicles, accounting for 14% of all road accident deaths and 17% of all occupant (driver and passenger) deaths.
  • Motorcyclists were 27x more frequently killed compared to occupants of enclosed vehicles.
  • Head injuries are the leading cause of motorcycle accident deaths.
  • Roughly 60% of motorcycle accident fatalities happen between May to September.

Motorcycle Deaths by Accident Type

  • 57% of all motorcycle deaths are due to two-vehicle collisions. Of these, 42% are caused by left-turn accidents
  • Among single-vehicle motorcycle crashes, 43% of dead riders were found to be driving under the influence.
  • Motorcycles have the highest rate of fatal collisions with fixed objects than all other vehicles.
  • Motorcycles also have the highest fatality rate due to speeding.

10-year Overview of Motorcycle Deaths: 2008 – 2018*

YearDeathsFatality rate per 100,000 vehiclesFatality rate per 100 million miles traveled
20085,31268.5225.52
20094,46956.3621.46
20104,51856.4124.40
20114,63054.8724.97
20124,98658.9723.32
20134,69255.8323.04
20144,59454.5823.00
20155,02958.4725.65
20165,33761.4926.10
20175,17259.3425.95
20184,98557.5224.83

*From the NHTSA’s 2018 Factsheet on Motorcycle Safety, based on data from the DOT Federal Highway Administration.

Motorcycle Fatality Rate Compared to Other Vehicles (2017)*

Fatality RateMotorcyclesPassenger carsLight trucks
Per 100,000 registered vehicles59.347.5210.53
Per 100 million miles traveled25.670.70.94

*From the NHTSA’s 2017 Factsheet on Motorcycle Safety

Motorcycle Fatality Rate Based on Surroundings and Weather Conditions

  • The majority of fatal accidents happened during daylight hours.
  • Weather was less of a factor in causing motorcycle deaths, with 96% of fatalities occurring in clear or cloudy conditions. 
  • Principal arterial roads in urban areas saw more motorcycle deaths than any other road.

A pie chart showing the types of roads on which accidents occurred, by percentage. A pie chart showing the location (rural or urban) where accidents occurred, by percentage. A pie chart showing the time of day when accidents occurred, by percentage. A pie chart showing the weather conditions on days when accidents occurred, by percentage.

Motorcycle Fatality Rate by Age

  • Older riders 50 years old and above had the most fatality rate, followed by those below 30.
  • The average mortality age is 43.
  • Deaths among the 40 and up age group rose by 11% since 2009. 

A bar graph showing the prior 5-year driving history violations of drivers who were involved in accidents, by percentage

Motorcycle Fatalities by Day and Time (2017)

  • More fatal motorcycle accidents happen on weekdays between noon to 6 pm. 
  • On weekends, more deaths occur from 9 pm to 6 am. 
  • There are nearly twice as many fatalities on weekends than there are on weekdays.

A bar graph showing the time of day when accidents occurred, contrasting weekdays and weekends.

Motorcycle Fatalities by Engine Displacement

There is a dramatic increase in fatalities for motorcycles that are 500cc and above, which correlates with speeding.

A horizontal bar graph showing the engine displacement of motorcycles which were involved in collisions, by number of accidents per volume. .

Motorcycle Fatalities and Alcohol

  • Motorcycles have the highest fatalities with intoxicated blood levels compared to all other vehicles.
  • Of the 4,675 motorcycle deaths in 2018, over a quarter (1,213) were found to be alcohol-impaired, defined as having a BAC of 0.08 g/dL up.
  • An additional 8% (373) deaths had lower alcohol levels between 0.01 to 0.07 g/dL.
  • The 40-49 years old age group accounted for more than half of alcohol-impaired motorcycle deaths, at 67%.

Motorcycle Fatalities by Driving Record
Data shows that riders killed in motorcycle accidents are more likely to have speeding violations or license suspensions in the past.
Motorcycles also have the highest fatalities with past driving convictions compared to all other vehicles, and in all classes of violations.

A bar graph comparing the age of individuals involved in accidents, by number of accidents.

Motorcycle Deaths and Helmet Use

  • Head injuries remain the top cause of motorcycle deaths.
  • Helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing motorcycle rider fatalities and 41% effective in preventing passenger fatalities.
  • The NHTSA estimates that helmets helped save 1,872 riders in 2017.
  • An additional 749 lives could have been saved had they worn helmets.
  • The states with the highest unhelmeted fatalities are:
StatePercentage of motorcycle fatalities without helmetsRequires helmets?
IN81%Not required for 18 above
ME and NH78% each 

ME: Not required for 18 above

NH: No helmet laws

IL74%No helmet laws
SD73%Not required for 18 above
MN and SC71% each

MN: Not required for 18 above

SC: Not required for 21 above