What Happened Over the Last Few Years?According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle riders continue to be overrepresented in fatal traffic crashes. In 2019, 5,014 motorcyclists died, and 29% of motorcycle riders who died were drunk. To keep everyone safe, it is important to share the road and be alert, and we’re reminding motorcyclists to make themselves visible, to use DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets, and to always ride sober We want to share a breakdown of the statistics and give you some tips on avoiding becoming an addition in 2022 and beyond.
Most Relevant Motorcycle Accident Stats
- 30 % of the motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were riding without valid motorcycle licenses
- Per vehicle miles traveled in 2019, motorcyclists were about 29 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and were 4 times more likely to be injured
- Use of DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets was 64.9 percent1 in 2021, not statistically different at the 0.05 level from 69.0 percent in 2020
Source: NHTSAKnowing the general number, and how it compares to recent years, is only the beginning. Numbers don’t tell the real story behind the scenes. Are the causes of the accidents the same year over year, or are new contributions being added? Let’s look at what the major causes are before we share some tips:
What Contributes to Most Motorcycle Accidents?There are many factors that lead to a higher chance of having or being in an accident on a motorcycle. Before you mention gender, age, time of day, alcohol, or weather, one should first consider the education and skill of the rider. A rider with more skill and more education should be less likely to be involved in an accident, whether it’s a single vehicle or multiple vehicle accident. Beyond skill and education, these factors contribute most to motorcycle accidents:
AgeTwenty years ago, thankfully all four age ranges in the statistics were under 40% of the total motorcycle fatalities. That meant that riders under the age of 30 had reached a new low contribution level and have continued to stay on a lower trend. Over the last 15 years, riders from 30-50 years old have stayed consistent with a slow decline. While the younger riders have continued to decrease in fatality numbers every year, another age range had to increase over the same time. Since the early 1990s, riders over the age of 50 have continued to increase in fatalities every year and stayed above 1,500 lives lost in all of the last 8 years.
Time of DayBased on the numbers, the time of day you ride can have a significant contribution to your likelihood of being involved in an accident. During the weekdays, you would expect that rush hour traffic is heaviest and would potentially have a big contribution to fatalities. More vehicles on the road should indicate a higher potential, and the statistics correlate in that regard. From 12 pm to 12 am, there is a clear distinction in the number of fatalities on the roads. Roughly 7 out of 10 fatalities occur after 12 pm on a weekday, and the 3 pm – 6 pm hours account for 24%. If you plan to ride on the weekends, be aware that the same trend continues. The afternoon hours up until midnight account for 3 out of 4 fatalities on the weekends with the 6 pm – 9 pm hours accounting for almost 1 in every 4 fatalities.
Drinking and RidingAlcohol involvement doesn’t always equate to having or being involved in an accident, but based on the statistics, having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more can be a factor leading to a fatality. Of the riders lost in 2017, roughly 1 in 3 had a BAC of 0.08 or more. A BAC of 0.08 is usually the legal limit before it becomes a crime in most states. Of those riders, about 60% had a BAC of 0.15 or more. That’s almost double the legal limit allowed. Time of day does also has a contribution to the statistics surrounding alcohol. Nearly half of the riders with a BAC of 0.08 or more lost their lives between 9 pm and 6 am, which is when daylight is gone, animals may be out on the roadside the most, and weather can play more of a factor with fog, ice, or rain. Alcohol and riding are a poor mixture, especially when other factors can pile on the danger.
Single vs. Multiple Vehicle CrashesMotorcycle fatalities on the road don’t always require other vehicles involved. For every 5 fatalities on a motorcycle, 2 only involved the motorcyclist. They are listed as single-vehicle accidents. There are many factors that can contribute to a single-vehicle accident on a motorcycle, but the main contributor is always the motorcyclist. Out of those 5 fatalities, the other 3 involve one or more other vehicles. They don’t have to be in motion to be involved, but most likely it’s another vehicle being driven on the road. These accidents can again have similar causes, but other contributions can be offered when other vehicles share the roadway. The one main factor, in either case, is the rider themselves. Their actions while riding have the best chance to keep them out of an accident, whether they are sharing the roadway with other vehicles or riding alone.
Engine SizeEngine size is a tricky subject because it doesn’t always equate well to the risk of an accident or fatality while riding. Engine size is broken down into three categories: 1,000cc and under, 1,001 – 1,400cc, and 1,400cc and over. What you typically see is newer riders generally buy motorcycles in the 1,000cc or less category. They are fresh from a training class with a minimal amount of experience and have a high risk of an accident. Over the last 20 years, the 1,400cc and over category has trended higher and higher year after year. There aren’t many motorcycles that fit into this category, and those that do are most likely a touring motorcycle that sees a lot of seat time over the course of a year. More time on the road would offer more chances for an accident to occur, which makes sense.
Time of YearThe time of year definitely shows a trend leading to motorcycle accidents and fatalities. When it’s cold, fewer riders are on the road. January to March shows only a single-digit incident rate of fatalities. October through December show a similar trend. That leaves the warmest months of the year where the most riding fatalities occur. April through September have double-digit fatality rates each month with July as the single highest month at 14% from 2017. July is usually one of the warmest months during the summer, and with the 4th of July holiday usually offering an extended weekend, riders are out on the roads heavily enjoying great weather. Expect higher rates in warmer weather and also expect lower rates when weather is inclement or poor for riding.
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