Helmets and antilock brakes make riding less dangerous.
Motorcycles are less stable and less visible than cars and often have high performance capabilities. When motorcycles crash, their riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, so they're more likely to be injured or killed. The federal government estimates that per mile traveled in 2014, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 27 times the number in cars.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2016. Traffic safety facts, 2014: motorcycles. Report no. DOT HS-812-292. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
Because serious head injury is common among fatally injured motorcyclists, helmet use is important. Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths
Deutermann, W. 2004. Motorcycle helmet effectiveness revisited. Report no. DOT HS-809-715. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2008. Traffic safety facts, laws: motorcycle helmet use laws. Report no. DOT HS-810-887W. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.
Yet only 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate helmet use by all riders.
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not designed for on-highway use, but in recent years more than 300 riders died in crashes on public roads annually.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
Posted November 2016.
A total of 4,693 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2015. Motorcyclist deaths had been declining since the early 1980s but began to increase in 1998 and continued to increase through 2008. Motorcycle deaths accounted for 13 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2015 and were more than double the number of motorcyclist deaths in 1997.
In 2015, 27 percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers were operating without a valid driver's license. The rate of unlicensed fatally injured motorcycle drivers during 2015 was higher than the rate of unlicensed fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers (27 percent vs. 15 percent).
Forty-one percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2015 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 59 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes. This has remained largely unchanged since the 1980s.
In the early 1980s the proportion of fatally injured motorcyclists who were 50 and older started to increase, rising from 3 percent of all rider deaths in 1982 to 13 percent in 1997 and 35 percent in 2015. In contrast, 30 percent of the fatally injured motorcyclists in 2015 were younger than 30, compared with 80 percent in 1975.
Ninety-one percent of motorcyclists killed in 2015 were males.
Sixty-one percent of the female motorcyclists who died in crashes in 2015 were passengers, and their deaths represented 95 percent of the passenger deaths. The vast majority of male motorcyclists who died were drivers.
In 2015, 61 percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers were helmeted. Helmet use was lower, at 47 percent, for people killed as passengers on motorcycles.
In 2015, 92 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were helmeted in states with helmet laws that cover all riders, in contrast to only 27 percent in states with no helmet law. In states with helmet laws that cover only some riders, 41 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were helmeted.
Engine sizes of motorcycles whose drivers were killed in crashes have gone up dramatically. Among motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, 31 percent drove motorcycles with engine sizes larger than 1,400 cc, compared with 9 percent in 2000 and less than 1 percent in 1990.
Among the motorcycles whose drivers were killed in 2015, 88 percent of touring bikes had engines larger than 1,400 cc, while virtually all supersport bikes had engines of sizes 1,000 cc or smaller.
Among fatally injured motorcycle drivers in 2015, 85 percent of cruiser or standard motorcycle drivers were 30 or older, as were 96 percent of touring bike drivers. In contrast, 57 percent of fatally injured off-road bike drivers and 61 percent of fatally injured supersport drivers in 2015 were younger than 30.
At 77 percent, helmet use was highest among fatally injured drivers of supersport motorcycles in 2015. About half of fatally injured drivers of touring motorcycles and of cruisers or standard motorcycles were helmeted.
Sixty percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2015 occurred during May-September. Fatalities peaked in July and were lowest in February.
Forty-nine percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2015 occurred on weekends, and those deaths were more likely to occur after 6 p.m. compared with weekdays.
About half (48 percent) of motorcyclist deaths in 2015 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways. Deaths were more likely to occur in urban than rural areas (49 percent vs. 41 percent).
Twenty-eight percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers in 2015 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent; in single-vehicle crashes this was 42 percent.
Forty-nine percent of motorcycle drivers killed at night (9 p.m.-6 a.m.) in 2015 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent.
Deaths of ATV riders on public roads have increased more than ninefold since 1982, the first year they were explicitly identified in FARS. The proportion of fatally injured ATV riders who were 40 and older increased from 9 percent in 1982 to 43 percent in 2015. The proportion younger than age 20 decreased from 54 percent in 1982 to 19 percent in 2015.
Eight percent of fatally injured ATV riders wore helmets in 2015.
ATV rider deaths on public roads in 2015 were highest in July. Fifty-six percent of the deaths in 2015 occurred during May-September.
In 2015, 50 percent of fatally injured ATV drivers on public roads had BACs at or above 0.08 percent. Impairment was highest, at 63 percent, among fatally injured ATV drivers ages 40-49.
©1996-2016, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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