Motorcycles and ATVs | 2012

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 2011, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 30 times the number in cars. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2013. Traffic safety facts, 2011: motorcycles. Report no. DOT HS-811-765. 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).

Trends

A total of 4,667 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2012. Motorcyclist deaths had been declining since the early 1980s but began to increase in 1998 and continued to increase through 2008. Motorcyclist deaths decreased by 16 percent in 2009 compared with 2008 and increased slightly in 2010, 2011, and 2012.  Motorcycle deaths accounted for 14 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2012 and were more than double the number of motorcyclist deaths in 1997. 

Passenger vehicle occupant and motorcyclist deaths as a percentage of all motor vehicle crash deaths, 1975-2012
YearPassenger vehicle occupant deathsMotorcyclist deaths All motor vehicle deaths
Number%Number%Number%
1975 30,601 69 3,106 7 44,525 100
1976 31,724 70 3,232 7 45,523 100
1977 32,823 69 4,004 8 47,878 100
1978 34,923 69 4,448 9 50,331 100
1979 35,026 69 4,712 9 51,093 100
1980 34,996 68 4,955 10 51,091 100
1981 33,711 68 4,737 10 49,301 100
1982 29,656 67 4,267 10 43,945 100
1983 29,154 68 4,099 10 42,589 100
1984 30,094 68 4,425 10 44,257 100
1985 29,848 68 4,415 10 43,825 100
1986 32,224 70 4,309 9 46,087 100
1987 33,145 71 3,832 8 46,390 100
1988 34,105 72 3,491 7 47,087 100
1989 33,599 74 3,030 7 45,582 100
1990 32,711 73 3,128 7 44,599 100
1991 30,810 74 2,702 7 41,508 100
1992 29,457 75 2,291 6 39,250 100
1993 29,994 75 2,346 6 40,150 100
1994 30,820 76 2,215 5 40,716 100
1995 31,914 76 2,138 5 41,817 100
1996 32,354 77 2,077 5 42,065 100
1997 32,343 77 2,056 5 42,013 100
1998 31,781 77 2,227 5 41,501 100
1999 32,008 77 2,419 6 41,717 100
2000 32,109 77 2,829 7 41,945 100
2001 31,938 76 3,123 7 42,196 100
2002 32,724 76 3,187 7 43,005 100
2003 32,166 75 3,641 8 42,884 100
2004 31,750 74 3,904 9 42,836 100
2005 31,455 72 4,460 10 43,510 100
2006 30,628 72 4,699 11 42,708 100
2007 29,155 71 5,050 12 41,259 100
2008 25,547 68 5,112 14 37,423 100
2009 23,507 69 4,286 13 33,883 100
2010 22,351 68 4,324 13 32,999 100
2011 21,413 66 4,403 14 32,479 100
2012 21,795 65 4,667 14 33,561 100

In 2012, fatally injured motorcycle drivers were 10 percent more likely to be operating without a valid driver's license than in 2011 (24 percent vs. 21 percent), having risen back to the 2004 level. The rate of unlicensed fatally injured motorcycle drivers during 2003-2012 was higher than the rate of unlicensed fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers.

Passenger vehicle and motorcycle driver deaths by driver's license status, 2003-2012
YearPassenger vehicle driversMotorcycle drivers
No valid licenseValid license Total* No valid licenseValid license Total*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
2003 3,123 14 18,863 85 22,200 100 837 25 2,504 75 3,358 100
2004 3,024 14 18,726 85 21,952 100 866 24 2,702 75 3,593 100
2005 3,154 15 18,572 85 21,953 100 1,002 24 3,116 75 4,142 100
2006 3,423 16 17,941 83 21,592 100 1,134 26 3,219 73 4,387 100
2007 3,206 15 17,142 83 20,542 100 1,239 26 3,461 73 4,740 100
2008 2,702 15 15,399 84 18,266 100 1,190 24 3,561 74 4,782 100
2009 2,407 14 14,294 85 16,834 100 886 22 3,077 77 3,987 100
2010 2,273 15 13,672 85 16,029 100 874 21 3,127 78 4,022 100
2011 2,254 15 13,225 85 15,561 100 891 21 3,210 78 4,120 100
2012 2,351 15 13,386 84 15,842 100 1,040 24 3,272 75 4,355 100

Forty-three percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2012 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 57 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes.  This has remained largely unchanged since the 1980s.

Motorcyclist deaths by crash type, 1975-2012
YearSingle-vehicle Multiple-vehicleAll crashes*
Deaths%Deaths%Deaths%
1975 1,137 37 1,963 63 3,106 100
1976 1,235 38 1,981 61 3,232 100
1977 1,564 39 2,424 61 4,004 100
1978 1,701 38 2,726 61 4,448 100
1979 1,888 40 2,811 60 4,712 100
1980 2,034 41 2,897 58 4,955 100
1981 1,926 41 2,789 59 4,737 100
1982 1,804 42 2,463 58 4,267 100
1983 1,787 44 2,312 56 4,099 100
1984 1,879 42 2,546 58 4,425 100
1985 1,889 43 2,526 57 4,415 100
1986 1,835 43 2,474 57 4,309 100
1987 1,603 42 2,229 58 3,832 100
1988 1,466 42 2,025 58 3,491 100
1989 1,348 44 1,682 56 3,030 100
1990 1,380 44 1,748 56 3,128 100
1991 1,215 45 1,487 55 2,702 100
1992 1,054 46 1,237 54 2,291 100
1993 997 42 1,349 58 2,346 100
1994 951 43 1,264 57 2,215 100
1995 900 42 1,238 58 2,138 100
1996 881 42 1,196 58 2,077 100
1997 882 43 1,174 57 2,056 100
1998 993 45 1,234 55 2,227 100
1999 1,084 45 1,335 55 2,419 100
2000 1,253 44 1,576 56 2,829 100
2001 1,402 45 1,721 55 3,123 100
2002 1,475 46 1,712 54 3,187 100
2003 1,555 43 2,086 57 3,641 100
2004 1,718 44 2,186 56 3,904 100
2005 1,940 43 2,515 56 4,460 100
2006 2,049 44 2,644 56 4,699 100
2007 2,224 44 2,824 56 5,050 100
2008 2,331 46 2,777 54 5,112 100
2009 1,920 45 2,364 55 4,286 100
2010 1,958 45 2,366 55 4,324 100
2011 2,010 46 2,393 54 4,403 100
2012 2,023 43 2,644 57 4,667 100

Age and gender

In the early 1980s the proportion of fatally injured motorcyclists 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 2012.

Motorcyclist deaths by age, 1975-2012
Year≤29 years30-39 years 40-49 years ≥50 yearsTotal*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
19752,475 80 419 13 129 4 79 33,106 100
19762,565 79 426 13 142 4 97 33,232 100
19773,211 80 529 13 147 4 112 34,004 100
19783,557 80 603 14 177 4 104 24,448 100
19793,627 77 729 15 212 4 138 34,712 100
19803,641 73 896 18 265 5 149 34,955 100
19813,487 74 840 18 255 5 146 34,737 100
19823,082 72 790 19 247 6 138 34,267 100
19832,959 72 765 19 234 6 135 34,099 100
19843,171 72 813 18 263 6 165 44,425 100
19853,160 72 849 19 238 5 163 44,415 100
19863,034 70 877 20 257 6 131 34,309 100
19872,588 68 831 22 275 7 138 43,832 100
19882,309 66 757 22 278 8 146 43,491 100
19891,873 62 735 24 283 9 136 43,030 100
19901,885 60 805 26 265 8 173 63,128 100
19911,580 58 711 26 283 10 127 52,702 100
19921,242 54 638 28 268 12 143 62,291 100
19931,229 52 647 28 324 14 145 62,346 100
19941,121 51 584 26 338 15 171 82,215 100
19951,057 49 562 26 347 16 172 82,138 100
1996 932 45 541 26 408 20 196 92,077 100
1997 837 41 547 27 396 19 276 132,056 100
1998 897 40 599 27 465 21 265 122,227 100
1999 878 36 601 25 564 23 376 162,419 100
2000 986 35 696 25 666 24 476 172,829 100
20011,108 35 789 25 715 23 509 163,123 100
20021,022 32 767 24 758 24 638 203,187 100
20031,161 32 829 23 887 24 763 213,641 100
20041,256 32 853 22 946 24 849 223,904 100
20051,405 32 963 221,003 221,088 244,460 100
20061,495 32 984 211,085 231,134 244,699 100
20071,547 311,033 201,148 231,317 265,050 100
20081,580 31 964 191,135 221,431 285,112 100
20091,139 27 830 19 983 231,332 314,286 100
20101,121 26 787 18 968 221,447 334,324 100
20111,177 27 800 18 888 201,537 354,403 100
20121,212 26 876 19 922 201,656 354,667 100

Ninety-one percent of motorcyclists killed in 2012 were males.

Motorcyclist deaths by age and gender, 2012
AgeMale FemaleTotal*
Number%Number%Number%
<16 12 80 3 20 15 100
16-19 106 86 17 14 123 100
20-24 511 95 27 5 539 100
25-29 503 94 32 6 535 100
30-34 425 91 41 9 467 100
35-39 370 90 39 10 409 100
40-44 400 89 51 11 451 100
45-49 415 88 56 12 471 100
50-54 477 88 64 12 541 100
55-59 416 91 40 9 456 100
60-69 483 91 45 9 528 100
≥70 127 97 4 3 131 100
Total* 4,246 91 419 9 4,667 100

Sixty-eight percent of the females motorcyclists who died in crashes in 2012 were passengers, and their deaths represented 93 percent of the passenger deaths. Ninety-nine percent of the males who died were drivers.

Motorcyclist deaths by person type and gender, 2012
Person typeMale Female
Number%Number%
Driver 4,222 99 133 32
Passenger 22 1 286 68
Total* 4,246 100 419 100

Helmet use

In 2012, 59 percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers were helmeted. Helmet use was lower, at 47 percent, for people killed as passengers on motorcycles.

Helmet use of fatally injured motorcycle drivers and passengers, 2012
Helmet No helmetUnknown Total
Number%Number%Number%Number%
Driver 2,552 59 1,686 39 117 3 4,355 100
Passenger 146 47 154 50 10 3 310 100
Total* 2,698 58 1,840 39 129 3 4,667 100

In 2012, 91 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were helmeted in states with helmet laws that cover all riders, in contrast to only 21 percent in states with no helmet law. In states with helmet laws that cover only some riders, 38 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were helmeted.

Helmet use of fatally injured motorcyclists by helmet law status, 2012
Helmet No helmetUnknown Total
Number%Number%Number%Number%
No law 49 21 175 76 5 2 229 100
Partial law 994 38 1,538 59 77 3 2,609 100
Universal law 1,655 91 127 7 47 2 1,829 100
Total 2,698 58 1,840 39 129 3 4,667 100

Motorcycle type and engine size

Engine sizes of motorcycles whose drivers were killed in crashes have gone up dramatically. Among motorcycle drivers killed in 2012, 30 percent drove motorcycles with engine size larger than 1,400 cc, compared with 9 percent in 2000 and less than 1 percent in 1990.

Motorcycle driver deaths by motorcycle engine size, 1985-2012
Year0-1,000 cc 1,001-1,400 cc>1,400 cc Total*
Number%Number%Number%Number
1985 2,64968 61316 0 0 3,896
1986 2,73472 62016 0 0 3,790
1987 2,44172 60118 0 0 3,409
1988 2,14968 61520 6<1 3,139
1989 1,83168 53920 3<1 2,682
1990 1,89568 61922 5<1 2,790
1991 1,63268 54523 13 1 2,404
1992 1,35165 51725 7<1 2,079
1993 1,33063 58227 11 1 2,120
1994 1,19960 53327 15 1 1,995
1995 1,17461 56429 22 1 1,939
1996 1,10259 54629 36 2 1,881
1997 1,05356 61233 33 2 1,878
1998 1,14056 64832 46 2 2,026
1999 1,07348 64429 98 4 2,223
2000 1,34152 77930 234 9 2,591
2001 1,54053 78027 30911 2,886
2002 1,47550 73725 48216 2,952
2003 1,62048 82925 61218 3,358
2004 1,77549 81323 72120 3,593
2005 2,06950 92822 86121 4,142
2006 2,17950 86020 1,01423 4,387
2007 2,39551 91719 1,11724 4,740
2008 2,31948 87418 1,23826 4,782
2009 1,80545 73518 1,13729 3,987
2010 1,74143 73118 1,17829 4,022
2011 1,92847 75218 1,18029 4,120
2012 1,95945 77418 1,29930 4,355

Among the motorcycles whose drivers were killed in 2012, 88 percent of touring bikes had engines larger than 1,400 cc, while 98 percent of supersport bikes had engines of sizes 1,000 cc or smaller.

Fatally injured motorcycle drivers by motorcycle type and engine size, 2012
0-1,000 cc 1,001-1,400 cc>1,400 cc Total *
Number%Number%Number%Number%
Cruiser/standard 432 28 455 29 644 42 1,544100
Touring 4 1 87 12 647 88 738100
Sport-touring 5 12 33 82 00 40100
Sport/unclad sport 270 64 117 28 00 419100
Supersport 1,012 98 5<1 00 1,036100
Off-road 39 98 00 00 40100
Other/unknown 197 37 77 14 8 1 538100
Total 1,959 45 774 18 1,299 30 4,355100

Among fatally injured motorcycle drivers in 2012, 72 percent of cruiser or standard drivers were 40 or older, as were 88 percent of touring bike drivers. In contrast, 68 percent of off-road bike drivers and 61 percent of fatally injured supersport drivers in 2012 were younger than 30.

Fatally injured motorcycle drivers by age and motorcycle type, 2012
<30 years 30-39 years 40-49 years 50+ years Total *
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
Cruiser/standard 182 12 248 16 381 25 733 471,544 100
Touring 15 2 70 9 177 24 476 64 738 100
Sport-touring 3 8 3 8 8 20 26 65 40 100
Sport/unclad sport 172 41 117 28 85 20 44 11 419 100
Supersport 628 61 287 28 97 9 24 21,036 100
Off-road 27 68 8 20 3 8 2 5 40 100
Other/unknown 115 21 80 15 99 18 244 45 538 100
Total 1,142 26 813 19 850 201,549 364,355 100

At 95 percent, helmet use was highest among fatally injured drivers of sport-touring motorcycles in 2012. Seventy-six percent of fatally injured supersport drivers were helmeted. About half of fatally injured drivers of touring motorcycles and of cruisers or standards were helmeted.

Helmet use of fatally injured motorcycle drivers by motorcycle type, 2012
Helmet No helmetUnknown Total
Number%Number%Number%Number%
Cruiser/standard 797 51 713 46 34 2 1,544 100
Touring 353 48 363 49 22 3 738 100
Sport-touring 38 95 2 5 0 0 40 100
Sport/unclad sport 288 68 113 27 18 4 419 100
Supersport 781 76 232 22 23 2 1,036 100
Off-road 11 27 28 70 1 2 40 100
Other 84 62 49 36 3 2 136 100
Unknown 200 49 186 46 16 4 402 100
Total 2,552 59 1,686 39 117 3 4,355 100

When and where they died

Sixty-one percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2012 occurred during May-September. Fatalities peaked in June and were lowest in December.

Motorcyclist deaths by month, 2012
MonthDeaths%
January 146 3
February 145 3
March 394 8
April 411 9
May 542 12
June 618 13
July 557 12
August 582 12
September 527 11
October 360 8
November 244 5
December 141 3
Total 4,667 100

Forty-eight percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2012 occurred on weekends, and those deaths were more likely to occur after 6 p.m. compared with weekdays.

Motorcyclist deaths by time of day, 2012
Weekend (6 p.m. Friday - 6 a.m. Monday)Other times Total
Number%Number%
Midnight - 3 a.m. 265 11 171 7 436
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 84 4 98 4 182
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 54 3 197 8 251
9 a.m. - noon 190 9 209 9 399
Noon - 3 p.m. 330 14 393 16 723
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 457 21 636 26 1,093
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 508 23 398 17 906
9 p.m. - midnight 332 15 309 13 641
Total* 2,232 100 2,435 100 4,667

More than half of motorcyclist deaths in 2012 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways. Deaths were about equally likely to occur in urban or rural areas.

Motorcyclist deaths by location of crash, 2012
Road TypeUrban Rural Total*
Number%Number%Number%
Interstates and freeways 434 9 112 2 546 12
Non-interstate major roads 1,169 25 1,532 33 2,701 58
Minor roads 766 16 601 13 1,367 29
Total* 2,376 51 2,279 49 4,667 100

Alcohol involvement

Twenty-nine percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers in 2012 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent; in single-vehicle crashes this was 43 percent.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers with high BACs by crash type, 2012
Crash typeDeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumberNumber%Number%
Single-vehicle 1,893 805 43 551 29
Multiple-vehicle 2,462 441 18 257 10
All crashes* 4,355 1,246 29 808 19

Fifty-three percent of motorcycle drivers killed at night (9 p.m.-6 a.m.) in 2012 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers with high BACs by time of day, 2012
Time of dayDeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumberNumber%Number%
Nighttime (9 p.m. - 6 a.m.) 1,171 621 53 430 37
Other times 3,184 625 20 378 12
Total 4,355 1,246 29 808 19

ATVs

Deaths of ATV riders on public roads have increased nearly 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 38 percent in 2012.  The proportion under the age of 20 decreased from 54 percent in 1982 to 18 percent in 2012. 

Deaths of ATV rider on public roads by age, 1982-2012
Year<13 years 13-19 years20-29 years30-39 years40-49 years50+ years Total*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
1982 6 17 13 37 7 20 6 1700 3 9 35 100
1983 2 5 18 43 12 29 5 12 2 5 3 7 42 100
1984 4 9 17 36 14 30 6 13 5 11 1 2 47 100
1985 9 20 20 43 12 26 1 2 1 2 3 7 46 100
1986 11 18 20 33 21 34 6 10 1 2 2 3 61 100
1987 12 16 18 24 23 31 10 14 6 8 5 7 74 100
1988 14 18 26 34 21 27 7 9 5 6 4 5 77 100
1989 13 14 39 41 21 22 10 11 6 6 6 6 95 100
1990 12 10 44 36 37 31 13 11 8 7 7 6 121 100
1991 10 8 34 29 42 36 18 15 6 5 8 7 118 100
1992 8 7 44 37 39 33 12 10 4 3 12 10 119 100
1993 11 11 42 41 23 23 20 20 2 2 4 4 102 100
1994 10 9 42 37 31 27 12 11 8 7 10 9 113 100
1995 9 9 34 33 32 31 12 12 4 4 11 11 102 100
1996 16 11 44 30 43 29 23 16 6 4 16 11 148 100
1997 10 8 47 36 33 25 18 14 5 4 17 13 130 100
1998 17 12 55 37 29 20 23 16 12 8 11 7 147 100
1999 13 8 60 35 46 27 26 15 11 6 17 10 173 100
2000 12 6 73 34 63 30 30 14 18 8 17 8 213 100
2001 19 8 69 31 51 23 46 21 19 8 20 9 224 100
2002 21 8 69 28 69 28 39 16 21 8 31 12 250 100
2003 22 7 83 28 73 24 49 16 43 14 31 10 301 100
2004 22 7 99 29 101 30 39 12 33 10 43 13 337 100
2005 29 9 87 26 89 26 46 14 40 12 46 14 337 100
2006 16 4 95 26 102 28 61 17 41 11 47 13 362 100
2007 17 5 79 21 116 32 60 16 60 16 36 10 368 100
2008 24 6 83 22 98 26 65 17 46 12 61 16 377 100
2009 16 5 70 21 81 24 54 16 61 18 53 16 335 100
2010 16 5 51 16 66 21 47 15 56 18 80 25 316 100
2011 10 3 47 15 74 24 54 18 54 18 66 22 305 100
2012 14 5 40 13 79 26 56 18 53 17 61 20 303 100

Eight percent of fatally injured ATV riders wore helmets in 2012.

Helmet use among fatally injured ATV riders on public roads, 2012
No helmet Helmet Other/unknownTotal
Number%Number%Number%Number%
Driver 221 86 21 8 15 6 257 100
Passenger 35 80 2 5 7 16 44 100
Unknown 3 1000000 3 100
Total 259 85 23 8 22 7 304 100

ATV rider deaths on public roads were highest in June.  Seventy-one percent of the deaths in 2012 occurred in May-October. 

ATV rider deaths on public roads by month, 2012
Deaths%
January 14 5
February 15 5
March 20 7
April 10 3
May 40 13
June 41 13
July 39 13
August 37 12
September 31 10
October 27 9
November 13 4
December 17 6
Total 304 100

Eighty-seven percent of ATV riders killed on public roads in 2012 were on rural roads.  Of those, 64 percent were on minor roads. 

ATV rider deaths by road type and land use, 2012
Road typeUrban Rural UnknownTotal
Number%Number%Number%Number%
Non-interstate major roads 4 1 60 2000 64 21
Minor roads 36 12 194 6400 230 76
Unknown 00 9 3 1 0 10 3
Total 40 13 263 87 1 0 304 100

In 2012, 49 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. 

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured ATV drivers with high BACs on public roads by age, 2012
AgeDeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumberNumber%Number%
<13 6 0 3 0 2
13-19 26 5 21 3 10
20-29 69 38 55 22 32
30-39 50 27 54 14 28
40-49 50 31 63 26 51
50+ 56 23 42 20 35
Total 257 125 49 84 33

References