Helmets and antilock brakes make riding less dangerous.
Motorcycles are less stable and less visible than cars and often have high performance capabilities. For these and other reasons, motorcycles are more likely than cars to be involved in crashes. When motorcycles crash, their riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, so they're more likely to be injured or killed. Per mile traveled in 2004, the number of deaths on motorcycles was about 34 times the number in cars. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2005. Traffic safety facts, 2004. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
Research published in 1995 shows that five crash types account for 86 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes: motorcycle runs off road (41 percent), motorcycle or other vehicle runs traffic control (18 percent), head on (11 percent), car turns in front of motorcycle (8 percent), and motorcycle goes down in roadway (7 percent). Preusser, D.F.; Williams, A.F.; and Ulmer, R.G. 1995. Analysis of fatal motorcycle crashes: crash typing. Accident Analysis and Prevention 27:845-51.
Because serious head injury is common among fatally injured motorcyclists, helmet use is important. Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcyclist deaths Deutermann, W. 2004. Motorcycle helmet effectiveness revisited. Report no. DOT HS-809-715 Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2005. Traffic safety facts, 2004. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. An unhelmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to sustain a fatal head injury compared with a helmeted rider. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1996. Motorcycle helmets: the facts of life. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. Yet only 20 states and the District of Columbia mandate helmet use by all riders. Death rates from head injuries have been shown to be twice as high among motorcyclists in states with no helmet laws or laws that apply only to young riders, compared with states where laws apply to all riders. Sosin, D.M.; Sacks, J.J.; and Holmgreen, P. 1990. Head injury-associated deaths from motorcycle crashes: relationship to helmet use laws. Journal of the American Medical Association 264:2395-99. During the past few years several states have repealed or weakened their helmet laws. In 1997 helmet laws in Texas and Arkansas were weakened to apply only to younger riders. Kentucky weakened its law in 1998, Florida weakened its law in 2000, and Pennsylvania weakened its law in 2003. Louisiana weakened its law in 1999 but reverted to universal coverage in 2004. Repealing or weakening helmet laws so they don't apply to all riders has been followed by increases in deaths. Preusser, D.F.; Hedlund, J.H.; and Ulmer, R.G. 2000. Evaluation of motorcycle helmet law repeal in Arkansas and Texas. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. Kyrychenko, S.Y. and McCartt, A.T. 2006 Florida weakened motorcycle helmet law: effects on death rates in motorcycle crashes. Traffic Injury Prevention 7:55-60. Ulmer, D.G. and Northrup, V.S. 2005. Evaluation of the repeal of the all-rider motorcycle helmet law in Florida. Report no. DOT HS-809-849. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. In contrast, benefits return when helmet laws applying to all riders are reinstated.[ Error ]
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
A total of 4,439 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2005. Motorcyclist deaths had been declining since the early 1980s but began to increase in 1998 and have continued to increase. Since 1997 motorcyclist deaths have more than doubled.
Passenger vehicle occupant deaths and motorcyclist deaths, 1975-2005
In 2005 about a third fewer fatally injured motorcyclists were operating without a valid license (24 percent) than in 1995, but this was still higher than among passenger vehicle drivers (15 percent).
Ninety percent of motorcyclists killed in 2005 were males.
Sixty-six percent of the females who died in motorcycle crashes in 2005 were passengers, and their deaths represented 91 percent of the passenger deaths. Ninety-nine percent of the males who died were drivers.
In the early 1980s the proportion of fatally injured motorcyclists 40 and older started to increase, from 9 percent of all rider deaths in 1982 to 15 percent in 1991 and 47 percent in 2005. However, the absolute number of motorcyclist deaths among all age groups has been climbing since 1999.
Motorcyclist deaths by age, 1975-2005
The average engine size of motorcycles whose drivers were in fatal crashes went up dramatically in the last few years. Among motorcycle operators killed in 2005, 21 percent drove motorcycles with engine sizes larger than 1400 cc, compared with 9 percent in 2000 and less than 1 percent in 1990.
Percentage of motorcycle driver deaths by motorcycle engine size, 1985-2005
In 2005 only 8 percent of fatally injured operators younger than 40 drove motorcycles with engines larger than 1400 cc, compared with 36 percent of riders 40 and older.
Forty-four percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2005 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 56 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes.
Twenty-seven percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers in 2005 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent; among single-vehicle crashes this was 41 percent.
Seventy-one percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2005 occurred during the six months of May-October. Fatalities peaked during July-September and were lowest during December-February.
Fifty-nine percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2005 occurred during Friday-Sunday.
Forty-four percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2005 occurred between 3pm and 9pm. Another 26 percent occurred between 9pm and 6am.
Fifty-three percent of motorcycle drivers killed at night (9pm–6am) in 2005 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent.
More than half of motorcyclist deaths in 2005 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways.
©1996-2016, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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