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 2005, the number of deaths on motorcycles was about 37 times the number in cars. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2007. Traffic safety facts, 2006. Washington, DC: U.S. 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: U.S. Department of Transportation. and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1996. Motorcycle helmets: the facts of life. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. An unhelmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury compared with a helmeted rider. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 1996. Motorcycle helmets: the facts of life. Washington, DC: U.S. 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 During the past decade several states have repealed or weakened their helmet laws.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.[ Error ] 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: U.S. Department of Transportation. In contrast, benefits return when helmet laws applying to all riders are reinstated. McSwain, N.E., Jr. and Willey, A.B. 1984. The impact of reenactment of the motorcycle helmet law in Louisiana. Report no. DOT HS 806 760. Washington, DC: U.S. Departement of Transportation.
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 4,697 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2006. 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, reaching a record 11 percent of all motor-vehicle crash deaths in 2006.
Passenger vehicle occupant deaths and motorcyclist deaths, 1975-2006
In 2006, about a third fewer fatally injured motorcyclists were operating without a valid license (26 percent) than in 1995, but this is still higher than among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers (16 percent).
Forty-four percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2006 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 56 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes.
In 2006, 58 percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers were helmeted. Helmet use was lower, at 43 percent, for people killed as passengers on motorcycles.
In 2006, 85 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were helmeted in states with helmet laws that cover all riders, in contrast to only 20 percent in states with no helmet law. In states with helmet laws that cover only some riders, 35 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were helmeted.
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 2006. However, the absolute number of motorcyclist deaths among all age groups has been climbing since 1999.
Motorcyclist deaths by age, 1975-2006
Ninety-one percent of motorcyclists killed in 2006 were males.
Sixty-six percent of the females who died in motorcycle crashes in 2006 were passengers and their deaths represented 87 percent of the passenger deaths. Ninety-nine percent of the males who died were drivers.
The average engine size of motorcycles whose drivers were killed in crashes went up dramatically in the last few years. Among motorcycle operators killed in 2006, 23 percent drove motorcycles with engine size larger than 1,400 cc, compared to 9 percent in 2000 and less than 1 percent in 1990.
Percentage of motorcycle driver deaths by motorcycle engine size, 1985-2006
Among the motorcycles whose drivers were killed in 2006, 77 percent of touring bikes had engines larger than 1,400 cc, while 97 percent of supersport bikes had engines of sizes 1,000 cc or smaller.
In 2006, 35 percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers were on cruisers or standards and 29 percent were on supersports. In contrast, 30 percent of motorcycle driver deaths were on cruisers and standards and 19 percent were on supersports in 1997. Of the driver deaths on public roadways in 2006, about 1 percent occurred on motorcycles designed for exclusively off-road use. The proportion of motorcycles that could not be classified has decreased substantially over these years.
Seventy percent of fatally injured drivers of cruisers or standards in 2006 were at least 40 years of age, compared with 88 percent of touring bike drivers. Sixty-nine percent of fatally injured supersport drivers in 2006 were under age 30.
Seventy percent of fatally injured supersport drivers and 68 percent of sport/unclad sport drivers were helmeted in 2006. Only 51 percent of fatally injured drivers of cruisers and standards were helmeted.
Seventy percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2006 occurred during the six months of April-September. Fatalities peaked during July and were lowest during December-February.
Fifty-eight percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2006 occurred during Friday-Sunday.
Forty-two percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2006 occurred between 3pm and 9pm. Another 28 percent occurred between 9pm and 6am.
More than half of motorcyclist deaths in 2006 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways.
Twenty-seven percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers in 2006 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent; among single-vehicle crashes this was 41 percent.
Fifty-two percent of motorcycle drivers killed at night (9pm - 6am) in 2006 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent.
©1996-2016, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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