Motorcycles | 2007

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 2006, the Numberber of deaths on motorcycles was about 35 times the Numberber in cars. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2008. Traffic safety facts, 2007. 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. 1996. The Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES): Technical Report. Report no. DOT HS-808-338. 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 During the past decade several states have repealed or weakened their helmet laws.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: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 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: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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 5,037 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2007. 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 12 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2007. More motorcyclists were killed in crashes in 2007 than in any year since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began collecting FARS data in 1975. In contrast, at 28,896, fewer passenger vehicle occupants died in crashes in 2007 than in any year in this time period.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths and motorcyclist deaths, 1975-2007

Passenger vehicle occupant and motorcyclist deaths as a percentage of all motor vehicle crash deaths, 1975-2007
YearPassenger vehicle occupant deathsMotorcyclist deathsAll motor vehicle deaths
Num%Num%Num
197530,601693,106744,525
197631,724703,232745,523
197732,823694,004847,878
197834,923694,448950,331
197935,026694,712951,093
198034,995684,9551051,091
198133,711684,7371049,301
198229,654674,2671043,945
198329,153684,0991042,589
198430,091684,4251044,257
198529,847684,4151043,825
198632,224704,309946,087
198733,145713,832846,390
198834,105723,491747,087
198933,599743,030745,582
199032,711733,128744,599
199130,810742,702741,508
199229,457752,291639,250
199329,994752,346640,150
199430,816762,215540,716
199531,913762,138541,817
199632,354772,077542,065
199732,331772,056542,013
199831,779772,227541,501
199932,008772,419641,717
200032,109772,829741,945
200131,938763,123742,196
200232,724763,187743,005
200332,166753,641842,884
200431,750743,904942,836
200531,455724,4601043,510
200630,628724,6991142,708
200728,896705,0371241,059

In 2007, fatally injured motorcyclists were less likely to be operating without a valid license than in 1998 (26 percent vs. 31 percent), but this is still higher than among fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers (15 percent).

Passenger vehicle and motorcycle driver deaths by license status, 1998-2007
YearPassenger vehicle driversMotorcycle drivers
No valid licenseValid licenseTotal*No valid licenseValid licenseTotal*
Num%Num%NumNum%Num%Num
19982,9421318,5438621,627649311,360672,026
19992,9311318,7648621,899611271,592722,223
20003,1271518,4548521,819730271,841712,591
20012,9771318,6288521,862799272,064722,886
20023,2791519,0328422,537763252,167732,952
20033,1231418,8638522,200837252,504753,358
20043,0241418,7268521,952866242,702753,593
20053,1541518,5728521,9531,002243,116754,142
20063,4231617,9418321,5921,134263,219734,387
20073,1801516,9758320,3811,232263,442734,727
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Forty-four percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2007 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 56 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes.

Motorcyclist deaths by crash type, 2007
Crash typeDeaths%
Single-vehicle2,21844
Multiple-vehicle2,81756
All crashes*5,037100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

In 2007, 58 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, 2007
 No helmetHelmetUnknownTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num
Driver1,855392,7495812334,727
Passenger162521454721309
Total*2,017402,8955712525,037
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

In 2007, 86 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were helmeted in states with helmet laws that cover all riders, in contrast to only 19 percent in states with no helmet law. In states with helmet laws that cover only some riders, 37 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were helmeted.

Helmet use of fatally injured motorcyclists by helmet law status, 2007
 No helmetHelmetUnknownTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num
No law18978461973242
Partial law1,55060968377932,597
Universal law278131,881863922,198
Total2,017402,8955712525,037

Age and gender

In the early 1980s the proportion of fatally injured motorcyclists 40 and older started to increase, rising from 9 percent of all rider deaths in 1982 to 15 percent in 1991 and 49 percent in 2007. However, the absolute number of motorcyclist deaths among all age groups has been climbing since 1999.

Motorcyclist deaths by age, 1975-2007

Motorcyclist deaths by age, 1975-2007
Year≤ 2930-3940-49≥ 50Total*
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
19752,475804191312947933,106
19762,565794261314249733,232
19773,2118052913147411234,004
19783,5578060314177410424,448
19793,6277772915212413834,712
19803,6417389618265514934,955
19813,4877484018255514634,737
19823,0827279019247613834,267
19832,9597276519234613534,099
19843,1717281318263616544,425
19853,1607284919238516344,415
19863,0347087720257613134,309
19872,5886883122275713843,832
19882,3096675722278814643,491
19891,8736273524283913643,030
19901,8856080526265817363,128
19911,58058711262831012752,702
19921,24254638282681214362,291
19931,22952647283241414562,346
19941,12151584263381517182,215
19951,05749562263471617282,138
199693245541264082019692,077
1997837415472739619276132,056
1998897405992746521265122,227
1999878366012556423376162,419
2000986356962566624476172,829
20011,108357892571523509163,123
20021,022327672475824638203,187
20031,161328292388724763213,641
20041,256328532294624849223,904
20051,40532963221,003221,088244,460
20061,49532984211,085231,134244,699
20071,543311,030201,141231,318265,037
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Ninety-one percent of motorcyclists killed in 2007 were males.

Motorcyclist deaths by age and gender, 2007
AgeMaleFemaleTotal*
Num%Num%Num
<16237962129
16-19188902010208
20-2468595385723
25-2954794366583
30-3444392378480
35-3951093407550
40-44488877413562
45-49514896511579
50-54459886012519
55-5935691369392
60-6931193237334
≥ 7067926873
Total*4,5939144495,037
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty-three percent of the females who died in motorcycle crashes in 2007 were passengers, and their deaths represented 91 percent of the passenger deaths. Ninety-nine percent of the males who died were drivers.

Motorcyclist deaths by person type and gender, 2007
Person typeMaleFemale
Num%Num%
Driver4,5649916337
Passenger29128063
Total*4,593100444100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Motorcycle type and engine size

Engine sizes of motorcycles whose drivers were killed in crashes went up dramatically in the last few years. Among motorcycle drivers killed in 2007, 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, 1985-2007

Motorcycle driver deaths by motorcycle engine size, 1985-2007
Year0-1,000 cc1,001-1,400 cc>1,400 ccTotal*
Num%Num%Num%Num
19852,6496861316003,896
19862,7347262016003,790
19872,4417260118003,409
19882,14968615206<13,139
19891,83168539203<12,682
19901,89568619225<12,790
19911,63268545231312,404
19921,35165517257<12,079
19931,33063582271112,120
19941,19960533271511,995
19951,17461564292211,939
19961,10259546293621,881
19971,05356612333321,878
19981,14056648324622,026
19991,07348644299842,223
20001,341527793023492,591
20011,5405378027309112,886
20021,4755073725482162,952
20031,6204882925612183,358
20041,7754981323721203,593
20052,0695092822861214,142
20062,17950860201,014234,387
20072,38250910191,109234,727
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Among the motorcycles whose drivers were killed in 2007, 76 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, 2007
 0-1,000 cc1,001-1,400 cc>1,400 ccTotal *
Num%Num%Num%Num
Cruiser/standard4652852131659401,659
Touring411362344776588
Sport-touring123422630035
Sport/unclad Sport317621673300510
Supersport1,33798151001,362
Off-road6295000065
Other/unknown18536491031508
Total2,38250910191,109234,727
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Seventy-two percent of fatally injured drivers of cruisers or standards in 2007 were at least 40 years old, compared with 90 percent of touring bike drivers. Sixty-five percent of fatally injured supersport drivers in 2007 were younger than 30.

Fatally injured motorcycle drivers by age and motorcycle type, 2007
 <3030-3940-4950+Total *
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
Cruiser/standard172102951855233640391,659
Touring1224881823134659588
Sport-touring005141234185135
Sport/unclad Sport22945166337715387510
Supersport88665352269872421,362
Off-road48749147111265
Other/unknown10320103201392716332508
Total1,45031978211,067231,230264,727
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

At 89 percent, helmet use was highest among fatally injured drivers of sport-touring motorcycles in 2007. Seventy-four percent of fatally injured supersport drivers and 69 percent of sport/unclad sport drivers were helmeted in 2007. Forty-nine percent of fatally injured drivers of cruisers and standards were helmeted.

Helmet use of fatally injured motorcycle drivers by motorcycle type, 2007
 No helmetHelmetUnknownTotal
Num%Num%Num%Num
Cruiser/standard79748815494731,659
Touring2894928448153588
Sport-touring41131890035
Sport/unclad Sport1482935069122510
Supersport328241,006742821,362
Off-road446820311265
Other353658603396
Unknown2105118545174412
Total1,855392,7495812334,727

When and where they died

Seventy percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2007 occurred during the six months of April-September. Fatalities peaked during May and July and were lowest during December-February.

Motorcyclist deaths by month, 2007
MonthDeaths%
January1323
February1403
March3617
April4098
May63413
June59912
July64113
August62812
September62112
October4599
November2505
December1633
Total5,037100

Forty-four percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2007 occurred on Saturday or Sunday.

Motorcyclist deaths by day of week, 2007
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday1,04321
Monday53811
Tuesday51610
Wednesday53711
Thursday55511
Friday68814
Saturday1,16023
Total*5,037100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Forty-four percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2007 occurred between 3 pm and 9 pm.

Motorcyclist deaths by time of day, 2007
Time of dayDeaths%
Midnight-3am4689
3am-6am1864
6am-9am2465
9am-noon3978
Noon-3pm76315
3pm-6pm1,13423
6pm-9pm1,08922
9pm-midnight70514
Total*5,037100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

More than half of motorcyclist deaths in 2007 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways.

Motorcyclist deaths by location of crash, 2007
Road TypeUrbanRuralTotal*
Num%Num%Num%
Interstates and freeways4749121259512
Other major roads1,227241,556312,78355
Minor roads77315771151,54431
Total*2,477492,459495,037100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Alcohol involvement

Twenty-eight percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers in 2007 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent; among single-vehicle crashes this was 41 percent.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers with high BACs by crash type, 2007
Crash typeDeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumNum%Num%
Single-vehicle2,0878614157628
Multiple-vehicle2,6384741825710
All crashes*4,7271,3352883318
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifty-two percent of motorcycle drivers killed at night (9 pm - 6 am) in 2007 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers with high BACs by time of day, 2007
Time of dayDeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.15
NumNum%Num%
Nighttime (9pm-6am)1,2626545243034
Other times3,4656812040312
Total4,7271,3352883318

References