It may not be something that you like to think about, but motorcycling is a dangerous activity. There are no walls, seat belts, or air bags to protect you when you crash. If you’re riding a motorcycle and you hit the pavement, or another car, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to get injured, or even die.
Every year the U.S Department of Transportation releases statistics on motorcycle fatalities with the help of FARS, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The most recent statistics currently available are from 2009.
Here are some motorcycle fatality facts from the report.
- 4,281 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2009.
- 22% of motorcyclists that died in 2009 did not have a valid license.
- 55% of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2009 involved another vehicle.
- More than half of motorcyclists killed in 2009 were wearing helmets. In states that require helmet use, 85% of fatal crashes involved helmeted motorcyclists.
- 90% of motorcyclist killed in 2009 were male.
- 30% of fatal motorcycle crashes involved a driver with a BAC greater than .08.
Motorcycle fatalities only represent about a fifth of all fatalities on the road. In 2009, there were 23,437 fatalities involving passenger vehicles. But that doesn't mean that motorcycles are a safer way to travel. If you look at the amount of miles traveled, the government estimates that motorcycle deaths are 37 times more likely to occur.
Motorcycle Deaths VS Passenger Vehicle Occupant Deaths
If you look at motorcycle deaths by age, you might be surprised to find out that young riders do not represent the majority of motorcycle fatalities. In 1975, riders under the age of 30 accounted for 80% of motorcycle deaths. Today, riders over 50 have the most fatal accidents. (It’s interesting to note that a rider in his 20’s in 1975 would be in his 60s today. Did that generation just have bad riders?)
Motorcycle Fatality Chart by Age
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that motorcycle fatalities can be greatly reduced by proper helmet use. The IIHS reports that helmets are 37% effective at preventing motorcycle deaths, and 67% effective in preventing brain damage.
The IHSS has an in-depth breakdown of the the U.S. Department of Transportation's motorcycle fatality report here.