Motorcycle riding has become more popular in recent years, appealing to a new group of enthusiasts consisting of older and more affluent riders. There were about 8.5 million motorcycles on the road in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Motorcycles are by their nature far less crashworthy than closed vehicles. They are also less visible to other drivers and pedestrians and less stable than four-wheel vehicles. Operating a motorcycle requires a different combination of physical and mental skills than those used in driving four-wheel vehicles. Motorcyclists and their passengers are more vulnerable to the hazards of weather and road conditions than drivers in closed vehicles.
In 2013, motorcycle fatalities fell 6.4 percent to 4,668 from 4,986 in 2012. In 2012, 60 out of every 100,000 registered motorcycles was involved in a fatal crash, compared with only 14 out of every 100,000 passenger cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Motorcyclists were about 26 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled in 2012 and five times more likely to be injured, according to NHTSA. (Note: statistics on fatal motorcycle crashes are also available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.)
- 2013 Crash Data: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013, 4,668 people died in motorcycle crashes, down 6.4 percent from 4,986 in 2012.
- According to the latest data available from the Federal Highway Administration, there were 8.5 million private and commercial motorcycles on U.S. roads in 2012, compared with 8.0 million in 2009.
- Fatalities among motorcyclists age 50 and older increased by 119 in 2012, compared with 2011, or 7.7 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- Some 112,000 motorcycles were involved in crashes in 2012, including property damage-only crashes, according to NHTSA.
- Motorcyclists were about 26 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled in 2012 and five times more likely to be injured, according to NHTSA.
- The fatality rate per registered vehicle for motorcyclists in 2012 was six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants, according to NHTSA.
- The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said that motorcycle thefts fell 1.5 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, based on data from the National Crime Information Center of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The NICB noted that since 2008 motorcycle thefts have been falling, but that trend seems to be leveling off. The top five makes stolen, the top five states and the top five cities in thefts for 2013 are shown below:
|TOP FIVE MOTORCYCLE MAKES
|TOP FIVE STATES IN MOTORCYCLE
|TOP FIVE CITIES IN MOTORCYCLE
|1. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. 8,557||1. California 6,637||1. New York City, NY 1,001|
|2. Yamaha Motor Corporation 7,038||2. Florida 3,735||2. Las Vegas, NE 899|
|3. American Suzuki Motor Corporation 6,378||3. Texas 3,407||3. San Diego, CA 700|
|4. Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA 4,736||4. North Carolina 2,490||4. Indianapolis, IN 576|
|5. Harley-Davidson Inc. 3,907||5. Indiana 2,199||5. Los Angeles, CA 545|
FATALITIES AND INJURIES
Overall: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the following terms are used to define motorcycle occupants: a motorcycle rider is the operator only; a passenger is any person seated on the motorcycle but not in control of the motorcycle; and any combined reference to the motorcycle rider (operator) as well as the passenger will be referred to as motorcyclists.
NHTSA says that in 2013, 4,668 motorcyclists died in crashes, down 6.4 percent from 4,986 in 2012. In 2013, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured in accidents, down 5.4 percent from 93,000 in 2012. In 2013 motorcyclists accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities.
The Government Accounting Office (GAO) estimated that in 2010 motorcycle crashes cost $16 billion in direct costs such as emergency services, medical costs including rehabilitation, property damage, loss of market productivity including lost wages, loss in household productivity and insurance costs, including claims and the cost of defense attorneys. The GAO found that market productivity loss produced the largest cost, 44 percent of total costs, followed by medical costs, at 18 percent. Other costs such as long-term medical costs were not included. The GAO recommends that NHTSA grants to states for motorcycle safety, which totaled $45.9 million from fiscal years 2006 to 2012, be expanded from motorcyclist training and motorist awareness efforts to include programs that increase helmet use, safety awareness and educating police about motorcycle safety. In addition, the GAO urges NHTSA to identify research priorities, conduct research on promising strategies, implement a graduated licensing model (See Insurance Issues Updates: Teen Drivers) and encourage motorcyclists to improve their visibility to other motorists. The study is entitled Increasing Federal Funding Flexibility and Identifying Research Priorities Would Help Support States’ Safety Efforts.
By Age: Older motorcyclists account for more than half of all motorcyclist fatalities. NHTSA data show that in 2012, 56.0 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes were age 40 or over, compared with 46.0 percent in 2003. The number of motorcyclists age 40 and over killed in crashes increased by 63 percent from 2003 to 2012. In contrast, fatalities among young motorcyclists have declined, relative to other age groups. In 2012 fatalities in the under 30 -year-old group dropped to 25.9 percent from 31.7 percent in 2003. Fatalities among motorcyclists in the 30-to 39-year-old group fell to 18.3 percent in 2012 from 22.6 percent in 2003. NHTSA says that the average age of motorcycle riders killed in crashes was 43 in 2012, compared with 38 in 2003.
Older riders appear to sustain more serious injuries than younger riders. Researchers from Brown University cited declines in vision and reaction time, along with the larger-sized bikes that older riders favor, which tend to roll over more often, and the increased fragility among older people as the causes. The study used data on riders age 20 and over who needed emergency medical care following motorcycle crashes from 2001 to 2008. The riders were put in three groups by age: 20 to 39, 40 to 59, and 60 and over. The data showed that while injury rates were rising for all age groups, the steepest rise occurred in the 60 and over group, who were two and a half times more likely to have serious injuries than the youngest group. They were three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital. The middle and older groups were also more likely to sustain fractures, dislocations and other injuries, such as brain damage, than the youngest group. The authors published findings in the journal Injury Prevention in February 2013. The study is entitled Injury patterns and severity among motorcyclists treated in US emergency departments, 2001–2008: a comparison of younger and older riders.
By Driver Behavior
Alcohol use: NHTSA says that in 2012, 27 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08 percent (the national definition of drunk driving), compared with 23 percent of drivers of passenger cars, 22 percent of light truck drivers and 2 percent of large truck drivers in fatal crashes.
In 2012, 29 percent of all fatally injured motorcycle riders had BACs of 0.08 percent or higher. Another 8 percent had lower alcohol levels (0.01 to 0.07 percent BAC.). Fatally injured motorcycle riders between the ages of 40 to 44 had the highest rates of alcohol involvement. Forty-three percent of the 2,030 fatally injured motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2012 (for example, those in which the motorcycle crashed into a stationary object) had BACs of 0.08 percent or higher.
In 2012 motorcycle riders killed in traffic crashes at night were over 3 times more likely to have BAC levels at or over 0.08 percent (45 percent) than those killed during the day (14 percent).
The reported helmet use rate for motorcycle riders with BACs at or over 0.08 percent who were killed in traffic crashes was 45 percent in 2012, compared with 66 percent for those who did not have any measurable blood alcohol.
Speeding: In 2012, 34 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with 22 percent for drivers of passenger cars, 18 percent for light truck drivers and 8 percent for large truck drivers, according to NHTSA.
Licensing: Almost one out of four motorcycle riders (24 percent) who were involved in fatal crashes were riding without a valid license in 2012.
By Type of Motorcycle: According to a 2007 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), riders of “super sports” motorcycles have driver death rates per 10,000 registered vehicles nearly four times higher than those for drivers of other types of motorcycles. Super sports can reach speeds of up to 190 mph. The light-weight bikes, built for racing, are modified for street use and are popular with riders under the age of 30. In 2005 these bikes registered 22.5 driver deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles, compared with 10.7 deaths for other sport models. Standards and cruisers, and touring bikes (with upright handlebars) have rates of 5.7 and 6.5, respectively, per 10,000 vehicles. In 2005 super sports accounted for 9 percent of registrations, and standards and cruisers made up 51 percent of registrations. Among fatally injured drivers, the IIHS says that drivers of super sports were the youngest—with an average age of 27. Touring motorcycle drivers were the oldest, 51 years old. Fatally injured drivers of other sports models were 34, on average; standard and cruiser drivers were 44 years old. Speeding and driver error were bigger factors in super sport and sport fatal crashes. Speed was cited in 57 percent of super sport fatal crashes in 2005 and in 46 percent for sport model riders. Speed was a factor in 27 percent of fatal crashes of cruisers and standards and 22 percent of touring models.
Collision Losses by Type: In 2009 the IIHS said that super sports had the overall highest insurance losses under collision coverage among the various motorcycle classes, at $569 per insured vehicle year, nearly three times higher than the all-motorcycle average of $192. All 10 motorcycle models with the highest average loss payment per insured vehicle year were super sports. Claim frequency is driving the high losses for super sports, meaning that they are involved in more collisions than other types of motorcycles—. There were 9.4 claims per 100 insured vehicle years for super sports models, compared with 3.3 for all models. The models surveyed were all 2005-2009 models. Choppers—highly customized bikes with a longer wheelbase--had the most expensive claims because of their custom parts. Collision claim frequency was highest for chopper class motorcycles, at $10,723 per claim, compared with $5,905 for all motorcycles.
Training Courses: The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF, http://www.msf-usa.org), sponsored by motorcycle manufacturers and distributors, works with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), state governments and other organizations to improve motorcycle safety through education, training and licensing. Since 1974 about 6 million motorcyclists have taken MSF training courses. The organization also works with the states to integrate rider safety and skills in licensing tests. It also promotes safety by recommending motorcycle operators wear protective gear, especially helmets, ride sober and ride within their skill limits.
As of February 2013, three states (Connecticut, Delaware and Tennessee) mandated insurance discounts for motorcycle drivers who complete approved motorcycle training courses, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Antilock Braking Systems (ABS): Stopping a motorcycle is more complex than stopping a car. Motorcycles have separate brakes for the front and rear wheels, and braking hard can lock the wheels and cause the bike to overturn. Not braking hard enough can put the rider into harm’s way. With ABS, a rider can brake fully without fear of locking up. The system automatically reduces brake pressure when a lockup is about to occur and increases it again after traction is restored. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) said in March 2010 that motorcycles with antilock brakes versus those without are 37 percent less likely to be in fatal crashes. The IIHS’s affiliate, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), found that collision claims were filed 23 percent less often for antilock-equipped motorcycles than for the same models without antilock brakes. Medical claims related to riders’ injuries were 34 percent less frequent than with bikes that did not have antilock brakes. HLDI studied ABS and non-ABS versions of 22 motorcycles from the 2003-2012 model years. In addition the 2012 analysis found that motorcyclists with antilock brakes were 30 percent less likely to have a collision claim within the first 90 days of a policy and 19 percent less likely afterward.
Airbags: Honda Motorcycle Company is the first company to offer the option of an airbag, which is available on one of the most expensive models. The option became available in 2006. A handful of companies have recently developed wearable airbags, which are worn either inside a jacket or strapped on outside. No data on the effectiveness of these new items has been published.
Motorcycle Helmets: In 2012 motorcycle helmets saved 1,699 lives. NHTSA says that if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, 781 more lives would have been saved. Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries for motorcycle riders (operators) and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers.
Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws: According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 19 states and the District of Columbia had laws on the books requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets as of January 2015. (See chart below). In another 28 states only people under a specific age (mostly between 17 and 20 years of age) were required to wear helmets. Three states (Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire) had no helmet use laws. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study covering 10 states found that when universal helmet laws, which pertain to all riders, were repealed, helmet use rates dropped from 99 percent to 50 percent. In states where the universal law was reinstated, helmet use rates rose to above 95 percent.
According to NHTSA’s 2014 National Occupant Protection Use Survey, motorcycle helmet use reached 64 percent in June 2014, compared with from 60 percent in 2013 and 2 percentage points lower than in 2011, when 66 percent of motorcyclists wore helmets, a change that NHTSA indicates is not statistically significant. In addition, the survey only counts helmets that comply with Department of Transportation standards. Helmet use among motorcycle passengers was 51 percent in 2014, basically unchanged from 50 percent in 2013. Helmet use by motorcycle riders (operators) rose to 67 percent, up from 62 percent in 2013. Helmet use was highest in the West, at 85 percent, but down from 92 percent in 2013. In the South helmet use rose from 65 percent in 2013 to 78 percent in 2014. Helmet use was 56 percent in the Northeast in 2014, up from 52 percent in 2013 and was 47 percent in the Midwest, up from 42 percent in 2013.
Usage rates are higher in states that have universal laws that require all riders to use helmets. In June 2014, 89 percent of motorcyclists in universal law states wore helmets, basically unchanged from 88 percent in 2013. In states without universal laws, usage was 48 percent in 2014, compared with 49 percent in 2013.
STATE MOTORCYCLE HELMET USE LAWS
As of January 2015
MOTORCYCLE HELMET USE, 1996-2014 (1)
MOTORCYCLIST FATALITIES AND FATALITY RATES, 2003-2012
MOTORCYCLIST INJURIES AND INJURY RATES, 2003-2012
OCCUPANT FATALITY RATES BY VEHICLE TYPE, 2003 AND 2012
MOTORCYCLISTS KILLED BY TIME OF DAY AND DAY OF WEEK, 2012
VEHICLES INVOLVED IN CRASHES BY VEHICLE TYPE AND CRASH SEVERITY, 2012
PERSONS KILLED IN TOTAL AND ALCOHOL-IMPAIRED CRASHES BY PERSON TYPE, 2012
DRIVERS IN FATAL CRASHES BY BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION (BAC) AND VEHICLE TYPE, 2003-2012 (1)
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