In 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 8.3 percent from 4,594 in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2014, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured.
(Note: statistics on fatal motorcycle crashes are also available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.)
- According to the latest data available from the Federal Highway Administration, there were 8.6 million private and commercial motorcycles on U.S. roads in 2015, compared with 8.0 million in 2009.
- 2015 Crash Data: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes in 2015, up 8.3 percent from 4,594 in 2014. In 2015, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured, down 4.3 percent from 92,000 in 2014.
- In 2015, 40 percent of motorcyclists killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes were not wearing a helmet.
- 2014 Crash Data: NHTSA says that in 2014, 4,586 people died in motorcycle crashes, down 2.3 percent from 4,692 in 2013.
- The fatality rate per registered vehicle for motorcyclists in 2014 was six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants, according to NHTSA
- Motorcycle Theft: The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported that motorcycle thefts rose 6 percent in 2015 to 45,555 from 42,856 a year earlier, based on data from the National Crime Information Center of the FBI. However, motorcycle thefts are down 32 percent from 2006 when they totaled 66,774, according to the NICB.
- The NICB’s report also details the seasonal nature of motorcycle thefts. More motorcycles are stolen during warm months—July and August had the most motorcycle thefts in 2015 while January and February had the fewest. The top five makes stolen in 2015, from highest to lowest, were American Honda Motor Co., Yamaha Motor Corporation, American Suzuki Motor Corporation, Kawasaki Motors Corp. and Harley-Davidson Inc. California had the most motorcycle thefts in 2015, followed by Florida and Texas. By city, New York, New York, had the most thefts, followed by Las Vegas, Nevada, and San Francisco, California.
|TOP FIVE MOTORCYCLE MAKES
|TOP FIVE STATES IN MOTORCYCLE
|TOP FIVE CITIES IN MOTORCYCLE
|1. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. 8,674||1 California 7,221||1. New York City, NY 1,340|
|2. Yamaha Motor Corporation 7,214||2. Florida 4,758||2. Las Vegas, NV 1,042|
|3. American Suzuki Motor Corporation 6,065||3. Texas 3,403||3. San Francisco, CA 729|
|4. Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA 4,920||4. South Carolina 2,160||4. San Diego, CA 717|
|5. Harley-Davidson Inc. 4,416||5. New York 1,902||5. Miami, FL 713|
- The recovery rate of 2015 motorcycle thefts was 39 percent. The number of motorcycles recovered rose 11 percent from 2014 to 2015.
FATALITIES AND INJURIES
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 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.
According to NHTSA, in 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 8 percent from 4,594 in 2014. In addition, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured, down 3 percent from 92,000 in 2014. In 2015, 40 percent of the motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets.
By Age: Older motorcyclists account for more than half of all motorcyclist fatalities. NHTSA data show that in 2015, 54 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes were age 40 or over, compared with 47 percent in 2005. The number of motorcyclists age 40 and over killed in crashes increased by 17 percent from 2006 to 2015. In contrast, fatalities among all motorcyclists rose 3 percent. NHTSA says that the average age of motorcycle riders killed in crashes was 42 in 2015, compared with 39 in 2006.
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: According to NHTSA, in 2015, 27 percent of motorcycle riders who were involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or over (the national definition of drunk driving). This compares with 21 percent of passenger car drivers, 20 percent for light truck drivers involved in fatal crashes, and with 2 percent of large truck drivers.
In 2015, fatally-injured motorcycle riders between the ages of 35 to 39 had the highest rate of alcohol involvement (37 percent), followed by the 45 to 49 age group (36 percent).
In 2015 motorcycle riders killed in traffic crashes at night were almost three times more likely to have BAC levels of 0.08 percent or higher (42 percent) than those killed during the day (13 percent).
The reported helmet use rate for motorcycle riders with BACs at or over 0.08 percent who were killed in traffic crashes was 51 percent in 2015, compared with 65 percent for those who did not have any measurable blood alcohol.
Speeding: In 2015, 33 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with 19 percent for drivers of passenger cars, 15 percent for light truck drivers and 7 percent for large truck drivers, according to NHTSA.
Licensing: Twenty-seven percent of motorcycle riders who were involved in fatal crashes in 2015 were riding without a valid license, compared with 13 percent of passenger car drivers.
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: A 2014 Highway Loss Data Institute report shows that super sport motorcycles had the highest relative overall losses when compared with nine other motorcycle classes. Based on collision coverage results for 2009 to 2013 model motorcycles insured under private passenger motorcycle policies, relative overall losses for super sport models were indexed at 345, compared with 100 for all motorcycles. The high overall losses for super sport models was driven up by their high claim frequency. Super sports have engines that deliver more horsepower per pound than a typical NASCAR vehicle, reaching speeds of nearly 190 miles per hour and are built on racing platforms but are modified for the highway.
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.
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: According to NHTSA, in 2015 motorcycle helmets saved 1,772 lives. 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 April 2016. (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 2015 National Occupant Protection Use Survey, motorcycle helmet use was 60.7 percent in June 2015, compared with 64.3 percent in 2014. The survey only counts helmets that comply with Department of Transportation standards. Helmet use among motorcycle passengers was 46.3 percent in 2015, compared with 51.3 percent in 2014. Helmet use by motorcycle riders (operators) fell to 63.9 percent, compared with 66.8 percent in 2014. Helmet use was highest in the Northeast, at 77.2 percent, up from 56.1 percent in 2014. In the West helmet use was 74.8 percent, down from 84.9 percent in 2014. In the South helmet use also fell in 2015, to 60.0 percent from 78.2 percent in 2014. Helmet use was lowest in the Midwest in 2015 at 44.3 percent, down from 47.4 percent in 2014.
Usage rates are higher in states that have universal laws that require all riders to use helmets. In June 2015, 79.8 percent of motorcyclists in universal law states wore helmets, down from 88.7 percent in 2014. In states without universal laws, usage was 42.9 percent in 2015, compared with 47.9 percent in 2014.
In 2014, 10 times more unhelmeted motorcyclists died (1,565) in states that did not have universal helmet laws than in states that had universal helmet laws (151 unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities), according to a NHTSA report.
Motorcycle Helmet Use, 1996-2015 (1)
Motorcyclist Fatalities And Fatality Rates, 2005-2014
Motorcyclist Injuries And Injury Rates, 2005-2014
Occupant Fatality Rates By Vehicle Type, 2005 And 2014
Motorcyclists Killed or Injured, by Time of Day and Day of Week, 2014
Vehicles Involved in Crashes by Vehicle Type and Crash Severity, 2014
Persons Killed In Total And Alcohol-Impaired Crashes By Person Type, 2014
DRIVERS IN FATAL CRASHES BY BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION (BAC) AND VEHICLE TYPE, 2005-2014 (1)
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