Background on: Motorcycle crashes

Overview

Motorcyclists are more vulnerable on the road and are more likely to be injured or killed than car occupants, with a 2019 data comparison showing 29 times more fatalities. Data from that year also indicates that older riders appear to sustain more serious injuries than younger riders, as riders over 50 account for 37 percent of all deaths.

Motorcycle crashes cost billions of dollars per year in direct expenses, such as: 

  • local emergency services;
  • medical and rehabilitation fees;
  • property damage; 
  • loss of market productivity (including lost wages, loss in household productivity); and 
  • insurance costs (including claims and legal fees and expenses).

Driver behavior

  • Alcohol use remains a major factor in motorcycle accidents, as it potentially impacts driver alertness and response.
  • Alcohol impaired motorcycle riders are also less likely to use helmets.
  • Speeding is another major factor in fatal crashes.

Insurance claims

  • A Highway Loss Data Institute report shows that SuperSport motorcycles had the highest relative overall collision losses compared with nine other motorcycle classes.
  • The high overall losses for SuperSport models were driven up by their high claim frequency.

Motorcycle safety tips

  • Take a motorcycle safety course: Motorcycles can be much more dangerous than driving a car, and drivers of any experience or level can benefit from a safety course. Not every state requires these courses, but you should be able to find one in your region. Also, national organizations like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) offer guides for riding in groups on the road or alone on the trails, among other topics.
  • Wear a helmet and correct motorcycle gear: Certain states require helmets, which can help guard against serious head injury. Eye protection is also important to protect against debris that may be hit by other vehicles. Proper riding gear, clothing, and boots can safeguard against road rash, while potentially lowering the severity of muscular or skeletal injuries in the case of a crash. Additionally, longer rides may require rain gear.
  • Inspect your bike: Mechanical failures during a ride can cause a serious crash. Pre-ride inspections can confirm that headlamps, turn signals, and brake lights are working correctly. The MSF recommends checking TCLOCS (tires, controls, lights, oil, chassis, stands) to check which areas are most important before getting on your bike.
  • Obey traffic rules: Although it is viewed as common logic, observing traffic rules is particularly significant on a motorcycle because of the heightened exposure a rider has on a bike. As there is a greater chance of severe injury or death in a motorcycle accident, motorcyclists should vigilantly follow the rules of the road. Full stops, slowing down for yellow lights and observing speed limits can help reduce the risk of a serious accident.
  • Stay alert, observant, and visible: Motorcycle collisions often occur because drivers of cars or trucks do not see bikes on the roadway. Motorcyclists must take every preventive measure to ensure they are seen by other drivers. Visible clothing can be used during the day, and reflective materials on bike frames or outerwear can increase visibility at night. Avoid the use of alcohol.Use defensive driving, checking ahead and from side to side for potential risks that could cause a collision. A motorcyclist should presume that other drivers cannot see their bike, staying at safe braking distances and manageable speeds when steering in blind spots or when near cars.

Don’t forget adequate insurance coverage. Visit our page to find out more about finding the right policy for your needs.

Charts and Graphs

Motorcycle Helmet Use, 2000-2021 (1)

 

Year Percent Year Percent
2000 71% 2016 65%
2005 48 2017 65
2010 54 2018 71
2013 60 2019 71
2014 64 2020 69
2015 61 2021 65

(1) Based on surveys of motorcyclists using helmets meeting Department of Transportation standards. Surveys conducted in October for 1996-2000 and in June thereafter.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Occupant Protection Use Survey, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Center for Statistics and Analysis.

View Archived Tables

Motorcyclist Fatalities And Fatality Rates, 2010-2019

 

Year Fatalities Registered
motorcycles
Fatality rate per
100,000 registered
motorcycles
Vehicle miles
traveled
(millions)
Fatality rate per
100 million vehicle
miles traveled
2010 4,518 8,009,503 56.41 18,513 24.40
2011 4,630 8,437,502 54.87 18,542 24.97
2012 4,986 8,454,939 58.97 21,385 23.32
2013 4,692 8,404,687 55.83 20,366 23.04
2014 4,594 8,417,718 54.58 19,970 23.00
2015 5,029 8,600,936 58.47 19,606 25.65
2016 5,337 8,679,380 61.49 20,445 26.10
2017 5,226 8,664,108 60.32 20,149 25.94
2018 5,038 8,659,741 58.18 20,076 25.09
2019 5,014 8,596,314 58.33 19,688 25.47

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Federal Highway Administration.

View Archived Tables

Motorcyclist Injuries And Injury Rates, 2010-2019

 

Year Injuries Registered
motorcycles
Injury rate
per 100,000
registered motorcycles
Vehicle miles
traveled (millions)
Injury rate
per 100 million
vehicle miles traveled
2010 82,000 8,009,503 1,028 18,513 445
2011 82,000 8,437,502 968 18,542 441
2012 93,000 8,454,939 1,103 21,385 436
2013 89,000 8,404,687 1,056 20,366 436
2014 92,000 8,417,718 1,093 19,970 461
2015 89,000 8,600,936 1,032 19,606 453
2016 (1) 104,000 8,679,380 1,203 20,445 511
2017 89,000 8,664,108 1,023 20,149 440
2018 82,000 8,659,741 945 20,076 408
2019 84,000 8,596,314 975 19,688 426

(1) NHTSA began using police-reported crash data from the Crash Report Sampling System, replacing the National Automotive Sampling System
General Estimates System (GES). NCSA has also changed the methodology of estimating people nonfatally injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Federal Highway Administration.

View Archived Tables

Occupant Fatality Rates By Vehicle Type, 2010 And 2019

 

Fatality rate Motorcycles Light trucks Passenger cars
2010      
     Per 100,000 registered vehicles 56.41 9.55 9.23
     Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled 24.40 0.86 0.83
2019      
     Per 100,000 registered vehicles 58.33 6.80 9.42
     Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled 25.47 0.64 0.89
Percent change, 2010-2019      
     Per 100,000 registered vehicles 3.4% -28.8% 2.1%
     Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled 4.4% -25.6% 7.2%

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

View Archived Tables

Motorcyclists Killed, by Time of Day and Day of Week, 2019

 

  Day of Week
  Weekday Weekend Total
  Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Motorcyclists killed            
Midnight to 3 am 158 6.0% 269 11.3% 427 8.5%
3 am to 6 am 95 3.6 93 3.9 188 3.7
6 am to 9 am 227 8.7 65 2.7 292 5.8
9 am to Noon 206 7.9 189 7.9 395 7.9
Noon to 3 pm 473 18.1 337 14.1 810 16.2
3 pm to 6 pm 618 23.7 405 16.9 1,023 20.4
6 pm to 9 pm 459 17.6 601 25.1 1,060 21.1
9 pm to Midnight 362 13.9 422 17.7 784 15.6
Unknown 14 0.5 9 0.4 35 0.7
Total 2,612 100.0% 2,390 100.0% 5,014 (1) 100.0%

(1) Includes motorcyclists killed on unknown day of week.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Safety Administration.

View Archived Tables

View Archived Tables

Persons Killed In Total And Alcohol-Impaired Crashes By Person Type, 2019

 

    Alcohol-impaired crash fatalities (1)
Person type Total killed Number Percent of
total killed
Vehicle occupants      
     Driver 17,880 5,818 33%
     Passenger 5,807 1,664 29
     Unknown occupant 57 2 3
     Total 23,744 7,483 32%
Motorcyclists 5,014 1,689 34%
Nonoccupants      
     Pedestrian 6,205 816 13
     Pedalcyclist 846 106 12
     Other/unknown 287 48 17
     Total 7,338 970 13%
Total 36,096 10,142 28%

(1) Alcohol-impaired driving crashes are crashes that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter or greater, the legal definition of alcohol-impaired driving.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

View Archived Tables

Drivers In Fatal Crashes By Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) And Vehicle Type, 2010-2019 (1)

 

  Passenger car Light truck Large truck Motorcycles
    Percent   Percent   Percent   Percent
Year Total BAC = 0.01+ BAC = 0.08+ Total BAC = 0.01+ BAC = 0.08+ Total BAC = 0.01+ BAC = 0.08+ Total BAC = 0.01+ BAC = 0.08+
2010 17,710 27% 24% 17,385 25% 22% 3,456 2% 1% 4,647 36% 28%
2011 17,401 27 24 16,706 25 21 3,594 3 1 4,761 37 29
2012 18,171 26 23 17,230 25 21 3,774 3 2 5,108 35 28
2013 17,850 27 23 16,810 25 21 3,872 4 2 4,795 35 27
2014 17,802 26 22 17,040 25 22 3,701 3 2 4,703 37 29
2015 19,688 25 21 18,763 24 21 4,019 2 1 5,126 34 26
2016 20,730 24 21 19,951 23 20 4,152 3 2 5,414 32 25
2017 20,895 24 21 19,847 23 20 4,600 4 3 5,316 35 27
2018 20,175 24 21 19,663 22 19 4,786 5 3 5,108 33 25
2019 19,469 24 20 19,704 22 19 4,949 3 2 5,111 36 29

(1) NHTSA estimates alcohol involvement when alcohol test results are unknown.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Safety Administration.

View Archived Tables

 

Additional resources

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation

The Motorcycle Industry Council

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws by State 

 

 

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Facts + Statistics: Motorcycle crashes