Facts + Statistics: Motorcycle crashes

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 2017, 5,172 motorcyclists died in motorcycle crashes, down 3 percent from 5,337 in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2017, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled.

Note: statistics on fatal motorcycle crashes are also available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

 
Motorcycle Helmet Use, 2000-2019 (1)

 

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

(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.

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NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,872 motorcyclists in 2017. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 749 lives could have been saved. Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets. NHTSA also found that nearly $3.5 billion in economic costs and $21 billion in comprehensive costs were saved in 2017 by the use of motorcycle helmets. Moreover, if all motorcyclists had worn helmets in 2017, an additional $1.5 billion in economic costs and $8.9 billion in comprehensive costs could have been saved. Economic costs include lost productivity, medical costs, legal and court costs, emergency medical service (EMS) costs, insurance administration costs, congestion costs (including travel delay and other costs), property damage, and workplace losses. Comprehensive costs include economic costs plus the valuation for lost quality of life.

 
Motorcyclist Fatalities And Fatality Rates, 2008-2017

 

Year Fatalities Registered
motorcycles
Fatality rate per
100,000 registered
motorcycles
Vehicle miles
traveled
(millions)
Fatality rate per
100 million vehicle
miles traveled
2008 5,312 7,752,926 68.52 20,811 25.52
2009 4,469 7,929,724 56.36 20,822 21.46
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 5,172 8,715,204 59.34 20,149 25.67

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

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Motorcyclist Injuries And Injury Rates, 2008-2017

 

Year Injuries Registered
motorcycles
Injury rate per
100,000 registered
motorcycles
Vehicle miles
traveled (millions)
Injury rate per
100 million vehicle
miles traveled
2008 96,000 7,752,926 1,238 20,811 461
2009 90,000 7,929,724 1,130 20,822 430
2010 82,000 8,009,503 1,024 18,513 443
2011 81,000 8,437,502 965 18,542 439
2012 93,000 8,454,939 1,099 21,385 434
2013 88,000 8,404,687 1,052 20,366 434
2014 92,000 8,417,718 1,088 19,970 459
2015 88,000 8,600,936 1,028 19,606 451
2016 (1) 104,000 8,679,380 1,203 20,445 511
2017 (1) 89,000 8,715,204 1,018 20,149 440

(1) Based on a new system, CRSS, which went into effect in 2019.

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

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Occupant Fatality Rates By Vehicle Type, 2008 And 2017

 

Fatality rate Motorcycles Light trucks Passenger cars
2008      
     Per 100,000 registered vehicles 68.52 10.72 10.53
     Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled 25.52 0.98 0.96
2017      
     Per 100,000 registered vehicles 59.34 7.52 10.05
     Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled 25.67 0.7 0.94
Percent change, 2008-2017      
     Per 100,000 registered vehicles -13.4% -29.9% -4.6%
     Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled 0.6 -28.6 -2.1

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

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Motorcyclists Killed, by Time of Day and Day of Week, 2017

 

  Day of Week  
  Weekday Weekend Total
Motorcyclists killed  
Midnight to 3 am 173 6.5% 264 10.6% 437 8.4%
3 am to 6 am 100 3.7 100 4.0 200 3.9
6 am to 9 am 210 7.9 66 2.6 276 5.3
9 am to Noon 257 9.6 170 6.8 427 8.3
Noon to 3 pm 435 16.3 392 15.7 827 16.0
3 pm to 6 pm 632 23.6 447 17.9 1,079 20.9
6 pm to 9 pm 500 18.7 609 24.4 1,109 21.4
9 pm to Midnight 344 12.9 434 17.4 778 15.0
Unknown 22 0.8 10 0.4 39 0.8
Total 2,673 100.0% 2,492 100.0% 5,172 (1) 100.0%

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

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

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Vehicles Involved In Fatal Crashes By Vehicle Type, 2008 And 2017

 

  Fatal crashes
  2008 2017
Passenger cars    
Involved in crashes 20,474 21,031
Rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled 1.34 1.48
Rate per 100,000 registered vehicles 14.73 15.82
Light trucks (1)    
Involved in crashes 19,179 19,986
Rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled 1.73 1.38
Rate per 100,000 registered vehicles 19.01 14.75
Motorcycles    
Involved in crashes 5,409 5,326
Rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled 25.99 26.43
Rate per 100,000 registered vehicles 69.77 61.11

(1) Trucks with 10,000 pounds or less gross vehicle weight. Includes pickups, vans, truck-based station wagons and utility vehicles.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Vehicle miles traveled - USDOT, Federal Highway Administration, revised by NHTSA; Registered passenger cars and light trucks - R.L. Polk & Co; Registered motorcycles - USDOT, Federal Highway Administration.

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Persons Killed In Total And Alcohol-Impaired Crashes By Person Type, 2017

 

    Alcohol-impaired crash fatalities (1)
Person type Total killed Number Percent of
total killed
Vehicle occupants      
Driver 18,726 6,158 33%
Passenger 6,174 1,830 30
Unknown occupant 73 2 2
Total 24,973 7,989 32%
Motorcyclists 5,172 1,704 33%
Nonoccupants      
Pedestrian 5,977 1,017 17
Pedalcyclist 783 126 16
Other/unknown 228 39 17
Total 6,988 1,181 17%
Total 37,133 10,874 29%

(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 above, the legal definition of alcohol-impaired driving in most states.

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

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Drivers In Fatal Crashes By Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) And Vehicle Type, 2008-2017 (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+
2008 20,379 27% 23% 19,095 26% 23% 4,040 3% 2% 5,405 36% 29%
2009 18,344 27 23 17,878 27 23 3,182 3 2 4,601 36 29
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

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

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

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Background on: Motorcycle crashes