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Auto and Road User Journal
May 28, 1997
TranSafety, Inc.
(U.S. and Canada)
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

Highway Safety Publications Catalog. Articles on Road Engineering, Road Maintenance & Management, and Injury Litigation. Information and consulting for the Automobile and Road User, as well as for law professionals in accident investigations.
TranSafety's free consumer journal for automobile and road users, three subscription journals on road maintenance, engineering, and injury litigation, and highway safety publications catalog. See our free consumer journal for automobile and road users, three subscription journals on road maintenance, engineering, and injury litigation, and a highway safety publications catalog.

Motorcycles Fatality Facts
(This article is reproduced with permission from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.)

Motorcycles are less stable and less visible than cars, and they have high performance capabilities. For these and other reasons, motorcycles are more likely than cars to be in crashes. Five crash types account for 86 percent of motorcycle crashes: motorcycle runs off road (41 percent), motorcycle or other vehicle runs traffic control (18 percent), head on (11 percent), car turns in front of cycle (8 percent), and motorcycle goes down in roadway (7 percent).

When motorcycles crash, their riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle, so they're more likely to be injured or killed. Per mile traveled, the number of deaths on motorcycles is about 20 times the number in cars.

Because serious head injury is common among fatally injured motorcyclists, helmet use is important. In states that require all riders to wear helmets, use approaches 100 percent compared with 50 percent in other states. Yet only about half of the states mandate helmet use by all riders. Death rates from head injuries have been shown to be twice as high among cyclists in states with no helmet laws or laws that apply only to young riders, compared with states where laws apply to all riders. Repealing or weakening helmet laws so they don't apply to all riders has been followed in a number of states by increases in deaths. In contrast, benefits return when helmet laws applying to all riders are reinstated.

Helmets are about 29 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. An unhelmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury, compared with a helmeted rider.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatal Accident Reporting System.


2,130 motorcyclists died in crashes in 1995, down 4 percent from 1994 and 31 percent fewer than in 1975.

There were 58 deaths per 100,000 registered motorcycles in 1995 compared with 18 deaths per 100,000 in cars.

Thirty-three percent of fatally injured motorcycle drivers in 1995 didn't have valid licenses to operate their motorcycles.

Age and Gender

Nine out of 10 motorcycle deaths in 1995 were males.

Crash types

Forty-five percent of motorcycle deaths in 1995 occurred among 16-29-year-old males. Among both males and females, motorcycle deaths peak at age 20-24.

Forty-two percent of motorcycle deaths in 1995 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 58 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes.

Forty-six percent of deaths in single-vehicle motorcycle crashes in 1995 involved drivers with blood alcohol concentrations at or above 0.10 percent.

When They Died

Fifty-seven percent of 1995 motorcycle deaths occurred on weekends (Friday-Sunday).

Fifty-one percent of 1995 motorcycle deaths occurred between 6 pm and 3 am.

Seventy-two percent of 1995 motorcycle deaths occurred during April-September. They peaked in July and August and were lowest in December-February.

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