Motorcycle Fatalities And Injuries: The Sobering Statistics

With warmer weather arriving, more and more motorcycle riders will take to the roads in the coming months.  But with those additional riders, also come major concerns about their safety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 4,957 motorcyclists were killed in 2012, an increase of 7 percent over 2011 which continues a trend that fatalities have increased each year.  In addition, nearly 93,000 motorcyclists were injured in 2012.

West Virginia statistics also show that it is riskier to ride a motorcycle.  According to the WV Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP), in 2013 motorcycle fatalities represented 7 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities but 3 only percent of registered vehicles; 9 percent of fatalities but 3 percent of registered vehicles in 2012; and, 8 percent of fatalities but 4 percent of registered vehicles in 2011.

Part of the increase in fatalities can be attributed to the significantly higher number of motorcycles on the road (over 8.0 million now vs. 3.9 million in 1998), but some of the blame still has to go to the states.  Only 19 states and the District of Columbia require helmet use by all motorcyclists.  Other states require just some riders (those under the age of 18 for example) to wear helmets or have no requirement at all.  West Virginia has a universal helmet law which requires all riders, regardless of age to wear a helmet.

According to estimates by the NHTSA, helmets saved the lives of 1,699 motorcyclists in 2012.  Additionally, the NHTSA estimates that 781 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.  Some reports suggest that helmets are 37% effective in preventing deaths and 67% effective in preventing brain injuries.

Alcohol continues to be a major factor in motorcycle crashes, as well as fatalities.  In 2012, 43 percent of motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes had blood alcohol levels (BAC) of .08 or higher.

The NHTSA says wearing a helmet and the right gear, checking equipment before riding, never drinking and riding, and getting the right training can make a big difference in motorcyclists’ safety.

Source: nhsta.dot.gov, transportation.wv.gov