Here are the most current motorcycle crash statistics, including the effects of helmet use, alcohol impairment, and environmental factors.
Motorcycling can be much more dangerous than traveling by car, especially if you’re not wearing a helmet. Motorcyclists suffer serious injuries and even death at higher rates than motor vehicle occupants.
To help prevent injuries and deaths, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that motorcyclists make themselves visible, use U.S. Department of Transportation-compliant motorcycle helmets, and avoid riding after alcohol use.
This article will review essential statistics about the dangers involved in motorcycle crashes. All statistics in this article were obtained from the NHTSA’s 2018 Traffic Safety Facts publication on motorcycles.
For the purposes of these statistics, NHTSA considers the following types of vehicles to be motorcycles:
- Two-wheeled motorcycles
- Three-wheeled motorcycles
- Off-road motorcycles
- Mini bikes
- Pocket bikes
- In 2018, 4,985 motorcyclists were killed and approximately 82,000 were injured in traffic accidents.
- The fatality rate per vehicle mile traveled for motorcyclists was almost 27 times greater than for passenger car occupant fatalities.
- Approximately 31% of motorcycle riders in fatal crashes were speeding.
- About 25% of motorcycle riders in fatal accidents were intoxicated.
Motorcycle Accidents in 2018
While motorcycle traffic accident deaths in the United States increased by 12% between 2009 and 2018, there were 4,985 motorcycle fatalities in 2018, which is about a 5% decrease from the 5,229 motorcyclists killed in motorcycle crashes in 2017.
The estimated number of motorcycle injuries also decreased in 2018. Approximately 82,000 motorcyclists were injured, which is about an 8% decrease from the 89,000 estimated injured motorcyclists in 2017.
Even though motorcycles only accounted for 3% of all registered vehicles and 0.6% of all vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclist deaths made up 14% of all 2018 traffic fatalities and accounted for 17% of all occupants who were killed in vehicle accidents.
The motorcycle fatality rate per registered vehicle (57.52 deaths per 100,000 vehicles) was approximately six times the fatality rate for passenger vehicle occupants (9.61 deaths per 100,000 vehicles).
The fatality rate per vehicle mile traveled for motorcyclists (24.83 deaths per 100 million miles traveled) was almost 27 times greater than for passenger car occupant fatalities (0.91 deaths per 100 million miles traveled).
Of the 2018 fatalities, 4,675 (94%) were riders in the front position, and 310 (6%) were passengers. Additionally, 92% of motorcycles in fatal accidents were two-wheeled.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
In 2018, motorcycles were involved in fatal single-vehicle accidents more frequently than other types of vehicles. While 22% of motorcycles involved in deadly accidents collided with fixed objects, only 16% of passenger cars, 13% of light trucks and 5% of large trucks involved in fatal crashes hit fixed objects.
Motorcycle riders were also more likely to be speeding than other motorists involved in fatal traffic accidents. Approximately 31% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were traveling over the speed limit, compared to 18% of passenger car drivers, 14% of light truck drivers and 7% of large truck drivers.The following statistics show environmental factors that may have contributed to motorcycle fatalities in 2018:
- 61% of motorcyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas, while 39% happened in rural locations
- 90% happened on non-interstate roads, and 10% occurred on an interstate
- 65% took place at non-intersection locations, and 35% occurred at intersections
- 59% happened in daylight, whereas 37% occurred in the dark, 4% took place during dusk and 1% occurred during dawn
- 96% occurred in clear or cloudy conditions, while 3% happened in the rain and 1% took place in foggy conditions
Alcohol-Impaired Motorcycle Crashes
Of the 4,985 motorcyclists killed in 2018, 1,213 (26%) were alcohol-impaired, which means they had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Additionally, 373 (8%) had BACs between 0.01% and 0.07%.
Motorcycle riders who were involved in fatal accidents were more frequently impaired than other motorists: 25% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were intoxicated compared to 21% of passenger vehicle drivers, 19% of light truck drivers and 3% of larger truck drivers.
Of the 1,793 motorcyclists killed in single-vehicle accidents in 2018, about 700 (39%) were alcohol-impaired. On Friday and Saturday nights, the fatality rate increased: More than half (58%) of the motorcyclists killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekend nights were intoxicated.
Thirty-nine percent of riders killed in nighttime motorcycle accidents were alcohol-impaired, which is nearly three times more than the rate for daytime fatalities (14%).
Helmet Use and Motorcycle Safety
Wearing a motorcycle helmet can significantly decrease the risk of head injury and death. In fact, helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in protecting motorcycle riders from fatal injury and 41% effective in preventing fatal injuries in motorcycle passengers.
NHTSA estimates that helmet use saved the lives of 1,872 motorcyclists in 2017 and that 749 additional deaths could have been prevented if all motorcyclists were helmeted. For every 100 motorcycle riders killed in motor vehicle accidents while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved by helmet use.
In 2018, 62% of motorcycle riders killed were wearing helmets, as were 52% of motorcycle passenger fatalities. Of the 4,829 motorcyclists killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes where it is known whether the rider wore a helmet, 2,982 (62%) were helmeted, and 1,847 (38%) were not.
As of 2018, only 19 states required helmet use for all motorcyclists, as did the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The rate of helmet use in fatal crashes in these states ranged from 62% in West Virginia to 97% in Louisiana.
In 28 states, helmet use was only required for some motorcyclists, and in Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire, helmet use was not mandated for any motorcyclists. The helmet use percentages in these 31 states ranged from 19% in Indiana to 58% in Michigan.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a motorcycle accident, you may be able to receive financial compensation. The first step is to schedule a free consultation with a local personal injury attorney to evaluate your case.