The fact that riding a motorcycle presents more significant risks of injury than driving a car is not “breaking news.” Yet, motorcyclists may need reminders of the dangers posed by the two-wheel transports sharing roads with much larger vehicles.
A growing number of deaths
The number of motorcyclists killed in accidents reached 5,579 in 2020. That stat represents more than double the 1997 statistics. More alarmingly, deaths at 11 percent higher in 2019, the highest number since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began collecting crash data going back to 1975. Overall, motorcyclists represent 14 percent of all crash deaths.
Lacking the luxury of enclosures, the likelihood of injury and death is much higher. A 2021 NHTSA study revealed that deaths on motorcycles nationwide were nearly 29 times the number in cars based on per mile traveled in 2019.
Helmet use and rider age
Many consider helmets to be an essential aspect of safe travel. The federal government estimates that helmet use decreases the risk of death by 37 percent. Without the all-important headgear, riders are three times more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries following a collision.
The type of motorcycle ridden can play a significant role in accidents. Supersport cycle travelers are four times more likely to die in accidents than cruisers and standards. They are also well known for their lighter weights and increased horsepower in their engines, with speeds reaching more than 160 mph.
Age and gender
Owners have been getting older over the past several decades. In 2018, the typical owner was 50 years old, compared to 1980, when owners were 27, based on the Motorcycle Industry Council statistics. However, one-third of fiftysomethings accounted for one-third of fatalities.
Women are also increasing in motorcycle travel. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, nearly 20 percent of owners are female, up from six percent in 1990. In 2020, they accounted for three percent of deaths as riders, yet 92 percent of passengers lost their lives.
Understanding the limitations that come with motorcycle travel can help riders of all ages and genders get home safely.