What motorcycle accident rates can teach us about safety

Dailies -



Take a look at this comparison of motorcycle sales with motorcycle fatalities. Pretty strong correlation, right? The number of riders dying is determined by the number of people riding motorcycles. If that’s the case, then how it possible to reduce fatality rates?

The data comes from the annual “Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities By State” report produced by the Governors Highway Safety Association. It forecasts (complete reporting doesn’t come in for a while) that about 4,500 motorcyclists were killed on American roads in 2011. Pretty much the same as last year. That’s remarkable because fatalities in cars are down to their lowest level since 1949. While cars are unprecedentedly safe, we keep killing ourselves in disproportion to the limited membership in our club. Why?


The report, embedded in complete form above, find that increases in fatalities in some states come from factors like good weather meaning more motorcycle miles while decreases can logically be contributed to poor weather. Oregon deaths, for instance were down, with the state reporting, “ l a very wet spring; consequently the riding season was delayed.” Again, that corresponds with the conclusion that the more riders there are and the more we ride, the more we kill ourselves.

This theme is continued throughout the report, with various justifications for increases or decreases in sales and therefore fatalities blamed on economic and societal factors like fuel prices or dealers closing or economic stagnation.

Other changes to fatality rates are attributed to anomalies like legal loopholes. Indiana, for instance, saw a dramatic increase in moped fatalities, noting that riding a moped there requires neither a license nor a helmet.

The report also addresses the safety implications of states like Michigan repealing helmet laws. “Since 1997, seven states have repealed their universal helmet laws, most recently michigan on April 12, 2012,” notes the report. “Repeal bills have been introduced in five other states in 2012. no state has enacted a universal helmet law since louisiana reinstated its law in 2004…helmets, when worn, prevent 37% of motorcycle operator fatal injuries in a crash and 41% of passenger fatal injuries.”

A direct correlation between motorcycle sales and fatalities is bad new for motorcycle riders. It highlights that we’re the problem and that we’ve been unable to address the issue as an industry through training or other efforts. Helmets, safety gear, brakes, tires and chassis have all improved drastically since 1975, so why do deaths still correlate with sales so strongly?

Are lower fuel prices the solution to motorcycle safety?

“Enacting universal helmet laws in the 31 states that lack them is the quickest and most effective method to increase helmet use and reduce motorcyclist head injuries and fatalities,” the report concludes. It also suggests the following measures:

Reduce Alcohol Impairment
“In 2010, 29% of fatally injured motorcycle riders had a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit of .08.”

Reduce Speeding
“In 2008, 35% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 23% for passenger car drivers and 19% for light truck drivers.”

Make Training More Accessible
“All beginning riders should be trained in basic motorcycle operating skills and safe riding practices. refresher training can be useful for many riders who are returning to motorcycling after not riding for several years. all states currently conduct operator training courses, but they may not provide enough course openings at places and times when riders can attend.”

Educate Drivers
“When motorcycles crash with other vehicles, the other vehicle driver usually violates the motorcyclist’s right-of-way. Motorcycles and motorcyclists are smaller visual targets than cars or trucks and drivers may not expect to see motorcycles on the road.”

But we’ve known all the above since 1975 when this data began being collected and the correlation between sales and deaths hasn’t changed. In that same time period, despite a massive increase in the number of four-wheeled vehicles on the road and causes of driver distraction, driver deaths have fallen. Why? Cars are safer, it’s that simple. To make motorcycles safer will we have to remove rider control and implement safety features such as crash protection? Or, could the solution be as simple as a complete rethinking of how we approach and push rider eduction? Within the four recommendations above, it seems like the only one we, as a group, have control over. Or, we could just sell fewer bikes to fewer riders, statistically, that’d be a total success.

  • Holden and Annette

    We need a cultural change, in which riding is seen as practical — more an efficient way to commute, and not so much as a weekend recreational activity.

    How do we get there? Not sure. But I’ll throw out one idea: Riders can organize to make lane-splitting legal in more states. That makes commuting more efficient, and it gives bike companies more incentive to sell narrow, maneuverable, standard bikes instead of cruisers.

    Making the motorcycle a vehicle that you take to work, rather than a plaything that you ride to the bar, would alleviate myriad problems.

    • jp182

      I agree but I also have another idea that HFL has posited before: just make responsible riding look cooler! Right now, the poser/squid look and the HD cruiser look are the only exposure that many in the mainstream see of use who ride. We need a massive PR change reminiscent of those Got Milk ads (just an example).

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        Yup. That’s why we try to fetishize safety gear in the same way a site like Gizmodo fetishizes gadgets.

        • Corey

          The thought of gear not being cool is alien to me, but then again, I’m totally a gear hound. I like buying and trying new brands and better gear even if it’s unnecessary.

        • tomwito

          Yeah you do Wes but you also dis every jacket that isn’t plain black or brown. I happen to love my blue Icon retro Daytona jacket with all the patches. It also fits great. You’re giving me a complex. There I said it. I’m glad I got that off my chest. LOL

        • SamuraiMark

          Apologies for the double-post … meant to put this here:


        • austin_2ride

          Speaking of “fetishize safety gear” how about the new T-Mobile Ducati ad?

    • contender

      I all the way agree. As someone leaving for Colorado from California I would punch my grandma to get my hands on some statistics saying lane splitting is safer for motorcyclists. I would like to have concrete evidence to contact my (future) lawmakers with. Any ideas?

      • TheZakken

        “Proponents of lane splitting state the Hurt Report of 1981 reached the conclusion that lane splitting improves motorcycle safety by reducing rear end crashes.[22] Lane splitting supporters also state that the US DOT FARS database shows that fatalities from rear end collisions into motorcycles are 30% lower in California than in Florida or Texas, states with similar riding seasons and populations but which do not lane split.[35] No specifics are given about where this conclusion is found in the FARS system. The database is available online to the public.[36] The NHSTA does say, based on the Hurt Report, that lane splitting “slightly reduces” rear-end accidents, and is worthy of further study due to the possible congestion reduction benefits.[2]“

        • austin_2ride

          “and is worthy of further study”

          Is anyone aware of further study, that can lead to possible legislative change in important riding states like Flordia, Ohio, and Texas? Hopefully then it can spread to the rest of the 50 states, not unlike the laws Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Georgia, Virginia and others have all passed that allow motorcycles to “run” red lights. Motorcycles are to treat the lights more like stop signs. Any furthering of safety and convenience can do nothing but help the industry grow as a whole.

  • Brad

    Don’t speed, don’t drink, and have real training. So I guess we should put our brain in gear before the motorcycle.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I don’t really see this as personal advice, more an indicator of broad societal trends and how to influence those. If you’re paying to read HFL you’re likely already an intelligent person who applies that intelligence to motorcycles, or at least you’re being indoctrinated into that world very forcefully.

  • NewOldSchool

    I want to see another graph with age and type of motorcycle involved as well.

    With the performance capabilities of even the most basic of today’s motorcycles I’m not surprised.

    What would happen with auto death statistics if the average new driver with little experience purchased a car that could easily accelerate to 60 in under 4 seconds, had no crash protection, etc?

    Squid Factor: How many completely inexperienced riders are buying a 600cc super sport as their first bike? (In Southern California where I live, and in my age group (20-30) MOST. Let alone the absence of gear and experience they seem to lack across the board.

    Best advice I’ve ever heard,

    “ATGATT and always assume everyone is trying to kill you.”

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Remember that the vast majority of motorcycles on American roads are cruisers.

      • http://lightsoutknivesout.tumblr.com/ Scott Pargett

        Here’s how experience goes with cruiser guys…

        “I’ve been riding for 30 years”.
        Only on a few of the nicest days of the year for a few hours.

        “I’ve got 60,000 miles of experience.”
        Riding in a straight line, doing nothing but applying throttle on an underpowered, overweight machine and brakes at a stop light. Basically riding across states like Kansas and Ohio.

        Anything comes up or they attempt something outside of theee most basic aspects of riding a bike and they’re in a world of trouble = statistics.

        *disclaimer = generalization (albeit vastly true and accurate)

    • Restless Lip Syndrome

      I went to a local Socal mountain town on Saturday that welcomes riders. As soon as I sat down at a restaurant — before I was even asked what I would like to drink — the waitress informed me that the bar was next door. Wtf? The only riders around that day outside of the small group I was with were cruiser riders. This is a cultural problem.

    • Gene

      Me too. Back when Orlando had the Naval Training System Center you could go to any junkyard and see rows of liter-class sportbikes with <400 miles, major front-end damage, and an NTSC parking sticker.

      I remember seeing a squid (the Navy kind) literally fresh off the boat buying a GSXR-1100. The salesman said "clutchfrontbrakerearbrakethrottle1down6up[inhale]havefunbesafe"

      The guy looped it leaving the parking lot. No helmet.

      “ATGATT and always assume everyone is trying to kill you.” And you're completely invisible.

      And now that I think of it, I've also seen the "born-again biker" that had a CB350 when he was a kid, and thinks he'll have no problem with a literbike. There's a LOT of these at work. Not a month goes by that one of those dumbasses dumps his Harley, Goldwing or whatever in a 30mph corner.

      • Dani Peral

        Excuse my ignorance (also Im not american which may explain it): What does ATGATT mean?

        • Scott-jay

          All the gear, all the time.

          • Dani Peral

            Ohh thanks. I completely agree. I got my license on february and still couldnt buy motorcycling pants and boots, and seriously, i feel half-naked every time i hop on my bike.

    • Chris

      in reference to “squid factor” – I wonder how the data in eurpoe compares to the us? in europe my understanding is that they have a learning license that restricts the engine size & as you move through the licensing process the allowable engine size increases incrementally. That would prevent the newbies from buying cbr’s & hayabusa’s as first bikes.

      • ~RUSH~

        I would love to see tiered training and licensing implemented here in the States. Unfortunately, everyone will start screaming about their rights, and that big government is holding them down again. My wife is learning to ride now, and I’m appalled on how little the basic MSF course teaches, and the test that follows. I’ve already told her she will have to pass MY test before she gets out in traffic. BTW, she completely agrees with me on that point. I’m just trying to do my best to keep her from becoming a statistic. (That, and I kind of like her… ;-)

        • M

          all that not to mention the fact it would bring some pretty awesome smaller-displacement bikes to the states that we’ve been missing out on for 30+ years because there’s simply no market for them.

        • Mike

          That’s why I don’t worry about the US instituting any draconian nanny-state regulations in regards to motorcycles. The trend as of late has been toward repealing helmet/safety laws, in the name of “Freedom”.
          Never mind how free you feel when your brains are scattered along the road..see my Natural Selection comment.

  • dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

    Social engineering is immoral and ineffective. But we knew that already.

  • focus

    Typically with traffic data, you normalize the crash rate. This can be done dividing the number of crashes by miles driven (registrations can work as a proxy). This new per capita rate will allow you see what the estimated ‘true’ rate is over time.

    Registrations here is a confounding variable and is not useful for prediction.

    • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

      That would tell us more about the general motorcycling public than registrations. However the registration data is useful if you look at it critically. The article makes assumptions about bike sales, miles traveled, and weather, but the graphics use registrations. An increase in registrations means an increase in new and/or returning riders. Given the correlation between those riders and fatalities, we can see that they should be the specific targets of safety programs.
      Maybe alcohol, speeding, and driver education will help too, but this report does not contain data to support that conclusion. What would seem obvious though is that it is much easier to target the new/returning riders because they are a much smaller group than trying to get all drivers educated.

      • HammSammich

        Why does “An increase in registrations mean an increase in new and/or returning riders?” Couldn’t this just as easily mean more existing motorcyclists buying new replacement and/or second bikes? I’m failing to see any legitimate conclusions that can be drawn from the data represented here.

  • Jhon Alexander

    For too many factors to name, the US is just not a “motorcycle culture”. Motorists in many countries I’ve traveled to already KNOW to expect motorcycles or scooters coming from all angles and their driving behavior is conditioned to this environment. As many years as we’ve had bikes in the US, drivers here in general still get that surprised or panicked feeling when a bike is coming around. There’s a quick moment of anxiety that can turn into an unintentional accident. Helmet & protective gear use is also more prevalent in some motorcycle cultures (EU) not because of education necessarily but the simple fact that it’s the norm, “everyone is wearing them so I should too”…It’s going to take a monumental change for that to happen here, but once we start to accept that motorcycles are widely used and expect to see one coming around every couple of minutes, a few of these other things will fall into place.

    • ~RUSH~

      Well said…

  • Campisi

    My understanding of motorcycle crashes was that most of them are caused by three things: 1)riding while drunk, 2)crashing while playing Stoner, and 3)getting ran into/over/off-the-road by cars. One and two can be attributed to the “bikes are powersports” mentality that reinforces market hyper-specialization and restricts the public visibility of rational day-to-day motorcycle use (if bikes are all for bar-cruising and corner-carving, that’s all people will buy and use them for); three comes down to motorcycles in the public eye and proper driver training, something that nobody will take seriously until one and two diminish enough for motorcycles to creep out into the American general public.

    It’s a tough nut to crack, especially since America seems to be the last high-margin, low-effort motorcycle market around.

  • Pete

    3 words – tiered licensing structure. I’d bet my right nut that the accident/injury ratio is WAY lower among Euros, and I’m convinced it’s because they’re forced to start on bikes that are much harder to kill yourself on, and already have some skillz by the time they can work their way up to monster death machines.

    • Gene

      +100. Florida instituted the mandatory MSF class as a requirement for your license, and I don’t think it’s done a damn bit of good.

      Unfortunately there are almost no good small-displacement beginner bikes out there these days, if you don’t want a 250 Rebel.

      • Pete

        Yah MSF is better than nothing, but one really needs the muscle memory that only extended “training” will give, and a short term class could never provide.

        Regarding the small displacement options, there would be a lot more if they were the mandatory starters, of course.

      • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

        … and they stopped making my personal favorite: the EX500. Thankfully there are a faskillion of them in the used market.

        • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D [EX500]

          Preach it, brother.

          • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

            Amen, Brother Mark.

        • Jake

          Japan has a tiered system, and there are some interesting bikes in the 250 – 400 CC range that riders here might buy if there wasn’t such an incentive for dealers to sell bikes in the 600+ market. cb400 super four, vtr 250, etc. Funny thing is, the most popular motorcycle in Japan is the C50. There are far more actual motorcycles on the street in the Bay Area.

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

        The CBR250R is fantastic. My semi-wife picked hers up last weekend and I can see why the HFL crew recommended it so strongly: it’s a blast to ride. Really surprised me.

    • Holden and Annette

      I wish tiered licensing were a plausible solution in the States. Federalism, with each state responsible for licensing, makes this virtually impossible.

      If we did have tiered licensing, riders would be safer, as Pete suggests, and the market would be full of small-displacement bikes that people would actually want to ride. Riders’ first motorcycles would be cheaper, there would be more variety of small bikes, and there wouldn’t be peer pressure to start out on fast or heavy bikes.

      • Pete

        You make a good point. So then we need one state to take the lead and implement first, and when/if the accident rates plummet others will be pressured to conform.

      • Kevin

        All you’d need is for the Feds to withhold highway funding unless states implemented tiered licensing and you’d get 48-50 states falling like ducks in a row.

        What not necessarily all 50? Because some will refuse to be told what to do by the gay/Jewish/elite/blah-blah libruls in Washington.

    • Kevin

      I live in Orange County and follow OCMoto, and it seems a common occurrence to lose a young kid on a supersport. Most recently it was a 19 year old on a GSXR-600. Was following a truck on the freeway too closely and lost control in an emergency stop. Then he lost his life.

      Tiered licensing, straight up, full stop. It will save lives. It will save a lot of kids from themselves.

    • filly-fuzz

      As an Australian I simply can not fathom the fact that North America does not have a tiered licensing system, throw in the fact that some of your states do not even have mandatory helmet law and its a miracle the motorcycle fatality rate isn’t higher!

      Granted our 250cc and under for the first year system isn’t that flash compared to England but it’s defiantly better than nothing.

      I think the fact that Harley doesn’t make a 250 is a very strong reason why tiered licensing has not been adopted yet in the states.

      • Dani Peral

        Here in Spain youre limited to 47hp for 2 years. That can come from a more powerful bike limited to that max power, but the original bike cannot have more than 95hp. That excludes all supersports.

        So, 47hp is quite nice, it is aproximately the power of any cruiser out there, a suzuki GS500, A yamaha XT600, a bwm 650GS mono…

        It means that you can out-accelerate most cars, and that you can have a decent max speed, but you dont jump directly on a supersport and kill yourself the first time you open the throttle while cornering…

        Also, here you have to pass 1 theory test, 1 manoeuvers test in closed circuit and 1 riding test on open roads and the street, in order to get your license.

        Seriously, I cannot believe how easy it is to get a motorcycle license in the USA…and please, TEXTING while driving?? Every time i read it i think it is some bad joke.

    • John

      Absolutely agree with this, Pete. Frankly, I don’t know that the law has to be anything more restrictive than “no liquid cooled 600′s or any 1000′s until you’re fully licenced.” (We have step licencing in Ontario, but no displacement or horsepower restrictions.) You don’t really have to be on a “good” bike to get your basic skills polished. I learned on a piece of crap Marauder 250. It’s lack of athleticism probably helped me in the long run.

    • Tim

      Guess I’m an anomoly. I had a 250 dual-purpose as my first bike long ago. Wanted to get back into it,typical returning old guy, in 2008 and bought a Ninja 250. Even with that I did lots of early morning practice, slow\fast\braking\figure 8s, etc., etc. I now have a Street Triple and am glad I had the sense to start small getting back into the sport.

      • dan

        +1. Being off bikes for 30 years I too started small – scooters a few years back. I still alternate between 3 motos (i modern and 2 vintage) and 3 scoots (2 modern i vintage). Recently rode an Aprilia RSV 4 APRC and Tuono APRC. I don’t need that much power. Driving in Manhattan traffic every day forces you to keep your wits (most of the times). I got hit by a left turner a couple of years ago and last Fall buried my head into a a lexus truck who decided to cross a yellow an 90 degree me. Luckily I was only doing about 20 mph. But all of us sometimes do stupid things on bikes a get away with it.

  • Mike

    Wouldnt Uncle Chuck just say this is thinning of the herd?
    Many of the bike death causes are self-inflicted. Personally, how is that a problem, unless I’m in the MC industry?
    Yes, I’m a real humanitarian.

    • Gene

      That’s pretty much my attitude too – “average human intelligence goes up a fraction of a percent” – but this is fodder for the dumbasses in Congress/NTHSA that in the past have called for retarded things like HP limits, seat belts, leg protectors, etc. I want to give those f*ckers as little ammunition as possible.

    • James

      How is that a problem? It’s not all about Mike amd Gene’s problems, fuck everything else. This thinning the herd comment? That’s not exactly how evolution works…

  • DoctorNine

    Great article, Wes.

    Improving registration numbers is always good to see.
    And the fatalities still numbers do show an intriguing dip.
    Maybe there are more careful older people taking up the sport.

  • Your_Mom

    Don’t we need to look at fatalities per million miles ridden? Total miles ridden has a direct bearing on death rates. I know that this is how Pat Bedard used to analyze automotive rates.

  • Your_Mom
  • Your_Mom

    I cannot fathom using sales statistics to analyze fatalities. That is incredibly foolhardy. It is not a valid method of analysis. For example, what if only people who already owned motorcycles bought the new motorcycles? Since they can only ride one bike at a time, the increase in fatalities would mean the existing population of riders began dying at an increased rate. It wouldn’t tell you why. Who ever did this is a statistical neophyte.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      It’s likely the best, quantifiable indicator out there of the popularity of motorcycling in a given year.

      • Pete

        New unit registrations.

  • Deryl

    The report is an opinion, not a scientific study. I would also like to see the correlation between the increase in car registrations and motorcycle fatalities. It should not be surprising that deaths increase with increased sales, but has the death rate as a percentage of riders gone up or down. There is some good information here, but not enough to put together a definitive plan to help with the issue. I do my best by encouraging new riders seek training, buy a bike that fits them, to always use a helmet and never ride impaired. Thanks for posting the link to the report.

  • stephen

    “Correlation does not imply causation” this was one of the first things I learned in my Research Methods class. Maybe the GHSA needs a refresher course.

    Also how do Day time running lights on cars contribute to the invisibility of motorcycles?

    • protomech

      The theory goes that motorcycle lights made picking them out during the day easier. “Woah what’s that… ah it’s a bike”

      Now most vehicles use daytime running lights, so they don’t draw as much attention. Anything that breaks car drivers out of their visual slumber helps save biker lives in the typical left-turn across the biker’s path of travel.

  • The Blue Rider

    I just passed a bike wreck on the way home tonight (Trinity exit from 360, just south of DFW airport, for any Metroplexicans) and I was thinking about this very problem.

    [ It looked to me like one rider out of a group of 2-3 had a close encounter with an SUV at the exit; the ambulance was pulling away, the exit was closed, and there was sand thrown down over the fluid spill.... One of the riders was still there and they were geared up, didn't look like your typical squids. I couldn't help but wonder what they were doing out on 360 at 9:30 P.M. on a Thursday; I stay the hell off the highways at night here if I can.]

    I find myself thinking that it’s not just riding that’s dangerous, it’s the roads in general. If there’s an educational shortfall, it’s everywhere, not just among riders. Just before the location of this wreck there is a billboard posted that says “Look twice”, allegedly encouraging awareness of motorcycles. How many average SUV pilots would even understand where the issue of motorcycle invisiblity comes from in the first place?

    I think we may be too dumb, too self-centered, and too brutal as a culture to really value anything like safe, sensible driving (or riding). It’s not just rider culture that could be changed, it’s the whole American relationship with motorized transport.

    • Kevin

      I was riding on the 405 recently and I looked over to the next lane to see a woman in a pet grooming van with her cell phone propped up on her steering wheel, texting away while she was plummeting 75 mph down the road in a 5,000 lb vehicle. Complacency.

      I am hearing Oingo Boingo’s “Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Me” in my head. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQy5vKAaTuA

      • Dani Peral

        You guys should group and fix that…here it is illegal (while driving) to:
        - talk on your phone (unless using free-hands dispositive)
        - listen to anything on headphones
        - TEXTING
        - manipulating GPS unless it is by buttons integrated onto your vehicle
        - masturbating (yes, seriously)
        - having a blowjob (again, seriously)

        …and i hope they ban smoking while driving too, soon.

        If a cop catches you doing one of this, you have to pay 600$ and -3 license points. And you have 15points at most — guess what happens when you reach 0 ;)

        • Jake

          Google, out with the self driving cars, already. People would obviously rather have their hands free for… other things.

        • Gene

          Well here when someone crashes their car it’s an “accident” and it’s not their fault, it just happened. Or it was the other guy’s fault.

          There’s a total ignorance of any concept of responsibility for your 3,000lb vehicle.

          A friend of mine used to pull out on people, and completely not understand why he (and I) were pissed off at her, or why I refused to ever ride with her again.

    • isambard

      Ding ding ding. It’s way too easy to get a driver’s license in the U.S. I first took my driver’s license test in the U.K., where there is a 50 percent failure rate. IIRC the driving test itself took 30 minutes. You’re expected to look in your mirrors at least every 5 seconds – if you don’t, they’ll fail you. If you take the test in an automatic, you can’t legally drive stick, and so on…basically it’s a reasonable balance between the government’s responsibility to protect the public from incompetent fuckwits behind the wheel and your right to drive. I later took the test in Illinois and all I had to do was drive around the block. It was over in five minutes. No wonder folks drive like assholes here.

  • jason

    I agree with it being a bit of both. People in cars with a very casual attitude to awareness in driving, and riders of bikes with the outlaw biker mindset driving on highways at clearly unsafe speeds. It is on both sides, and bikes always lose that fight.
    Manditory helmet and armor is the start. Sorry for your right to be a dick- but it has to start somewhere.

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    I was in Rhode Island the other day, (I live in Mass.) and every single rider I saw, save one, was without helmet.
    Do those riders think they look badass with their remaining hair blowing in the wind? To me, a rider looks strangely out of place without a helmet on. It’s like when a racer takes a championship victory lap sans-helmet, they just look weird.

    • luxlamf

      I was doing a show in Dallas for 3 months and coming from CA I was excited to be able to go “Lidless” on a bike. Borrowed a friends bike and off I went, 1st its weird to have no helmet on when you are used to it, 2nd you discover the helmet isnt just for saving you in a crash, I was getting pelted with 70mph pieces of road debris and bugs etc… this lasted 20 miles and I went back to the hotel and got my helmet.

  • Гена

    Why the list of measures doesn’t include one which works and is easy to implement: Allowing motorcycles to filter through the stopped traffic.
    It would dramatically decrease rear end collisions like this one:
    I am not a member of AMA or other organizations because all they do is whining about the helmet laws, instead of focusing on something more useful.

  • John

    Can I suggest this article (and other safety-study related posts) be left open rather than disappearing behind the subscriber wall? Don’t know if that’s possible b/c I don’t know a thing about coding, but I think step 1 is to make the information as widely available as possible. This stuff, the Hurt report, it’s all invaluable and needs to be read and re-read every season.

  • luxlamf

    The majority of people have no idea how to “Drive”, they just “Steer”, put these same people on 2 wheels instead of 4 with a metal cage around them and its the difference between walking and skating. Add the obvious Frat Boy attitude so many 25 year old and above have 1 day a week while on their bikes, dress up funny, little buttons and trinkets and vests and ride way beyond their level and this isn’t a surprise to me. I ride almost everyday (SUV gets 9mpg so damned straight I ride) and have done so for 6 years now, I have met a lot of incompetent people out there on bikes and I cannot see adding training and laws etc… fixing any of this because they just Do Not Ride enough, I live in SoCal so I ride all year long, I couldn’t imagine taking 6 months off in a row and just get back on the thing when the weather clears. I was visiting upstate NY last month and every day there was a MC fatality on the news, the weather had broken and it was warm, it rained several times a day but they where out there ( Take 6 months off from riding and start up again in the worst conditions possible?). and lets not forget the people in autos Also had 6 months off from looking for riders on the road. MC’s are dangerous, always will be.

  • SamuraiMark
  • HammSammich

    I don’t know, this graph seems relatively uninformative, and largely serves to provide fodder for wild conjecture.
    It ignores dozens of factors such as massive changes in motorcycle and gear technology, as well as medical technology and trauma care procedures during the reporting period. Rider age and the percentage of fatalities to total motorcycle accidents would also be key factors in drawing any useful conclusions.

    Ultimately, if this graph shows us anything, it’s the woeful deficiency of available statistics surrounding the true dangers of riding motorcycles.

    That having been noted, since we’re engaging in wild conjecture here, I’ll postulate that the most recent trends in increased motorcycle fatalities correspond directly with an aging ridership. Given the impact of age on Traumatic injury survivability (see RTS, TRISS or other trauma scoring methods) it would make sense that as the riding population ages, risk of fatality will increase. Add to this, statistics that indicate that older motorcyclists are also less likely to wear appropriate gear, and you can see why the NHTSA reports that “over the past 10 years, fatalities in the 20 to 29 year old age group, the group with consistently the highest annual number of motorcycle fatalities, decreased, while fatalities in the 40 and over age groups increased.”

    Barring other unforseen factors, I suspect that if efforts to increase the percentage of new/younger riders are successful, one of the first things we’ll see is a significant drop in the number of motorcycle fatalities below new motorcycle registrations.

    More detailed (if somewhat dated) info here: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/motorcycle/motorcycle03/recent.htm

  • TuffGong

    Have seen some questioning the situation in Europe. Living in France and just watched a news report last night that stated that motorcycles(this does not include scooters which are everywhere and are not licensed) make up 5% of drivers and represent 20% of fatalities. I can also verify that a very expensive and extensive training regime is required to get a bike license. My eighteen year old son is in the process right now. The majority wear good gear,with gloves,jacket,helmet,boots the norm. I enjoy riding here as lane splitting is common on virtually any road,including two lane,as is advancing to the front at all stops Also ,roundabouts are everywhere and are a blast and I feel much safer than being bunched up every 1/4 mile by lights and stop signs.Also starting to see more and more cruisers on the road. They were truly rare when I came over in 2006. Now,not so much. They do not wear beanie lids at all,by the way….

  • SamuraiMark

    I hate telling other people what they can and cannot do, but sometimes I think graduated motorcycles with graduated licensing seems such a great idea. Here in Ontario you have to have your M2 license for 2 years (18mos. if you take the M2 safety course) before you get your full M license. We could limit M2 drives to ###cc (125/250/400/500 … whatever) bikes. Allow M licensed drivers with less than X years to go up to 600/750cc.

    Better: if you introduce these rules, they should really be based on horsepower and torque rather than engine size. Maybe graduated access based on some sort of torque, HP, weight formula. Now we’re getting complicated.

    Torque, HP, weight, power-to-weight ratio, bike style, age, years of experience, …