What is the Percentage of Motorcycle Riders That Get into Accidents?
Last updated Thursday, October 19th, 2023
Motorcycle population in the United States continues to grow steadily each year. As of 2021, over 8 million people in the US have at least one motorcycle. And why wouldn’t they? Riding a bike and feeling the air move around you is an exhilarating feeling. Motorcycles are also less expensive to operate than cars or trucks, which only adds to the appeal for many people.
On the flip side, there is more responsibility involved in riding a motorcycle than when driving a car or truck. Comparing the statistics of motorcycle accidents to passenger vehicle accidents is very important and can be quite eye-opening. As a responsible motorcycle driver, you need to know what risks are involved and how to safely operate your bike to avoid accidents.
National Motorcycle Accident Statistics
Riding a motorcycle is much more dangerous than traveling by car. As of the year 2020, statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tell us that in the US, motorcyclists are around 28-29 times more likely to suffer a fatality in an accident compared to people in a passenger vehicle. They were also four times more likely to be injured.
Although the national statistics are changing yearly, roughly 72 out of every 100,000 motorcycles are involved in an accident each year. The number of accidents are far less for cars, where 13 out of every 100,000 are involved in an accident.
Roughly 89,000 motorcycle accidents happen every year in the USA
That means 1% of registered motorcyclists get into an accident annually
It’s easy to see why those statistics can be so staggering. Motorcyclists have far less protection surrounding them than people in a car or truck. Motorcycles also don’t have what most of us consider the standard safety equipment – things like seatbelts and airbags. So when thinking of safety in those terms, it is important for bikers to realize this so they can be extra cautious.
Another interesting statistic compares the different ages of motorcycle drivers. Most would think that the younger drivers account for the most deaths from a motorcycle accident. That is not the case.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2020, statistics show that:
- Motorcycle drivers under the age of 29 accounted for 26% of fatalities
- Motorcycle drivers between the ages of 30 and 39 years accounted for 21% of fatalities
- Motorcyclists from 40 to 49 years of age accounted for 17% of deaths
- Motorcyclists aged 50 and older accounted for 36% of the motorcycle fatalities
Motorcycle accidents happen in every state, and some states have worse records than others. Anywhere there could be human error, the possibility of a fatal mistake is there.
The stats can be skewed to a certain amount though, because not all areas have weather that makes riding possible year-round. Consider how much riding can be done in each geographical area. It’s not possible (or comfortable!) to drive a motorcycle in the middle of winter in a Midwestern state. Snow, ice, and freezing temps are not appealing or safe to motorcyclists. Driving in a southern state, however, is possible year-round in some areas.
Some states have roads that are maintained much better than others, as well as more roads that are paved. In a more rural area, it’s not unusual to have to drive on dirt or gravel roads. In a larger metropolitan area, however, unpaved roads just do not exist, or only rarely exist.
Each state carries its own set of laws and regulations, which contribute to the severity of motorcycle-related injuries or deaths. As an example, three states in the US do not even require motorcycle helmets to be worn – Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire. Age restrictions also vary from state-to-state, as do speed limits and the amount of traffic.
Just as the number of motorcycle accidents varies from state-to-state, the same can be said for variations from country-to-country. International statistics are less than reliable, but low-income countries are known to have more deaths due to bike accidents. That may be because of road conditions, lack of driving regulations, health care, lack of education, or other miscellaneous reasons.
The current laws regarding safety are different in each country, and there is a wide variation of those laws. Some countries require safety equipment such as eye protection and helmets. Yet others do not.
Factors That Affect the Percentage of Motorcycle Accidents
Of course there are many factors that affect the number of motorcycle accidents that occur. Skill levels vary greatly from person to person. It’s important to note that the experience level of the driver, the weather conditions, and rider behavior are all taken into account when factoring statistics for motorcycle use.
Road conditions are also a huge factor that needs to be taken into account when discussing safety. All roads are not smooth, clear of debris, and well-maintained. The safety level of each road varies, as well as local laws and the enforcement of those laws.
In addition, motorcycles are categorized by their design, the technology they have, and their intended use. There are quite a few different types of motorbikes available to drive, each with different riding purposes.
- Standard bikes are also called roadsters and are the most common type of motorcycle on the road. Engine sizes range from 125cc to 1,000cc, allowing them mid-range power.
- Cruisers require less shifting and are typically less demanding to ride. These bikes have a hands up and feet forward design, making them popular because of the comfortable riding position.
- Touring motorcycles are designed to comfortably drive for long distances. Engines have large displacements and typically have additional features such as screens to block wind, a larger gas tank, and have a relaxed upright seating position.
- Sport bikes focus on speed and high performance. The driver position is more focused on a lower head driving position with a longer reach to the controls. These bikes are more aerodynamically designed to allow for fast speeds and tight handling.
- Off-road motorcycles like dirt bikes and motocross bikes are designed to be driven off the roads. They are often racing bikes or driven on tracks or roads that are more difficult to navigate for other types of motorcycles. They are not street-legal in most areas.
- Dual purpose motorcycles, also known as on/off-road motorcycles, are a combo platter that makes an off-road bike street legal. They combine off-road suspension and with street legal features such as mirrors and lights.
Safe motorcycle operation is even more important than operating another motor vehicle because of the lack of protection surrounding the bike.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to completely eliminate injuries and deaths from any vehicular accident, motorbikes included. What we can do, however, is raise awareness and emphasize the safe and responsible operation of motorcycles.
Remember, it is important that motorcycle drivers understand and accept the responsibilities involved in keeping themselves, their passengers, and other drivers on the road safe.
The responsibility of safety is also in the hands of other car and truck drivers on the road. Drivers of other types of vehicles also need to be made aware of motorcycles and make a concerted effort to look out for motorcycles more closely.
Awareness and education go hand-in-hand, and we can all help raise awareness of seeing motorcyclists to car and truck drivers. Keeping up with the laws in your area and defensive motorcycle driving techniques could save a life or two.
And it’s important to always wear proper safety equipment. It could mean the difference between life and death.