At the end of every year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety releases an annual snapshot of the previous year’s motorcycle fatalities based on its analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Each year’s snapshot is another sobering reminder of how short life is, and how important it is that we each make safety our top priority every time we hit the road. This includes both motorcyclists AND drivers. Safety is a responsibility that belongs to all of us.
In 2018 a total of 4,985 motorcyclists were killed in crashes. Says the IIHS report, “Motorcyclist deaths had been declining since the early 1980s but began to increase in 1998 and continued to increase through 2008.” In fact, motorcyclist deaths have more than doubled since their low in 1997. At 14% of all motor vehicle crash deaths, motorcycle fatalities are significantly overrepresented when you consider the number of cars to motorcycles on the road each day.
As we scrolled through the report from the IIHS, here are some of their numbers that jumped out at us the most, and what they mean:
- 30% vs. 16%: Unlicensed motorcyclists were fatally injured at nearly twice the rate of unlicensed drivers of cars. A potential cause would be the fact that riders who are unlicensed are less likely to have gone through a motorcycle safety course. Since these are courses that contribute life-saving knowledge, you definitely want to sign up for safety!
- 63% vs. 37%: According to FARS data, motorcyclists were killed more often in crashes involving multiple vehicles (e.g. a car colliding with a motorcycle) than in single-vehicle crashes. Since motorcycles lack the protection that a car’s body offers its occupants, even a light brush with another vehicle might mean a rider being thrown. At the same time, a crash by yourself is much more manageable than one involving multiple vehicles — there are less variables in play.
- 65%: Of the number of female motorcyclists killed in accidents, more than two-thirds of them were passengers.
- 93%: Women accounted for an alarming share of all passenger deaths.
- 100%: As for men, only 22 were killed while riding as passengers, but 4,515 male motorcyclists were driving when they died. At more than 99.5%, this number is so substantial that the IIHS rounds up.
- 91%: Of all motorcycle fatalities of all genders, men comprised the overwhelming majority.
- 34% and 93%: There appears to be a significant link between engine size and the number of deaths occurring on a given motorcycle. Writes the IIHS, “Engine sizes of motorcycles whose drivers were killed in crashes have gone up dramatically. Among motorcycle drivers killed in 2018, 34 percent drove motorcycles with engine sizes larger than 1,400 cc, compared with 9 percent in 2000 and less than 1 percent in 1990.
- And, “Among the motorcycles whose drivers were killed in 2018, 93 percent of touring bikes had engines larger than 1,400 cc, while virtually all supersport bikes had engines of sizes 1,000 cc or smaller.”
- 61%: The majority of 2018 motorcyclist fatalities took place between the warm weather months of May and September, peaking in June, and reaching their lowest point during December.
We really hate reading through these numbers year after year, and wish there was more that could be done lower them overall. Luckily, there is. Practice safe driving every single time you get behind the wheel or climb onto your motorcycle. Your loved ones will thank you.
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“Fatality Analysis Reporting System.” Department of Transportation. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
“Fatality Facts 2018: Motorcycles and ATVs.” Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
“Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report Tables.” NHTSA. Retrieved 8 February 2020.