National Data Confirms Motorcycle Deaths Continue to Increase

The Department of Transportation recently released statistics and data on motorcycle safety through 2011. That year, more than 4,500 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents, which is an increase from 2010. Motorcycle crash lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm dive deeper into this report and the factors behind the steady increase in motorcycle death.

All data was compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which included information from 2002 to 2011 in the publication. The NHTSA considers several types of vehicles “motorcycles,” including mopeds, scooters, pocket bikes, off-road motorcycles, mini bikes,and two- or three-wheeled motorcycles.

Among its findings, the NHTSA reported a significant increase in registered motorcycles in the nine years between 2002 and 2011. As suspected, this correlated to increases in injuries and fatalities throughout the country. Finalized data indicate that, per mile traveled, motorcyclists were more than 30 times more likely to die in an accident than those in cars.

Overall, motorcyclists account for nearly 15% of all traffic fatalities, which is considerable because motorcycles make up only 3% of all vehicles on American roadways. In crashes involving two vehicles, a large majority (three-quarters) occurred when the other vehicle struck the motorcycle from the front, rather than rear-ending it.

Facts of the Crash

Among the nearly 2,000 two-vehicle crashes in 2011, nearly 40% of them occurred when the motorcycle was going straight and the other car was turning left. Additionally, about 35% of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time. This is substantially higher than the percentage of car drivers who were cited for speeding at the time of a fatal crash.

Interestingly, the NHTSA also divided up motorcycle fatality data according to age, year, and day of the week the crash occurred. Somewhat surprisingly, the most fatalities occurred in people aged 40 and up, on the weekdays, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. One would suspect and is usually correct in guessing that drivers under the age of 30 are the most dangerous on the road. This may be true for cars and trucks, however, on motorcycles, people over the age of 40 are significantly more at risk.

For example, more than 1,300 motorcyclists aged 40 and up died in traffic crashes on a weekday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. in 2011. This can be compared to just 654 motorcyclists under the age of 30 suffering the same fate, and only 411 motorcyclists between 30 and 39.

Motorcyclists riding a bike with an engine size of 1001cc or higher were also significantly more likely to be killed in accidents. In fact, these types of riders showed a 60% increase in fatalities between 2002 and 2011, compared to 30% for riders using smaller engines. Overall, a large number of fatalities were riding the motorcycle without a valid license at the time of the crash.

Motorcyclists have a tendency to engage in other risky behavior as well. Data shows that motorcyclists have the highest percentage of previous driving offenses, such as DUI and license revocation, of all other vehicle drivers. Alcohol also plays a bigger factor in motorcycle crashes than in other vehicle accidents.

The leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes is, by far, traumatic head injury. Helmets are about 37% effective in preventing a brain injury in crashes, and the NHTSA estimates that helmets save over 1,600 lives every year. As of 2011, only 20 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets.

The NHTSA outlines many safety recommendations on its website, which can be found here. Roadway safety is a group effort, and must be practiced by everyone.

Our team of motorcycle crash attorneys reminds everyone to look out for and share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists, and drivers of all types. If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed in a vehicle accident caused by the negligence of another, contact our firm immediately. You may be able to obtain significant compensation for any medical bills, lost wages, or, in the event of a tragedy, funeral expenses. Our legal consultations are available to injured victims nationwide, and are always free of charge.

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