There is controversy among motorcycle enthusiasts and safety advocates regarding the safety of motorcycles. There are many different aspects of motorcycle safety that should be considered when deciding whether to buy and ride a motorcycle. The following article is intended to inform you about statistical data regarding motorcycle crash factors, and to give insight as to how safe motorcycles really are.
Motorcycle Fatality Statistics
According to information gathered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 4,295 people died in motorcycle crashes in 2014. Motorcycle fatalities have been increasing since 1997 and reached a peak in 2008. Fortunately, there were nearly 1,000 less fatalities in 2014 than there were in 2008, however, the 2014 fatalities are still more than double the number of fatalities in 1997. This means that motorcycle fatalities are declining, but are still comparatively high in regard to previous years.
There are many different variables that could lead to a motorcycle crashing like visibility, rider impairment, distracted driving, weather conditions, and other compounded factors. Statistically speaking, the factors that are most significant with respect to motorcycle crashes are:
- Inebriation. Only 30 percent of total motorcyclist fatalities involved a rider with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of less than .08 percent. In other words, only 30 percent of the motorcyclists that died in 2014 were legally sober enough to drive. This makes clear that you should never drink and operate a motorcycle.
- Age. In 1975, motorcyclist deaths that involved a rider who was 50 years old or older accounted for three percent of total fatalities. Since 1975, the percentage of older riders being involved in fatal crashes has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2014, riders who were 50 years old or older accounted for 36 percent of total motorcycle fatalities. It’s possible that there are simply more older riders on the road than there have been in years past. But, the data does provide evidence of age being a contributing factor in the chances of crashing a motorcycle.
- Engine Size. In 1995, motorcycles that had an engine piston displacement of 1,000 cc or less accounted for 61 percent of total fatalities, while motorcycles that had a piston displacement greater than 1,400 cc accounted for only one percent of fatalities. However, in 2014 the statistics changed dramatically. Motorcycles with 1,000 cc or less accounted for 47 percent of fatalities in 2014, motorcycles that had over 1,400 cc accounted for 32 percent, and motorcycles that were in between 1,000 and 1,400 cc accounted for 14 percent. The important information to take away from this is that motorcycles with a piston displacement greater than 1,400 are becoming more common with fatal crashes.
Though the study conducted by the IIHS provides evidence as to the contributing factors of a fatal motorcycle accident, it does not accurately determine if a motorcycle is safer than a car. In fact, in 2014 there were a total of 21,102 car-related deaths, and only 4,295 motorcycle-related deaths. To accurately determine which vehicle was safest, one would need to count how many people drive cars and ride motorcycles, and then take the percentage of crash-related deaths from each group.
What is certain is that riding a motorcycle requires more skill and concentration to operate than an automobile. However, if you are a focused and skilled rider and you don’t drink before operating your motorcycle, you should be able to ride a motorcycle just as safely as a car. What really determines whether a vehicle is safe to drive, is the driver.