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Nationwide Increase in Motorcycle Accidents and Injuries

The United States Department of Transportation released some surprising statistics on motorcycle safety through 2011. In that year alone more than 4,500 motorcyclists were killed in motorcycle accidents. This figure is an increase from 2010. Motorcycle accident Attorney Jason Carnell dives deeper into this report and analyzes the factors behind the surprising increase in motorcycle deaths.

The figures were compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which included a nine year period from 2002 to 2011. NHTSA considered several types of vehicles to be classified as "motorcycles". This list includes mopeds, scooters, pocket bikes, off-road motorcycles, mini bikes, and two or three-wheeled motorcycles.

NHTSA did report a significant increase in registered motorcycles in the nine years between 2002 and 2011. In other words, more people were buying and riding more “motorcycles”. As one might expect, all else being equal you would expect to see increases in injuries and fatalities throughout the country.

Nonetheless, one terrifying statistic is the fact that, per mile traveled, motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in an accident than those in cars.

Overall, motorcyclists account for nearly 15% of all traffic fatalities. This is an incredible figure considering that motorcycles make up only 3% of all vehicles on American roadways.

In crashes involving two vehicles, a large majority occurred when the other vehicle struck the motorcycle from the front, rather than rear-ending it. 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.

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. This is surprising in that young drivers/riders are stereotypically the most dangerous on the road. While this is apparently true for cars and trucks, on motorcycles, middle-aged riders seem to be at significantly more risk.

The study claims that more than 1,300 motorcyclists aged 40 and up died in motorcycle 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. Of course, these figures may be misleading as the demographic for motorcycle ownership seems to favor older riders. As such, there may just be more of them.

The study confirmed that motorcyclist with larger displacement engines were also at greater risk. Motorcyclists riding a bike with an engine size of 1001cc or higher showed a 60% increase in fatalities between 2002 and 2011, compared to 30% increase for riders using smaller engines. People riding without a valid motorcycle license also experienced a larger increase in their fatality motorcycle crash rate.

Motorcyclists have a tendency to engage in other riskier behavior than their auto-driving counterparts. The study showed that motorcyclists have the highest percentage of previous driving offenses, such as DUI and license revocation, of all vehicle drivers.

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

As a motorcycle accident attorney, I’d like to remind everyone to look out for and share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians 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 me immediately. You can visit my website at I can also be reached via email at [email protected] and by phone at 770-729-4809.

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