There’s no denying it. Motorcycles are cool.
There’s just something so iconic about the look and feel of riding around on a motorcycle. It’s a feeling that transcends generations.
And yet many people fear that motorcycles are a dangerous form of transportation; much more dangerous than cars.
It’s not hard to understand the sentiment; after all, motorcycles seem to lack a lot of safety features that are included in cars. After all, there are no airbags, and not even a real windshield. Nothing to protect you and your soft human body from the hard and unforgiving pavement.
But is there any weight to that fear? How safe are motorcycles? Are they actually any more dangerous than any other method of transportation?
How Safe Are Motorcycles?
According to National Highway Traffic statistics, in 2017 there were 59.34 fatalities per 100,000 registered motorcycles. This gives us a fatality rate of 0.59 percent.
For injuries, the rate was much higher; there were 1018 injuries per 100,000 registered motorcycles. Over ten percent of motorcycle accidents end in injury to the rider.
Indeed, at first glance, the statistics for motorcycle safety appear particularly unpleasant. Motorcycles only account for 3 percent of registered vehicles in America. Despite this, they make up 14 percent of traffic fatalities.
Of course, on the surface cars appear much more dangerous than motorcycles. After all, statistics clearly show far more car accidents than motorcycle accidents.
In 2017, there were 21,031 fatal car accidents, compared to only 5,326 fatal motorcycle accidents.
This number is misleading, however. Cars outnumber motorcycles over ten to one. Car fatalities only outnumber motorcycle fatalities four to one.
If cars were as dangerous as motorcycles, they would outnumber motorcycle fatalities by a much higher rate.
Why Are Motorcycle Crashes So Dangerous?
There are a variety of reasons motorcycle crashes can be so dangerous.
As a result of their open structure, motorcycles lack many of the safety features found in automobiles. The open structure makes ejection from the vehicle far more likely.
In addition to that, many of the most common injuries in motorcycles are particularly dangerous. Roberts Law, a motorcycle accident lawyer in Kentucky, lists road rash and brain trauma as two of the most common injuries.
Road rash and brain trauma are both very dangerous. They require immediate and extensive medical care.
As such, both of these injuries have a high chance of fatality.
Factors In Motorcycle Accidents
There are many other aspects of motorcycles that serve to make them more dangerous than they may initially appear.
The National Safety Council provides examples of several of these factors, such as a generally older demographic and lack of proper safety gear.
Indeed, the fatality rates for riders within that demographic were nearly 50 percent higher than for other demographics.
There are several reasons for this. Older demographics have slower reflexes than their younger counterparts. They are also more likely to drive on medication, which can often affect reaction times.
In addition, according to the NSC provided statistics, 1908 motorcyclists died in 2017 while not wearing a helmet. Considering our previous statistic of 5326 fatalities that year, that gives a rate of 35 percent.
This is a considerable amount of lives lost due to a lack of proper protective gear.
Similarly, 28 percent of motorcycle fatalities involve impairment due to intoxication on the part of the rider.
However, this is certainly not to imply that motorcyclists are the only ones at fault in these accidents. On the contrary, the majority of motorcycle crashes are multi-vehicle collisions.
And according to statistics provided by the NHTSA, in the vast majority of these collisions, it was the non-cyclist who was found to be at fault.
There are many reasons for this. The most commonly referenced reason is the small size of motorcycles. This makes it relatively easy for a driver, especially a distracted driver, to fail to notice the motorcycle.
A final point, the type and location of impact had a significant effect on lethality.
56 percent of all fatal motorcycle accidents were multi-vehicle collisions. Nearly 75 percent of those fatalities were head-on collisions. By comparison, right side collisions have the lowest fatality rate. They account for only four percent of multi-vehicle fatalities.
How To Improve Motorcycle Safety
While motorcycle statistics show that the vehicles are in fact at higher risk of injury and fatality, the news is not entirely bad. Some easy fixes are out there to help improve your odds on a motorcycle.
The first, and hopefully most obvious solution is simply to wear proper protective gear, specifically helmets. As mentioned before, some 35 percent of motorcycle fatalities involved riders who were not wearing helmets.
This is a much larger number than it appears. In this case, it is nearly 2000 fatalities. They could potentially have been prevented by proper safety equipment.
Increased driver awareness is another substantial factor to be addressed in regard to improving motorcycle safety. Educating motorists on the unique risks of motorcycles would go a long way towards improving their safety statistics.
The Final Word on Motorcycle Safety
How safe are motorcycles? As we’ve seen, they are statistically the most dangerous form of on-road transportation.
A wide combination of factors come into play here, including age and driver awareness, come into play to create this unique combination.
This is not to say that motorcycles are a poor choice, or that they should be avoided. As with any other vehicle, through proper care and operation, it is possible to go an entire lifetime without accidents.
However, it is important to keep these statistics in mind when dealing with motorcycles.
So if you’re concerned about motorcycle safety, for any reason, these are some important statistics to keep in mind.
They shouldn’t be used to scare you away from motorcycles. But keep them in mind when considering the potential safety concerns of your choice of vehicle.
As with anything else in life, proper awareness and understanding are critical to making the proper decisions to ensure your safety on the road.
“59.34 fatalities per 100,000 registered motorcycles” is 0.059%, not 0.59%.