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Per vehicle mile travelled, motorcyclists' risk of a fatal crash
is 35 times greater than a passenger car
to the U.S. National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),
in 2006, 13.10 cars out of 100,000 ended up in fatal crashes.
The rate for motorcycles is 72.34 per 100,000 registered
also have a higher fatality rate per unit of distance travelled
when compared with automobiles.
In 2004, figures from the
for Transport indicated
that motorcycles have 16 times the rate of serious injuries per
100 million vehicle kilometers compared to cars, and double the
rate of bicycles.
A national study by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATS)
Motorcycle rider death rates increased among all
rider age groups between 1998 and 2000
Motorcycle rider deaths were nearly 30 times more than
drivers of other vehicles
Motorcycle riders aged below 40 are 36 times more
likely to be killed than other vehicle operators of the same
Motorcycle riders aged 40 years and over are around
20 times more likely to be killed than other drivers of that
data from the United States reveals that there are over four
million motorcycles registered in the United States. Motorcycle
fatalities represent approximately five percent of all highway
fatalities each year, yet motorcycles represent just two percent
of all registered vehicles in the United States.
80 percent of reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or
death; a comparable figure for automobiles is about 20 percent
75% of accidents were found to involve a motorcycle and a
passenger vehicle, while the remaining 25% of accidents were
single motorcycle accidents.
"In the single vehicle accidents, motorcycle rider error was
present as the accident precipitating factor in about two-thirds
of the cases, with the typical error being a slide-out and fall
due to overbraking or running wide on a curve due to excess
speed or under-cornering."
"Almost half of the fatal accidents show alcohol involvement"
and "injury severity increases with speed, alcohol involvement
and motorcycle size."
In the multiple vehicle accidents, the driver of the other
vehicle violated the motorcycle right-of-way and caused the
accident in two-thirds of those accidents.
The report's additional findings show that the wearing of
appropriate gear, specifically, helmets and durable garment,
mitigates crash injuries substantially.
"Vehicle failure accounted for less than 3% of these motorcycle
accidents, and most of those were single vehicle accidents where
control was lost due to a puncture flat" and "Weather is not a
factor in 98% of motorcycle accidents."
"The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in
traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents...Conspicuity of
the motorcycle is a critical factor in the multiple vehicle
accidents, and accident involvement is significantly reduced by
the use of motorcycle headlamps-on In daylight and the wearing
of high visibility yellow, orange or bright red jackets."
Main article: MAIDS
The most recent large-scale study of motorcycle accidents is the
MAIDS report carried out in five European countries in 1999 to
2000, using the rigorous OECD standards,
including a statistically significant sample size of over 900
crash incidents and over 900 controlcases.
The MAIDS report tends to support most of the Hurt Report
findings, for example that "69% of the OV [other vehicle]
drivers attempted no collision avoidance manoeuvre," suggesting
they did not see the motorcycle. And further that, "the largest
number of PTW [powered two-wheeler] accidents is due to a
perception failure on the part of the OV driver or the PTW
rider." And "The data indicates that in 68.7% of all cases, the
helmet was capable of preventing or reducing the head injury
sustained by the rider (i.e., 33.2% + 35.5%). In 3.6% of all
cases, the helmet was found to have no effect upon head injury"
and "There were no reported cases in which the helmet was
identified as the contact code for a serious or maximum neck
Findings on Conspicuity
A New Zealand study using data taken between 1993-96 in the city
a "predominantly urban area" (Wells et
supported the Hurt Report's call for increased rider
conspicuity, claiming that riders wearing white or light colored
or reflective clothing or
using daytime headlights were under-represented when compared to
a group of motorcycle accident victims. The accident victims
were those who were killed, or admitted or treated at hospital
"with an injury
severity score >5
within 24 hours of a motorcycle crash". Accidents that did not
result in hospitalization or treatment for a critical injury, or
a death were not considered, nor was there any consideration of
involvement of other road users, or culpability. The definition
of reflective or fluorescent clothing was taken to include
"clothing or other articles such as a jacket, vest, apron, sash,
ankle or wrist band, or back pack including stripes, decals or
strips". No assessment of the type (open or full-face) of helmet
was undertaken. Most of the crashes took place in "urban 50km/h
speed limit zones (66%), during the day (64%) and in fine
weather (72%)". No association was observed between risk of
crash related injury and the frontal colour of the drivers'
(sic) clothing or motorcycle.
The MAIDS report did not publish information on helmet color or
the prevalence of reflective or fluorescent clothing in either
the accident or control groups, or the use of lights in the
control group, and therefore drew no statistical conclusions on
their effectiveness, neither confirming nor refuting the claims
of the Wells report. In each MAIDS case, the clothing worn by
the rider was photographed and evaluated.
MAIDS found that motorcycles painted white were actually
over-represented in the accident sample compared to the exposure
clothing, MAIDS used a "purely subjective" determination of if
and how the clothing worn probably affected conspicuity in the
accident. The report concluded that "in 65.3% of all cases, the
clothing made no contribution to the conspicuity of the rider or
the PTW [powered two-wheeler, i.e. motorcycle]. There were very
few cases found in which the bright clothing of the PTW rider
enhanced the PTW’s overall conspicuity (46 cases). There were
more cases in which the use of dark clothing decreased the
conspicuity of the rider and the PTW (120 cases)." MAIDs
concluded that in one case dark clothing actually increased
conspicuity but reported none where bright clothing decreased
Motorcycle Deaths and Veterans
Growing data shows that an alarming number of veterans returning
from combat areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan are
dying in motorcycle related fatalities. Between October 2007 and
October 2008, 24 active-duty Marines died from motorcycle
accidents. There were 4,810 deaths on motorcycles in the U.S. in
2006, an increase of 5 percent over the previous year, and more
than double (2,161) over the decade before, according to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the
Marine Corps, high-speed bikes account for the majority of
fatalities. In 2007, 78 percent of motorcycle mishaps in the
Marines occurred on a sport bike, compared to 38 percent
Consequences of Accidents
A motorcyclist unbuckles his chin strap in order to remove his
helmet after sustaining a minor hand injury through losing
control on a wet corner.
Once the collision has occurred, or the rider has lost control
through some other mishap, several common types of injury occur
when the bike falls:
Collision with less forgiving protective barriers or roadside
"furniture" (lampposts, signs, fences, etc...). Note that when
one falls off a motorcycle in the middle of a curve, lamps and
signs become impossible to negotiate around.
Concussion and brain damage, as the head violently contacts
other vehicles or objects. Riders wearing an approved
the risk of death by 37 percent.Breakage
of joints (elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and wrists), fingers,
spine and neck, for the same reason. The most common breakages
are the shoulder and the pelvis.
Soft tissue (skin and muscle) damage (road
rash) as the body slides across the surface. This can
be prevented entirely with the proper use of motorcycle-specific
protective apparel such as a leather jacket or reinforced denim
and textile pants.
There is also a condition known as biker's arm, where the nerves
in the upper arm are damaged during the fall, causing a
permanent paralysis of arm movement.
Facial disfigurement, if in the absence of a full-face helmet,
the unprotected face slides across the ground or smashes into an
object. Thirty-five percent of all crashes show major impact on
the chin-bar area.
The Hurt Report also commented on injuries after an accident
stating that the likelihood of injury is extremely high in these
motorcycle accidents - 98% of the multiple vehicle collisions
and 96% of the single vehicle accidents resulted in some kind of
injury to the motorcycle rider; 45% resulted in more than a
List of motorcycle deaths in U.S. by year
Annual U.S. motorcycle deaths
† some NHTSA lists
‡ some NHTSA lists show 3,714
is a list of
motorcycle deaths in U.S. by year from
1994 to 2010. United States motorcycle
fatalities increased every year for 11 years since
reaching a historic low of 2,116 fatalities in 1997, until a
decline in 2009. In nine years, motorcycle deaths have more than
Since 1980, motorcycle ownership among riders aged 40 and over
has increased dramatically, from 15.1 percent of all riders in
1980 to 43.7 percent in 1998. The mean engine displacement of
the motorcycles involved in fatal crashes has also increased,
from an average engine size of 769 cc (46.9 cu in) in 1990, to
959 cc (58.5 cu in) in 2001, an increase of 24.7 percent. This
combination of older riders on higher-powered motorcycles may be
partially responsible for the increase in motorcycle deaths from
the late 1990s until 2004.
Half of motorcycle fatalities in single vehicle crashes relate
to problems negotiating a curve prior to a crash—almost 60
percent of motorcyclist fatalities in single vehicle crashes
occur at night.
In 2009, motorcycle fatalities in the US declined for the first
time in 11 years. The yearly total dropped from 5,312 to 4,462.
Automobile fatalities continued to decline for the seventh
straight year. A
decline in recreational motorcycling due to the late-2000s
account for the decrease in accidents, according to the authors
of a report by the Governors
Highway Safety Association, but a State
motorcyclists' rights organization, the Motorcycle
Riders Foundation, said motorcycle use appears to have
increased, influenced by motorcycles' better fuel
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