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Motorcycle Fatalities Increasing
the October 2001 full report "Fatal
Single Vehicle Motorcycle Crashes" (DOT HS 809 360) from
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); a study recently
conducted on motorcycle accidents and safety
Summary of NHTSA DOT HS 809 360
Single vehicle motorcycle crashes account for about 45 percent of all
motorcyclist fatalities. More than 38,000 motorcyclists have died in
single vehicle motorcycle crashes between 1975 and 1999. The report
claims to provide data for insight into possible causes for these
According to the report, from 1990 through 1999, there
were a total of 11,038 fatal single vehicle motorcycle crashes. During
that same time period, there were an estimated 294,000 non-fatal
single vehicle motorcycle crashes. Of these, an estimated 39,000
involved property damage only and 255,000 involved injuries.
Motorcyclist fatalities in single vehicle motorcycle crashes decreased
each year from 1990 to 1996, reaching a historic low of 937 in 1996
and again in 1997. In 1998, the fatalities increased to 1,042 (11.2
percent increase); in 1998 and in 1999 they increased to 1,140 (9.4
percent). The overall increase in motorcyclist fatalities from 1997 to
1999 was 203 (21.7 percent).
Report Conclusions: Findings from the FARS (Fatality
Analysis Reporting System) data illustrate possible reasons for
motorcyclist fatalities in single vehicle motorcycle crashes:
1998 Motorcycle Accident Statistics:
- Helmet use among fatally injured
motorcyclists below 50 percent
- More motorcyclist fatalities are
occurring on rural roads
- High blood alcohol levels are a major
problem among motorcycle operators
- Half of the fatalities are related to
negotiating a curve prior to the crash
- Over 80 percent of the fatalities
occur off roadway
- Undivided roadways account for a
majority of the fatalities
- Almost two thirds of the fatalities
were associated with speeding as an operator contributing factor
in the crash
- Almost 60 percent of motorcyclist
fatalities occur at night
- Collision with a fixed object is a
significant factor in over half of the fatalities
- Braking and steering maneuvers
possibly contribute for almost 25 percent of the fatalities
- More riders age 40 and over are
- Almost one third of the fatally
injured operators did not have a proper license
- 2,284 motorcyclists died and
approximately 49,000 were injured in highway crashes in the
- Per mile traveled in 1998, a
motorcyclist is approximately 16 times more likely to die in a
crash than an automobile occupant. And 3x (times) as likely to
- Head injury is a leading cause of
death in motorcycle crashes.
- In 1998, 46% of fatally injured
motorcycle drivers were not wearing helmets at the time of the
- NHTSA estimates that motorcycle
helmets reduce the likelihood of a fatality by 29% in a crash.
- In 1998, 41% of all motorcycle
drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding.
- Nearly one out of five motorcycle
drivers (18%) involved in fatal crashes in 1998 was operating
with an invalid license at the time of the collision.
- Motorcycle drivers involved in fatal
crashes in 1998 had higher intoxication rates than any other
type of motor vehicle driver at 31%.
- In 1998, 500 motorcyclists lives were
saved due to helmet usage; 307 could have been saved.
Source: The U.S.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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