Last month was the official Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, but it’s always the right time to talk about ways to improve motorcycle safety.
47% of all motorcycles involved in fatal crashes collided with another type of motor vehicle in transport. In two-vehicle crashes, 77% of the motorcycles involved were struck in the front. Only 7% were struck in the rear.
Motorcycles are more likely to be involved in a fatal collision with a fixed object than are other vehicles. 25% of the motorcycles involved in fatal crashes collided with fixed objects, compared to 19% for passenger cars, 14% for light trucks, and 4% for large trucks.
Out of 2,387 two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a motorcycle and another vehicle, 41% of these crashes occurred when the other vehicle was turning left while the motorcycle was going straight, passing, or overtaking the vehicle. Both vehicles were going straight in 666 crashes.
35% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 23% for passenger car drivers, 19% for light-truck drivers, and 8% for large-truck drivers.
While you can’t make other drivers safer, there are a few variables you CAN control that will go a long way toward minimizing your risk of accident or injury. Here are the top three:
Always Ride Sober
First things first: alcohol and motorcycles do not mix. Statistics show that the percentage of intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers on our roads. This is why NHTSA urges all motorcycle riders to always ride smart and sober.
In fatal crashes, more motorcycle riders had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher than any other type of motor vehicle driver. The percentages for vehicle riders involved in fatal crashes were 29% for motorcycles, 23% for passenger cars, 23% for light trucks, and 2% for large trucks.
30% of all fatally injured motorcycle riders had BAC levels of .08 g/dL or higher. An additional 7 percent had lower alcohol levels (BAC .01 to .07 g/dL).
43% of the motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2008 had BAC levels of .08 or higher. 64% of those killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekend nights had BACs of .08 or higher.
Maintain a Valid License
One out of four motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were riding their vehicles with invalid licenses at the time of the collision, while only 12% of drivers of passenger vehicles in fatal crashes did not have valid licenses.
Motorcycle riders involved in fatal traffic crashes were 1.4 times more likely than passenger vehicle drivers to have a previous license suspension or revocation (18% and 13%, respectively).
Wear a Helmet
Helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41% for motorcycle passengers. This means for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.
According to NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey, a nationally representative observational survey of motorcycle helmet, seat belt, and child safety seat use, use of DOT-compliant helmets in 2008 stood at 63%, up from 58% in 2007.
All motorcycle helmets sold in the United States are required to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218, the performance standard which establishes the minimum level of protection helmets must afford each user.
In 2008, 20 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico required helmet use by all motorcyclists. Other states either required only a subset of motorcyclists to use helmets (such as those under age 18), or had no helmet requirement.
In the past five years, motorcycle helmet use has been increasing slowly but steadily – increased from 48% in 2005 to 67% in 2009.
The 2009 survey also found the following:
Helmet use in states that require all motorcyclists to wear helmets significantly increased from 78 percent in 2008 to 86 percent in 2009. The helmet use in these states continued to be higher than in those States without universal helmet use law.
Helmet use in the Northeast increased by 16 percentage points to 61 percent in 2009, which is a statistically significant increase.
In 2009, helmet use in rural areas increased to 75% while urban areas saw a 15-percentage point drop to 57% percent.
An estimated 148,000 motorcyclists have died in traffic crashes since the enactment of the Highway Safety and National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966. Motorcycles made up nearly 3% of all registered vehicles in the United States in 2007 and accounted for only 0.4% of all vehicle miles traveled. Yet in 2008, motorcyclists accounted for 14% of total traffic fatalities, 17% of all occupant fatalities, and 4% of all occupants injured.
Per vehicle mile traveled in 2007, motorcyclists were about 37 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 9 times more likely to be injured. Per registered vehicle, the fatality rate for motorcyclists in 2007 was 6 times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants. The injury rate for motorcyclists was 0.7 times the injury rate for passenger car occupants.
Now that you have the facts, you can make better decisions before, during, and after your ride.
*All figures are from 2008 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Motorcycle Helmet Use in 2009—http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811254.PDF
Traffic Safety Facts 2008 Data—http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pubs/811159.pdf