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Motorcycle Safety

The number and rate of motorcyclist deaths on U.S. roads are rising dramatically. Motorcycle rider fatalities rose 115 percent between 1997 and 2005. During the same time, fatality numbers and rates for passenger car crashes dropped. In just one year - 2005 - motorcycle crash-related fatalities increased by 13 percent (to 4553), making motorcycle rider fatalities a significant contributor to the slight overall increase that year in the national highway fatality rate.

Trends accompanying the rising motorcyclist death toll include a dramatic increase in motorcycle ownership, particularly by riders over 40, along with changes in other factors such as motorcycle size and rider experience. The rate of increase in fatalities has outpaced the rate of increase in motorcycle registrations, and the death and injury rates among middle-aged motorcycle riders have increased more rapidly. Per vehicle mile traveled in 2004, motorcyclists were about 34 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 8 times more likely to be injured.

Motorcycle riders face more risks of crashing and being injured than passengers in four-wheeled vehicles. Two-wheeled motorcycles are more difficult to operate and more unstable than four-wheeled cars and trucks. Some roadway design and maintenance features add additional risks. Other vehicle drivers may not expect to see motorcycles on the road, may not watch for them, and may not know how to accommodate them in traffic. And when they crash, motorcycles provide almost no protection to their riders.


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Updated: 04/15/2011
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United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration