During the past year, there have been more than 5,579 motorcycle accidents, and over a third of these fatalities involved speeding. Although motorcycles are viewed as cool and stylish, they are also dangerous, and it’s important to understand how motorcycles and other vehicles are ranked in terms of their safety.
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When it comes to motor vehicle accidents, motorcycles account for approximately three percent of all registered vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks the number of motorcycles and other vehicles killed and injured in crashes. The organization’s statistics were derived from 60 police-reported crash locations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
In terms of injury, motorcyclists are nearly four times more likely to be injured than drivers of other vehicles. The average injury rate for motorcycles is 80%, compared to about 20% for other types of vehicles. Motorcyclists are also more likely to be killed in a crash than car drivers. Motorcycles are also a significant cause of property damage, with 114,000 motorcycle crashes in 2015 resulting in injury or property damage.
The most commonly seen type of motorcycle accident is a head-on collision. This type of crash occurs when a vehicle fails to see a motorcycle and hits it head-on. In general, head-on collisions occur more often on stretches of the road rather than at intersections. The NHTSA estimates that over 75% of motorcycle accidents involve head-on collisions.
According to NHTSA’s Traffic Safety Statistics, most motorcycle accidents occur in daylight or at night. Motorcycle fatalities are also more common in warm-weather states. The fatality rate for cold-weather states such as New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas is lower than in warmer states. In contrast, Louisiana, Florida, and Arkansas have very high fatality rates for motorcycles.
Among the most common causes of motorcycle accidents are speeding, alcohol consumption, and failure to yield the right of way. Speeding was the largest factor in fatal motorcycle accidents in 2015, accounting for 33 percent of all motorcycle fatalities. Similarly, alcohol was involved in a large number of motorcycle accidents, including a quarter of those involving fatalities. Motorcyclists were also more likely to be involved in crashes involving alcohol than were other drivers, especially drivers of large trucks.
Motorcycle crashes are also common during the weekend. Nearly half of all motorcycle fatalities occur over the weekend, with the weekend hours of noon and midnight being the most dangerous. The National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) also tracks the number of motorcycle crashes involving alcohol. However, alcohol-impaired motorcycle fatalities are on the rise. In 2016, 40 percent of fatalities involved riders who were impaired by alcohol.
Motorcycles are also more likely to crash into fixed objects, such as a bridge abutment or concrete highway barrier. However, cars are also more likely to be involved in collisions with fixed objects. The number of motorcycle crashes that involved fixed objects was slightly lower in 2015 than in 2006. Similarly, collisions involving light trucks are much less likely to involve a fixed object.
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