Whether you’re a rider, passenger or driver, understanding how people die from motorcycle accidents is important. In addition to identifying common causes, knowing the statistics can help you avoid accidents. Understanding motorcycle crash statistics can also help you increase the use of safety equipment.
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Head injuries are the main cause of death in motorcycle accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that helmet use can lower fatality rates by 41 percent for riders and passengers. In addition, helmet laws have been enacted in 19 states, including Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington.
Head injuries can lead to long-term effects, such as seizures, numbness, facial paralysis, and hearing loss. They can also lead to penetrating brain wounds, which can cause severe damage to the internal organs. In addition, brain bleeds can go undiscovered and become fatal. These injuries can develop weeks or even months after the accident.
In addition to head injuries, motorcycles are much smaller and less visible than cars, which makes them more vulnerable to dangerous road conditions. Often, motorcyclists are involved in head-on collisions at high speeds, which can crush the motorcyclist and cause severe damage to their internal organs.
Motorcycle accidents are more likely to occur in urban areas than in rural areas. This is because there is a higher chance that a motorcycle will be hit in a traffic jam, where other motorists fail to yield the right of way to a motorcyclist. Besides the risks of being hit by another vehicle, motorcycles can also be killed or injured by loose gravel and uneven pavement.
While most motorcycle crashes happen during the day, nighttime driving contributes to about three-quarters of fatal crashes. Nighttime driving is particularly dangerous since the weather and visibility are worse. Moreover, traffic congestion and a heavy load of vehicles make driving conditions even more dangerous. On top of that, the amount of traction is significantly decreased in wet weather.
Motorcycle crashes are also more likely to involve unlicensed drivers. The rate of unlicensed fatal motorcycle drivers is more than twice as high as that of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Additionally, 27 percent of fatal motorcycle drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. BACs below 0.08% can still have significant effects on driving ability.
Another common cause of motorcycle accidents is speeding. One in three fatal crashes occurred when the driver was speeding. Speeding increases the amount of time it takes to stop, and also decreases the effectiveness of protective gear. Speeding can also be caused by being in the wrong lane. Using anti-lock brakes can also help motorcycle riders better control their vehicle.
Compared to passenger vehicle occupant crash deaths, motorcyclist death rates have been on an upward trend for the past decade. In 2019, motorcycle crashes accounted for nearly 10 percent of all traffic fatalities. During the same period, motorcycle injury rates have never been below 81,000 in a single year.