Motorcycles, which are less stable and less visible than other vehicles, are more likely than cars to be involved in accidents. Per mile traveled, the fatality rate for motorcycle riders is 30 times the fatality rate of automobile occupants, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  

A total of 4,502 motorcycle fatalities were reported in 2010. Motorcyclist deaths had been declining since the early 1980s but began to increase in 1998 and continued to increase through 2008. Motorcyclist deaths decreased by 16 percent in 2009 compared to 2008 and increased slightly in 2010.  Motorcycle deaths accounted for 13 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2010 and were more than double the number of motorcyclist deaths in 1997.

In Nevada, there were 44 fatal accidents involving motorcyclists in 2010, down from 60 in 2009.

Death rates from head injuries have been shown to be twice as high among motorcyclists in states with no helmet laws or laws that apply only to young riders, compared with states where laws apply to all riders. Helmet use has increased from 48 percent in 2005 to 67 percent in 2009.  In states like Nevada, where helmet use is mandatory, 86 percent of riders wear them.

NHTSA estimates that motorcycle helmets saved 1829 lives in 2008, and could have saved 823 more lives if riders had been wearing helmets.  

More facts about motorcycle accidents…

  • Forty-five percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2010 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 55 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes.  This has remained largely unchanged since the 1980s.
  • In the early 1980s the proportion of fatally injured motorcyclists 50 and older started to increase, rising from three percent of all rider deaths in 1982 to 13 percent in 1997 and 24 percent in 2010.
  • Males accounted for 90 percent of motorcycle fatalities in 2010.  Sixty-five percent of the females who died in motorcycle crashes in 2010 were passengers, and their deaths represented 91 percent of the passenger deaths. Ninety-nine percent of the males who died were drivers.
  • Engine sizes of motorcycles whose drivers were killed in crashes have gone up dramatically. Among motorcycle drivers killed in 2010, 29 percent drove motorcycles with engine size larger than 1,400 cc, compared to 9 percent in 2000 and less than one percent in 1990.
  • Fifty percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2010 occurred on weekends, and those deaths were more likely to occur after 6 p.m. compared to weekdays.

Sources:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles