Three Important Stats You Should Know About Motorcycle Safety

May has been designated as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, so several reports detailing new motorcycle statistics are released at about that time. This year, one of the most important and encouraging statistics was a 5.6 percent decrease in motorcycle-related deaths from 2016 to 2017. Unfortunately, motorcyclists are still more likely to die from crash-related injuries — 28 times more likely, in fact. Perhaps taking a closer look at a few of the most distressing statistics from the 2017 Governors Highway Safety Association report will help improve them in 2018.

In 2016, 802 lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists in crashes had worn helmets. Despite numerous reports, stats, and testimonials that motorcycle helmets minimize severe head injuries and save the lives of riders, helmets are still not required by law in three states: Iowa, New Hampshire, and Illinois. In 28 other states, helmets are mandatory for only some motorcyclists. Required or not, motorcycle helmets have an undeniable effect on the safety of riders. Studies prove that helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent and reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent.

All motorcycle helmets are created equally, however. They come in different sizes, designs, and materials — all of which should be considered by a rider before purchasing one. Also, different states require different levels of compliance from varying rating systems, such as DOT-approved, ECE-certified, and Snell certification, so do your research to be sure the helmet you’re purchasing is going to meet your state’s safety standards and laws.

Riders over age 40 are the age group most likely to be involved in a motorcycle fatality. This startling statistic indicates a shift from previous trends toward younger riders being more susceptible to crashes. The average age of motorcyclists killed in the United States in 2016 was 43. The National Safety Council explains this phenomenon, saying, “So-called ‘re-entry riders’” who rode in their 20s and decided to take it up again in their late 40s to 60s face additional challenges today: more traffic, more powerful bikes, more distracted drivers and diminished physical skills.”

Regardless of age, all riders should stay abreast of the best practices regarding motorcycle safety and only ride after they have received adequate training for the appropriate bike and driving conditions. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers dozens of training courses for motorcyclists at any stage of riding and for several specific types of motorcycles.

Motorcyclists killed in crashes are more likely to be alcohol-impaired than drivers of other types of vehicles. Twenty-five percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes in 2016 had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, compared to 21 percent for passenger cars and 20 percent for light trucks. The easiest and best way to improve this statistic is to simply not drive any type of vehicle when you have been drinking. Alcohol affects a rider’s ability to avoid collisions, react quickly, and stay within speed limits. If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident with a motorcycle rider operating under the influence of alcohol, consult a personal injury law firm to review your options for restitution.

Non-motorcycle riders should be alert to alcohol-impaired bikers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association offers a 20-page brochure to help drivers identify when a motorcyclist is driving while intoxicated. The top cues that predict DWI riders include drifting during a turn or curve, trouble with balance at a stop, weaving, trouble with dismount, turning problems, and appearing generally inattentive to surroundings. If you observe any of these characteristics, call 911 to alert authorities and potentially save the lives of the rider and other innocent drivers.