More than 5,500 motorcyclists were killed in 2020 alone. This was 11% higher than the year prior and the highest ever recorded in a decade. Almost 14% of all vehicle deaths are motorcycle deaths.
This article has analyzed national data and statistics by using federal databases from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
Table of context:
- How dangerous is driving a motorcycle?
- Motorcycle fatality statistics (2007 – 2020)
- Motorcycle fatalities by age and gender
- Time of day and of the month of motorcycle fatalities
- All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) statistics
How dangerous is driving a motorcycle?
Motorcycles have higher performance capabilities when compared to most vehicles. What makes them dangerous is that they lack both stability and visibility when compared to cars. Motorcyclists are more at risk than other motor vehicle drivers because they lack the protection and security of an enclosed vehicle.
The NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) recorded 5,312 motorcycle fatalities in 2014, up from 4,692 in 2013. The number of motorcyclist deaths increased every year from 2008 until 2012 when it fell slightly (from 4,594 in 2011 to 4,692 in 2012). In 2013 and 2014, the number of motorcycle fatalities increased again.
Motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to be killed during a crash when compared to car drivers according to the federal government. The most common injury motorcyclists face during a crash is the injury to the head and neck.
Helmet use among motorcyclists prevents serious brain injuries by 67%. Wearing a helmet also prevents motorcycle deaths by 37%. Out of 50 states, only 18 U.S. states require using a helmet by law when driving a motorcycle.
Overall, the trend suggests that motorcycle crashes are becoming less common, but there is also a noticeable upward trend over the past decade. Whether this is a result of increasing roads and traffic, or if other factors are at play is unknown.
Motorcycle fatality statistics (2007 – 2020)
Motorcycles make up only 3% of all registered vehicles. In 2020, motorcycle accidents were responsible for 18% of all traffic fatalities and 4% of all driver injuries.
Motorcycle deaths have more than doubled in 2020 when compared to 10 years ago while traffic fatalities have increased by 20%. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the current rate of motorcycle fatalities stands at 31.6 for every 100 million vehicle miles driven in the U.S. Also, drunk motorcyclists had the highest rates of crashing and getting killed when compared to drunk drivers driving any other vehicle.
Motorcycles have risen in popularity over the past 13 years (between 2007 and 2020). Even though registered motorcycles have increased by 17%, the number of miles driven has dropped to 18% during this period.
In recent years, the number of miles driven by motorcycles has dropped at a slower pace by 5% since 2017. Although there has been a drop, fatality rates have still been on the rise.
This infographic shows when the majority of motorcycle fatalities occurred in 2020:
- During daytime (50%)
- In collisions involving two vehicles (52%)
- While the motorist was wearing a helmet (58%)
- On urban roads (60%)
- In good weather (78%)
- 73% of all motorcyclists involved in a crash were NOT under the influence of alcohol.
Motorcycle fatalities by age and gender
According to 2020 statistics, the age for the most motorcycle fatalities is 25-27 years old for both men and women. In second place comes 60-69-year-olds only including men.
The number of motorcycle accidents with drivers 50 or older has significantly been on the rise since the late 1970s. The fatality rate for that age group saw a 3% increase in 1975, a 14% increase in 1997, and a 36% increase when compared to 2020.
In contrast, quite the opposite has happened with motorcycle accidents with drivers 30 or younger. The fatality rate for the younger generation was 80% in 1975 and dropped to 26% in 2020.
About 92% of passengers that are killed during a motorcycle crash are women. While men are the most likely to get killed in a motorcycle accident while being the driver.
Motorcycle deaths by age and gender (2020):
Time of day and of the month of motorcycle fatalities
The largest peak in fatalities occurs on a Saturday, followed by Friday. The last two days with the most fatalities were Wednesday and Thursday, and the majority of fatalities happen between 6 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. The months with the most motorcycle fatalities were July and August. These trends are the highest during the summer months.
Overall, however, these trends don’t appear to make much of a difference in terms of your likelihood of dying in an accident.
- 50% of motorcycle deaths happen during the weekend after 6 p.m.
- 61% of deaths happen between May and September.
- The highest motorcycle fatalities were in August.
- The lowest motorcycle fatalities were in January.
- 27% of injured motorcyclists were under the influence of alcohol.
- 48% of motorcycle deaths happen during the night between 9 p.m and 6 a.m.
Motorcycle deaths by the time of day (2020):
|Weekend (6p.m.Friday – 6a.m. Monday)||Other times||Total|
|Midnight – 3 a.m.||278||10||151||6||429|
|3 a.m. – 6 a.m.||115||4||79||3||194|
|6 a.m. – 9 a.m.||66||3||166||6||232|
|9 a.m. – noon||205||7||221||8||426|
|Noon – 3 p.m.||418||14||478||17||896|
|3 p.m. – 6 p.m.||547||19||716||26||1,263|
|6 p.m. – 9 p.m.||676||24||547||21||1,223|
|9 p.m. – midnight||483||17||391||14||874|
Motorcycle deaths by the time of the month (2020):
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) Statistics
All-terrain vehicles are designed to handle any terrain. Some are designed for off-road racing while others are meant for recreational use by families or individuals. All-terrain vehicles are similar to motorcycles in the sense that they have a motor and a drive chain, but they are larger, heavier, and often have four wheels.
The number of ATV deaths has increased dramatically since 1982. Fatally injured ATV drivers who were older than 40 increased by 41% in 2020 when compared to 1982. For ages younger than 20, this number dropped from 54% to 18% between 1982 to 2020.
- Only 2% of injured ATV riders were wearing a helmet in 2020.
- 71% of ATV riders and 47% of passengers are killed in solo crashes without the presence of another vehicle.
- 64% of ATV rides roll over during a solo crash which is significantly higher than cars (42%).
- ATV public road deaths are the highest in July.
- 73% of ATV deaths on public roads occur on rural roads. 88% of these rural roads are secondary roads.
- 38% of injured ATV drivers are under the influence of alcohol.
- Alcohol impairment among ATV drivers is 52% higher between the ages of 30-39.
All in all, motorcycles are much more dangerous than cars, even when riders take sensible precautions to make themselves safe on the road. It’s up to riders to protect themselves and be aware of unpredictable drivers and road conditions that can send motorists into a tailspin.
Risks will always abound, however, so people should know about these dangers so that they may make informed decisions about whether or not riding a motorcycle is a good idea.