Meg Thomson
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Motorcyclists Are 28 Times More Likely to Die in an Accident than Those in Passenger Vehicles

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While it’s true that fewer motorcyclists die each year than passenger vehicle occupants, that doesn’t mean it’s the safer option. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported a total of 37,461 motor vehicle deaths — 4,976 motorcyclist deaths and 23,793 passenger vehicle deaths. Those numbers seem to have quite the disparity. That means that motorcyclist make up 13% of motor vehicle deaths and only 3% of registered vehicles on the road.

“Per registered vehicles, the fatality rate for motorcyclists in 2016 was six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants,” said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in its annual report. “Per [Vehicle Miles Traveled] VMT in 2016, motorcyclist fatalities occurred nearly 28 times more frequently than passenger occupant fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes.”

This isn’t a surprise for most, as riding a motorcycle is often seen as a rebellious, risky feat. Several states require helmets to be worn at all times, and while the statistics show helmets are 67% effective in preventing brain injuries during a crash, a helmet doesn’t guarantee your safety on a motorcycle. Helmets are only 37% effective in preventing deaths during a crash (which is still better than not wearing one at all). In fact, 61% of those killed in motorcycle crashes in 2016 were wearing a helmet.

You’ve probably seen bumper stickers that say “Watch for Motorcycles,” and those bumper stickers were designed with good reason. The majority of motorcycle accidents — 55% in 2016 — were caused by a collision with another motor vehicle. Speeding on the part of the motorcyclist plays a large role in their safety of a motorcyclist as well. 33% of motorcyclists killed in 2016 were driving over the speed limit (compared to only 19% for passenger car deaths).

Driving a motorcycle comes with its set of risks. If you’re cruising through town on two wheels, avoid speeding, watch for other drivers, and always wear a helmet.

Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration