Motorcycle Accident Rates

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December 26, 2012
Edward Smith

Riding a motorcycle is inherently dangerous. Not only is it a small and easily hidden vehicle on a road with large vehicles on it, but motorcycles have no protection around the rider and a fall, even without a collision, can lead to serious injury.

The main consequence of motorcycle accidents include head injuries such as concussion or traumatic brain injury resulting in coma and death, leg fractures, particularly tibia and fibula fractures, pelvic fractures, rib fractures and internal injuries.

On a per-vehicle-mile-traveled basis, motorcyclists have a thirty four-fold risk of death when the motorcycle is involved in a motor vehicle accident when compared to people driving cars and trucks. As mentioned, lower leg fractures are the most common injury sustained but the most common cause of death in motorcycle accidents are traumatic brain injuries. Fortunately, the use of helmets has resulted in a reduction of injuries and fatal accidents on the motorcycle.

The major contributing factor in fatal crashes is alcohol. Improving the rate of alcohol-related injuries involves better enforcement of the legal limits on blood alcohol levels and greater index of suspicion on the part of law enforcement that the rider is not intoxicated. Motorcycle deaths due to underage drinking are also a factor in deaths from motorcycle accidents and this needs to be enforced. There should be an increase in the alcohol excise taxes as well as responsible serving of motorcyclists at bars and parties.

There are other modifiable interventions that can be considered. There can be better driver’s training as increased motorcycle accidents come with inexperienced drivers. Motorcycles and their riders need to be more conspicuous on the road and they should be required to have daytime running lights. The speed needs to be managed in drivers of motorcyclists and speeding motorcyclists need to be ticketed and fined as a reminder that speed kills. Motorcyclists are more likely to be engaging in risky behavior and this needs to be stopped by law enforcement before an accident occurs.

There are more motorcycle crashes in developing countries because of increased use of motorcycles and decreased use of helmets. This needs to change so that people of all countries are protected from motorcycle accidents. There needs to be more research on motorcycle accidents throughout the world so that such accidents can be minimized.

Three-fourths of all motorcycle accidents involve a type of collision with another vehicle. One fourth of accidents involve the motorcycle crashing on its own or crashing into a fixed object, such as a guardrail. Vehicle failure accounts for less than three percent of motorcycle accidents, with most resulting from a punctured tire.

In motorcycle accidents without another vehicle, the cause of the accident was motorcyclist error. Roadway defects resulted in accidents less than 2 percent of the time and animals caused 1 percent of accidents. In two vehicle accidents, the automobile or truck failed to give the motorcyclist his or her right of way and this happened two-thirds of the time.