Motorcycle riders are especially at risk for morbidity and mortality following a crash. Crashes can occur by losing control of the motorcycle, by hitting a moving vehicle or by striking a fixed object. Hitting a fixed object is clearly the most dangerous type of motorcycle accident. This is because there are generally two points of impact: that with the object and that with the ground. Many people die because of motorcycle fixed object collisions.
One report cited two motorcycle drivers that lost control of their respective vehicles and fell, hitting a guardrail. The guardrail acted as a blade and instantly killed the driver. One case involved such high speeds that the trunk of the body was completely detached. Reconstruction of the accident yielded the fact that the guardrail was the cause of the accidents.
These two accidents were close together in time, indicating that guardrail accidents are particularly dangerous with a different degree of morbidity, mortality and disability of the drivers. If the guardrails were designed differently (without a sharp edge), these people might have survived their injuries. It is recommended that guardrails be designed differently so they don’t act as blades to sever the victims. Guardrails currently are designed only to protect automobile passengers but not motorcycle victims.
Motorcycle riders can also impact with trees. This causes a fifteen times greater risk of death when compared to automobile riders. The victim impacts with an immovable tree and then falls to the ground, impacting there as well. This double impact is what is so deadly.
Overall, the popularity of riding motorcycles has increased with 1.1 million motorcycles sold in 2006 alone. This has resulted in an increase in motorcycle rider deaths. They rose 127 percent from 1997 to 2006. In 2006 and every year before then for nine years, the number of rider deaths increased. Motorcycle driver fatalities made up 11 percent of the total number of 2006 fatalities. During the same time that motorcycle deaths rose, the number of passenger automobile accidents decreased.
Motorcycles happen to be the most dangerous types of vehicles to drive. They are involved in 35 per 100 million miles of travel. This is compared to 1.7 per 100 million miles of travel for automobiles. While motorcycles account for only 2 percent of road vehicles, they account for more than ten percent of all vehicle accidents.
The number of fatalities almost doubled to about 4,800 riders lost in 2006. Helmets saved the lives of about 1,650 motorcyclists in 2006 alone and could have save more than 700 lives if riders had worn helmets. About 80 percent of motorcycle crashes kill or injure the rider. This is compared to only 20 percent of automobile passengers involved in crashes.
Fixed object crashes were more likely to be involved in a fatality than any other types of motorcycle accidents. A total of 25 percent of the motorcycles involved in fatal crashes did so because of a collision with a fixed object. This compared to 18 percent for automobiles and twelve percent for light trucks.