In 2000, 2,862 motorcyclists were killed and an additional 58,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States — 15 percent more than the 2,483 motorcyclist fatalities and 16 percent more than the 50,000 motorcyclist injuries reported in 1999.
More than 100,000 motorcyclists have died in traffic crashes since the enactment of the Highway Safety and National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.
Motorcycles made up less than 2 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States in 1999 and accounted for only 0.4 percent of all vehicle miles traveled.
Per vehicle mile traveled in 1999, motorcyclists were about 18 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 3 times as likely to be injured.
Per registered vehicle, the fatality rate for motorcyclists in 1999 was 3.6 times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants. The injury rate for passenger car occupants per registered vehicle was 1.4 times the injury rate for motorcyclists.
In 2000, motorcyclists accounted for 7 percent of total traffic fatalities, 8 percent of all occupant fatalities, and 2 percent of all occupants injured.
More than one-half (1,550) of all motorcycles involved in fatal crashes in 2000 collided with another motor vehicle in transport. In two-vehicle crashes, 76 percent of the motorcycles involved were impacted in the front. Only 5 percent were struck in the rear.
Motorcycles are more likely to be involved in a fatal collision with a fixed object than are other vehicles. In 2000, 27 percent of the motorcycles involved in fatal crashes collided with a fixed object, compared to 17 percent for passenger cars, 12 percent for light trucks, and 4 percent for large trucks.
Motorcycles are also more likely to be involved in an injury collision with a fixed object than are other vehicles. In 2000, 11 percent of the reported injury crashes involving motorcycles were fixed object crashes, compared to 9 percent for passenger cars, 7 percent for light trucks, and 4 percent for large trucks.
In 2000, there were 1,300 two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a motorcycle and another vehicle. In 35 percent (459) of these crashes the other vehicle was turning left while the motorcycle was going straight, passing, or overtaking the vehicle. Both vehicles were going straight in 328 crashes (25 percent).
Almost half (45 percent) of all motorcyclist fatalities in 2000 resulted from crashes in seven states: 276 in California, 259 in Florida, 227 in Texas, 149 in Pennsylvania, 126 in Illinois, 126 in Ohio, and 119 in New York.
In 2000, 38 percent of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding, approximately twice the rate for drivers of passenger cars or light trucks. The percentage of alcohol involvement was about 50 percent higher for motorcyclists than for drivers of passenger vehicles.
Nearly one out of seven motorcycle operators (15 percent) involved in fatal crashes in 2000 were operating the vehicle with an invalid license at the time of the collision, while only 12 percent of drivers of passenger vehicles in fatal crashes did not have a valid license.
Motorcycle operators involved in fatal traffic crashes were 1.4 times as likely as passenger vehicle drivers to have a previous license suspension or revocation (19 percent and 13 percent, respectively).
More than 5 percent of the motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes in 2000 had at least one previous conviction for driving while intoxicated on their driver records, compared to less than 4 percent of passenger vehicle drivers.
Motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes in 2000 had higher intoxication rates, with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.10 grams per deciliter (g/dl) or greater, than any other type of motor vehicle driver. Intoxication rates for vehicle operators involved in fatal crashes were 27 percent for motorcycles, 20 percent for light trucks, 19 percent for passenger cars, and 1 percent for large trucks.
In 2000, 28 percent of all fatally injured motorcycle operators were intoxicated (BAC 0.10 g/dl or greater). An additional 11 percent had lower alcohol levels (BAC 0.01 to 0.09 g/dl). The intoxication rate was highest for fatally injured operators between 40 to 44 years old (42 percent), followed by ages 35 and 39 (39 percent) and ages 45 to 49 (34 percent).
Almost half (41 percent) of the 1,203 motorcycle operators who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2000 were intoxicated. Almost three-fifths (57 percent) of those killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekend nights were intoxicated.
Motorcycle operators killed in traffic crashes at night were nearly 4 times as likely to be intoxicated as those killed during the day (43 percent and 12 percent, respectively).
The reported helmet use rate for intoxicated motorcycle operators killed in traffic crashes was 41 percent, compared with 61 percent for those who were sober.
NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 631 motorcyclists in 2000. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 382 lives could have been saved.
Helmets are estimated to be 29 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcyclists.
Helmets cannot protect the rider from most types of bodily injuries. However, a recent NHTSA study showed that motorcycle helmets are 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. (Source: 1996 Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES): Report to Congress on Benefits of Safety Belts and Motorcycle Helmets.)
According to NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey, a nationally representative observational survey of motorcycle helmet, safety belt, and child safety seat use, helmet use was 67 percent in 1998. According to previous NHTSA surveys, helmet use was reported to be essentially 100 percent at sites with helmet use laws governing all motorcycle riders, as compared to 34 to 54 percent at sites with no helmet use laws or laws limited to minors.
Reported helmet use rates for fatally injured motorcyclists in 2000 were 55 percent for operators and 48 percent for passengers, the same as in 1999.
All motorcycle helmets sold in the United States are required to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218, the performance standard which establishes the minimum level of protection helmets must afford each user.
In 2000, 20 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico required helmet use by all motorcycle operators and passengers. In another 27 states, only persons under a specific age, usually 18, were required to wear helmets. Three states had no laws requiring helmet use.