List of motorcycle deaths in U.S. by year

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A memorial in the State of Michigain to person who died a in motorcycle accident

This is a list of numbers of motorcycle deaths in U.S. by year from 1994 to 2014. United States motorcycle fatalities increased every year for 11 years since reaching a historic low of 2,116 fatalities in 1997, then increased to over 5000 around 2008 and then plateaued in the 4 to 5 thousands range in the 2010s. In nine years motorcycle deaths more than doubled from the late 1990s to 2008. Despite providing less than 1% of miles driven, they made up 15% of traffic deaths in 2012.[1]

Since about 2004 over 4,000 people have died every year up to 2014 in motorcycle accidents, and in 2007 and 2008 deaths exceeded 5000 per year.[2] At the same time occupant deaths of other types of vehicles has decreased in the 21st century, so motorcycle accidents deaths have become an increased share of all deaths and noted for being 26 times more deadly than cars.[2] Operators of sport motorcycle models had a higher rate of death compared to other motorcycle types, and speeding was noted in roughly half of fatal sport and super sport accidents compared to about a fifth for fatal accidents of other types.[3] Sport and super sport riders were also likely to be younger among those involved in a fatal accident, with an average age of 27 (for the year 2005).[3] The number of fatalities of those under 30 has gone from 80% percent in 1975 to 30% in 2014.[4]

Nearly half of all deadly accidents involve only the motorcycle (so-called single vehicle accidents) and a major issue is the loss of control during a bend in the road.[2] [5] There is a reported 80% chance of injury or death on a motorcycle in the event of an accident, compared to about 20% for passenger vehicles.[6] Of the other over half of fatal accidents that do involve multiple vehicles, more than 75% involve head-on collisions, especially with vehicles that cross the lane of traffic but failed to spot the motorcycle.

In the United State's vehicles classed as motorcycles usually includes both motorized bicycles and motorized tricycles, even though in the common language when people say motorcycle, they usually mean either motorized bicycle or motorized bicycle with a sidecar

Ridership and demographics[edit]

Simulation of ground contact showing danger to the brachial plexus nerves. However, damage to the lower spine to due that area's collision with the bike can leave a motorcyclist paralyzed and even castrated.[7]

From 1980 motorcycle ownership among riders aged 40 and over increased dramatically, from 15.1 percent of all riders in 1980 to 43.7 percent in 1998. The mean engine displacement of the motorcycles involved in fatal crashes also increased, from an average engine size of 769 cc (46.9 cu in) in 1990, to 959 cc (58.5 cu in) in 2001, an increase of 24.7 percent.[8] It has been suggested that the combination of older riders on higher-powered motorcycles might have been partially responsible for the increase in motorcycle deaths from the late 1990s until 2004.[8] Blunt abdominal trauma can be caused by a motorcycle accident, and can damage the testes and intestines.[9]

Half of motorcycle fatalities in single vehicle crashes relate to problems negotiating a curve prior to a crash—almost 60 percent of motorcyclist fatalities in single-vehicle crashes occur at night.[5] However even when biker's survive, around 10% of trauma injuries include damage to the genital area, such as due to the collision with that area with a bike's gas tank.[10][11]

In 2009 motorcycle fatalities in the US declined for the first time in 11 years but remained above 4000, with that yearly total dropped from 5,312 to 4,469 (between 2008 and 2009).[12] Automobile fatalities continued to decline for the seventh straight years before 2011.[13] A decline in recreational motorcycling due to the late-2000s recession might account for the decrease in accidents, according to the authors of a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), but a state motorcyclists' rights organization, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, said motorcycle use appeared to have increased, influenced by motorcycles' better fuel economy.[14] A preliminary report by the GHSA estimated that the number of motorcyclist deaths in 2012 was more than 5,000, a 9% increase over 2011.[15]

In the USA in the 2010s, motorcycles comprised about 2% of registered vehicles (about 6 million bikes registered), but 14 percent of all fatal accidents.[16] In addition, the rate of accidents per mile has gone up from the 1980s and was not due to increased ridership.[16] One study evaluated motorcycles as being 37 times more dangerous for a fatal accident than a car.[16]

Motorcycle accidents were the leading non-combat cause of death for US Service members.[17] Between 1999 and 2012 4,423) died in combined motor vehicle deaths including motorcycles.[18] Of those 1,134 died in motorcycle crashes.[19] Between 2001 and 2008, the portion of fatalities from motorcycles tripled, and by 2008 was almost 40% of overall vehicle fatalties.[18] Motorcycle deaths have come under increased attention because other types of non-motorcycle fatalities have decreased, so motorcycle fatalities became an increased share of deaths.[18] The fatalities echoed the national statistics with motorcycle fatalities of 4,927 deaths being 15 percent of all traffic deaths in 2012, even though motorcycles are three percent of vehicles.[20] However, they account for a relative smaller amount of the total miles traveled (motorcycles are often only driven in good weather) about 0.7% of all vehicles miles traveled 2012.[21] (Something like half a million people to a million people would die each year if cars had a similar accident rate, all else being equal)

93% of the crashes in 2012 involved a two-wheeled motorcycle.[22] (see also Motorized tricycle)

Of 4,957 killed in 2012 on motorcycles, 7% were passengers.[22] Combined driver and passenger deaths for motorcycles were 18% of all driver and passenger deaths in 2012 for all vehicles.[22] This is for just 0.7% out of all vehicles miles driven in the US that year.[22]

Types of accidents and injuries[edit]

A motorcycle from 1955
One problem even in non-fatal accidents, is that the groin area can collide with the gas tank, damaging male rider's testicles.[11]

By 2014 a rear-ending occurred every 17 seconds on the US road system, and improvements to cars especially in regards to headrest have reduced whiplash and other neck and back injuries related to this.[23] One hope may be Collision avoidance systems on more vehicles.

However, it is head-on collisions with cars that make of up one of the biggest types of fatal collisions.[24] Of the 56% of fatal collisions with other vehicles, 78% percent were a head-on collision and 5% were a fatal rear-ending of the motorcycle by another vehicle type.[24] Of those fatal head-on collisions one of the most common was when a car made a turn and another situation is when a motorcycle is trying to pass another car.[24] Another cause of accidents is problems coming from lane splitting, especially due to the reduced ability to maneuver.[24]

In 2012, 75% of two vehicle motorcycle accidents involved the motorcycle crashing into the vehicle ahead of them and only 7% involved the motorcycle being hit in the year.[25] That year half of all fatal accidents were two-vehicle crashes,[25] However, they also had the highest rate of collision with fixed object between passenger cars, light trucks, and heavy trucks; with a 22% of fatalities being single-vehicle crashes with a fixed object.[25] Of the two vehicle crashes one nearly 40% involved the motorcycle hitting another vehicle turning left.[25]

A quarter of motorcycle fatalities are single-vehicle crashes into a fixed object.[24] Other dangers to motorcycles include enhanced risks compared to other vehicles include potholes, un-even pavement, and unexpected objects in the road such as animals.[24]

One of the difficulties with motorcycles is achieving optimum braking between front and rear wheels during a panic stop without losing control of the vehicle.[26] Enhanced operator training of how to achieve optimal breaking of motorcycle may increase safety.[26] Two technical features that may help are Linked brakes where front and rear brakes are braked with single control and anti-lock brakes.[26]

Specific design elements of motorcycles that have been under scrutiny include the shape of the top gas tank and/or items placed on it which can contribute to uro-genital and/or pelvic injuries in a crash.[27] In cases of a single-rear brake-light, its failure leaves other drivers without notification that the motorcycle is stopping.[27] Despite the focus on the head and helmet protection, it is possible for handle bars to castrate males in accident and damage done to the lower spine can leave men alive but paralyzed.[7] Motorcycle accidents are risk factor for injuries to testicles, delicate reproductive organs that are contained in thin skinned sac outside the body in males.[11] In collisions between testicles and gas tanks, testicle dislocation can occur where they pushed into the lower abdomen.[11] Motorcycle accidents can cause genitourinary trauma which may result in pelvic pain and various other symptoms depending on the nature of the damage.[28]

Even moderate impacts in an accident can break the pelvis bone, which is one of the largest bones in the body and often bears the brunt of impacts with ground and objects during motorcycle crash/accident.[29] A broken pelvis can lead to mobility problems due to the bone's central location, and can be broken on impact with pavement when a rider is ejected from their bike.[29]

Automotive and motorcycle accidents together are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, about 35% percent.[30]

Tire issues such as blow-outs can cause motorcycle accidents.[31]

  • Another vehicle fails to spot a motorcycle in an oncoming lane, and does a left turn and the motorcycle either has a head-on collision with car, or crashes during the evasive maneuver
  • The motorcyclist exceeds the performance abilities of the bike and crashes
  • Road to bike interactions, such as large pothole triggers a loss of vehicle control
  • Hits oncoming vehicles during a passing maneuver on a bi-directional road
Gyroscopic effect on front wheel of a bike. Applying a torque (in green) about the lean axis results in a reaction torque (in blue) about the steer axis.

Serious Non-fatal injuries[edit]

When an accident does happen, there is a reported 80% chance of injury or death on a motorcycle in comparison to about 20% for passenger vehicles.[6]

Non-fatal injuries for motorcycle accidents include the danger of paralysis, such as a quadriplegic.[32] Automotive and motorcycle accidents together are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, about 35% percent; this can include more minor injuries to the spinal cord up to more severe cases such para (2) or quad (4) palegic cases.[30] Paralysis injuries can cost 300 thousand to 1 million USD to treat in the first year, and one to 4 million over the person's lifetime.[33] In some cases, people may survive their accident but have limbs amputated.[34]

Death statistics[edit]

Between 1966 and 2008, the NHTSA estimated 148 thousand people died in motorcycle accidents.[35]

In 2013, 6% percent of the fatalities were passengers (non-operator) of the total deaths that year for motorcycles 4,688.[36]

In 2010 motorcycle accident fatalities accounted for 14% of all accident fatalities.[37] It was also 14% in 2008.[35] In 2008, 47% of fatal accidents were with another vehicle, and of those 77% involved a head-on collision with a motorcycle and in 7% the motorcycle was struck from behind.[35] 59% of those killed were wearing a helmet, which were estimated to give a 37% increased chance of overall survival and reduction in the chance of a head injury;helmet use has been the subject of various studies and laws.[35]

Statistics 1994 to 2014[edit]

Annual U.S. motorcycle deaths since 1994[12]
Year Deaths Injuries
1994 2,320
1995 2,227
1996 2,161
1997 2,116
1998 2,294 49,000[35]
1999 2,483 50,000[35]
2000 2,897 58,000[35]
2001 3,197† 60,000[35]
2002 3,244 65,000[35]
2003 3,661‡ 76,000[35]
2004 4,028 76,000[35]
2005 4,576 87,000[35]
2006 4,837 88,000[35]
2007 5,174 103,000[35]
2008 5,312 (5,290) 96,000[35]
2009 4,462 (4,469)[37] 90,000[37]
2010 4,502 82,000[37]
2011 4,612 (4,403)[2] 81,000[38]
2012 4,695 [2] 93,000[36]
2013 4,402[2] 4,688[36] 88,000[36]
2014 4,295[2] 92,000[36]
† some NHTSA lists show 3,181
‡ some NHTSA lists show 3,714

20th century statistics[edit]

Annual U.S. motorcycle deaths 1975-2001[2][12]
Year Deaths
1975 3,106
1976 3,232
1977 4,004
1978 4,448
1979 4,712
1980 4,955
1981 4,737
1982 4,267
1983 4,099
1984 4,425
1985 4,415
1986 4,309
1987 3,832
1988 3,491
1989 3,030
1990 3,128
1991 2,702
1992 2,291
1993 2,346
1994 2,320 (IIHS 2,215)
1995 2,227
1996 2,161
1997 2,116
1998 2,294
1999 2,483
2000 2,897
2001 3,197



Motorcycle crash into a car

In 2013 4,735 pedestrians and 743 bicyclists were killed compared to 4,688 on motorcycles.[36][39] (note in the USA, motorcycles includes both motorized tricycles and bicycles) In 2013 a total of 32,479 were killed including motorcycle fatalities.[40] Compared to passenger vehicles, motorcycles had 26 times the number of fatalities as car per mile driven in 2013.[41] 319 died on All terrain vehicles in 2013.[41]

The breakdown in deaths by type of bike in 2013 is as follows: Cruiser 1,281, Touring 578, Sport-touring 22, Sport 269, Supersport 945, Off-road 42, Other or Unknown 889.[41] Breakdown for 2013 by engine size is 1,951 for under 1000 CC, 692 for 1000 to 1400, and 1,276 for over 1400 (approximately).[41] 1,832 were single vehicle crashes and 2,549 were multi-vehicle crashes.[41]

327 died on ATV's in 2011 compared to 4,612-4,403 on motorcycles that year.[2][42]

Motorcycles in the US[edit]

In the USA, the NHTSA defines the following vehicles as motorcycles: mopeds, two- or three-wheeled motorcycles, off-road motorcycles, scooters, mini bikes, and pocket bikes.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Motorcycle Safety
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j IIHS
  3. ^ a b IIS - Motorcycle Crashes MARCH 2016
  4. ^ IIHS - Motorcycles and ATVs
  5. ^ a b Hurt, Hugh H. (January 1981 (Final Report)). "Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures, Volume 1: Technical Report, Hurt, H.H., Ouellet, J.V. and Thom, D.R., Traffic Safety Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90007, Contract No. DOT HS-5-01160" (PDF). U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ a b The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Motorcycle Safety Program
  7. ^ a b Man, 22, paralyzed and castrated in beach bike crash 18th Aug 2013 5:29 AM
  8. ^ a b National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Motorcycle Safety Program, US, retrieved 2011-04-04 
  9. ^ blunt abdominal trauma associated with testicular dislocation and contralateral inguinal hernia
  10. ^ Genital Injuries and Motorcycle Accidents by Edward Smith
  11. ^ a b c d WebMD - Testicular Injuries
  12. ^ a b c Fatality Analysis Reporting System, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  13. ^ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (August 2010), Traffic Safety Facts; DOT HS 811 363 (Adobe PDF), retrieved 2011-05-04 
  14. ^ Lowy, Joan; Associated Press (19 April 2011), Motorcycle deaths drop, but trend is worrisome,, retrieved 2011-05-04 
  15. ^ Adkins, Jonathan; Harsha, Barbara (April 24, 2013), New Study: Motorcyclist Deaths Spike in 2012, Governors Highway Safety Association 
  16. ^ a b c Yearly bikers deaths
  17. ^ Motorcycle crashes Leading Cause of Death Among U.S. Service Members December 4, 2013
  18. ^ a b c Motor vehicle crashes: A little-known risk to returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan
  19. ^ Fatal Vehicle Accidents Decline in Military; Motorcycles Remain Dangerous 2014 Issues | Department of Defense (DoD) | March 2014 | News
  20. ^ Motorcycle safety means survival June 19, 2014
  21. ^ FHWA - Motorcycle Safety
  22. ^ a b c d e Motorcycles Motorcycles 2012 Data
  23. ^ How to save your neck in a rear-end crash Whiplash is a common issue, but can be prevented Last updated: April 2014
  24. ^ a b c d e f Motorcycle Accidents: Common Causes Motorcycle speeding, lane splitting, and other common factors causing motorcycle accidents.
  25. ^ a b c d 2012 Motorcycle statistics
  26. ^ a b c Motorcycle Factors: Braking
  27. ^ a b Motorcycle Factors: Motorcycle Design
  28. ^ Genital Injuries and Motorcycle Accidents July 24, 2015
  29. ^ a b Pelvic Fractures: Serious Injury Following Motorcycle or Bike Accident
  30. ^ a b Spinal cord injury - Causes
  31. ^ Motorcycle Tire Safety & Maintenance Manual
  32. ^ Quadriplegic builds, rides motorcycles Herman Asselin refused to let a paralyzing accident keep him from the open road
  33. ^ Lifetime Costs of Living with Paralysis
  34. ^ Medication mishap leaves surgery patient a quadriplegic at age 20
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o NHTSA - Traffic Safety Facts 2008
  36. ^ a b c d e f [1]
  37. ^ a b c d NHTSA
  38. ^ Current State Motorcycle Helmet Laws and Fatality Rates 4/9/2014
  39. ^ Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crash Statistics
  40. ^ FARS National Statistics
  41. ^ a b c d e Motorcycles and ATVs
  42. ^ ATV injuries, deaths down, but concerns still high Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY 12:12 a.m. EST March 4, 2013


Further reading[edit]