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Motorcycles can be a useful and enjoyable means of transportation but, they can also be incredibly dangerous. The facts discussed in this article are based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is part of the Unites States Department of Transportation.

Recent History

In 2015 the number of motorcyclists killed in crashes in the U.S. totaled 4,693. This number had been on the decline since the early ‘80s, but started increasing again in 1998 and this increase lasted through 2008. Of all the fatalities that occurred in motor vehicle accidents, 13% were among motorcyclists. This figure was more than twice the number that occurred in 1997.

Among those motorcyclists killed in 2015, figures show that 27% were operating their motorcycle without a valid license. This surpassed the percentage of unlicensed drivers of passenger vehicles who were killed in traffic accidents in 2015, which was 15%.

Of the motorcyclists killed in 2015, 41% were involved in single-vehicle collisions, while 59% of these fatalities resulted from multiple-vehicle collisions. These percentages have remained pretty much the same since the ‘80s.

Walnut Creek Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Walnut Creek Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Age & Gender

Beginning in the early ‘80s the percentage of motorcyclists killed who were 50 years of age and older, started to rise, going from 3% of all rider fatalities in 1982 to 13% in 1997, and increasing to 35% in 2015. Whereas, 30% of the motorcyclists killed in 2015 had not yet reached their 30th birthday, compared to 80% in 1975.

Of all the motorcyclists who were killed in 2015, a whopping 91% were males.

Of the female motorcyclists killed in 2015, 61% were passengers and these deaths accounted for 95% of the passengers killed that year. The overwhelming majority of male motorcyclists killed in 2015 were drivers.

Use of Helmets

Of the motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, 61% were wearing a helmet. For passengers killed while riding on motorcycles, 47% were wearing a helmet.

In states with laws in 2015 that mandated helmet use for all riders, 92% of those killed were wearing a helmet, whereas only 27% were wearing a helmet in states without laws requiring helmet use for all riders. In states with laws only requiring helmet use for some riders, 41% of motorcyclists killed were wearing a helmet.

Type of Motorcycle & Engine Size

The sizes of the engines on the motorcycles of drivers who were killed in collisions have substantially increased. In 2015, 31% of the motorcycle drivers who were killed were driving a motorcycle with an engine of more than 1,400 cc in size. In 2000, the comparable figure was just 9% and in 1990, less than 1%.

Among the motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, a whopping 88% were driving touring bikes that had engines of more than 1,400 cc in size, whereas just about all supersport bikes were equipped with engines that were 1,000 cc in size or smaller.

Among the motorcycle drivers killed in 2015, 85% of those riding a standard or cruiser motorcycle were 30 or more in age, as were 96% of those driving touring bikes. Whereas, 57% of those killed driving off-road bikes and 61% of those killed driving super sport bikes in 2015 had not yet reached their 30th birthday.

Among those killed in 2015 driving supersport motorcycles, helmet use was 77%, which was the highest. Approximately 50% of drivers killed on touring motorcycles, standard motorcycles or cruisers were wearing helmets

When & Where They Were Killed

In 2015 the majority of motorcyclist deaths (60%) happened during the months of May through September.

Fatalities were at their highest in July and at their very lowest in February.

In 2015 nearly half (49%) of deaths on motorcycles happened on weekends, and they were more apt to occur in the evening hours after 6:00 PM, compared to during the week.

In 2015 nearly half (48%) of deaths on motorcycles happened on major roads, but not freeways and interstate highways. There were more deaths (49%) that occurred in urban areas than happened in rural areas (41%).

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Elevated Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Among those killed driving a motorcycle in 2015, 28% were found to have a BAC at or over 0.08%. This figure rose to 42% among those in single-vehicle collisions.

Among motorcycle drivers in 2015 who lost their life at night from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM, 49% were found to have had BACs of 0.08% or higher.

All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

ATV riders are being killed on public roads at a rate nine times more than in 1982, which was when they were first identified in FARS. The percentage of ATV riders 40 years of age and older who were killed rose from 9% in 1982 to as much as 43% in 2015. The percentage of ATV riders killed who were younger than 20 went from 54% in 1982 down to 19% by 2015.

In 2015, 80% of those killed riding ATVs were wearing helmets.

Among those killed riding ATVs in 2015, 75% lost their lives in crashes where no other vehicle was involved, whereas 48% of occupants killed in passenger vehicles were in crashes that involved no other vehicle(s).

In 2015, of the ATV riders who died in single-vehicle crashes, in 62% of these accidents, the ATV rolled over in the crash. This percentage was similar to fatal accidents involving large trucks and SUVs, but higher than for deaths in similar accidents involving cars, which was 44%.

The deaths of ATV riders on public roadways during 2015 peaked in July, with 56% of the deaths occurring during the months of May-September that year.

Of the ATV riders who lost their lives on public roadways in 2015, 73% were driving on rural roads and 63% of those fatal accidents occurred on minor roads.
In 2015, half of those killed driving ATVs on public roadways were found to have BACs at or over the legal limit of 0.08%. ATV drivers who were 40-49 years of age when they were killed made up 63% of that group. 

Motorcycle accident cases are extremely complex, which means you need a highly experienced lawyer with in-depth knowledge in this specific area of the law to handle your case. If a loved one had been killed on a motorcycle due to another's negligence, please contact us. The attorneys at O'Connor, Runckel & O’Malley have a proven track record of prevailing in such cases, both in court and in negotiating maximum settlements. With more than 50 years of trial experience, we are more than willing to take anyone to trial to fight for our client if they have been wrongfully injured or killed.

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

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