While motorcyclists derive many benefits from riding, they also have a greater risk of being seriously injured or killed in a crash than automobile drivers. In fact, more than 80% of motorcycle accidents result in serious injury or death for the motorcyclist compared to 20% of crashes involving cars or trucks. Additionally, motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to be killed in a crash than occupants of passenger vehicles, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA). Here are some surprising Michigan motorcycle accident statistics.
The main reason motorcycle accidents are so deadly is that, unlike automobiles, motorcycles have no outer frame to protect the rider. In addition, bikes do not have safety features such as seat belts or airbags. And, the protection provided by motorcycle windshields is limited, especially in an accident. Therefore, when a motorcyclist crashes into a tree or is struck by a car, the chances of serious injury or death are high.
What’s more it is common for a motorcyclist to be thrown from the bike after a significant impact from a car or another fixed object. Even a rider wearing a helmet and other protective gear is likely to suffer serious harm such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage or broken bones.
Another factor is that most motorcycle accidents (approximately 75%) involve another vehicle such as a car or truck. With the average automobile weighing at least 10 times as much as the average motorcycle, the bike (and its rider) are almost certain to bear the brunt of the damage in a collision.
Recent statistics from the Michigan State Police show the highest number of Michigan motorcycle accidents (485) occurred in Wayne County, followed by Oakland County (207), Macomb County (192) and Kent County (180).
Failing to yield was the most common reported accident cause, followed by speeding and being unable to stop in time to avoid a crash.
Out of 2,723 total crashes, the majority (1,635) occurred on roads and city streets, followed by state trunklines (M routes) with 585 and interstate highways with 235.
Of the 122 motorcyclists killed in Michigan during 2019 (the most recent year for which complete data is available), 114 were male and 8 were female.
Among men, the greatest number of deaths occurred in the 25 – 34 and 45 – 64 age groups. Fatalities for women were spread out between ages of 25 – 64.
In addition, statistics show the average age of motorcycle riders has almost doubled in the past 50 years. While the typical motorcycle owner was 27 years old in 1980, today the median age is 50 or older.
This also means a larger percentage of motorcycle fatalities is comprised of older bikers. In the early 1980s, only 3% of fatally injured motorcyclists were over 50 compared to more than one-third in 2019.
Furthermore, drivers of cruisers Harley-Davidsons, etc.), standards (low power-to-weight ratios), touring (big engines and fuel tanks), and sport-touring (heavier than sport bikes with storage and larger windshields) motorcycles have the lowest fatality rates.
Conversely, while supersport bikes (lighter, more powerful bikes designed for quick acceleration and high speeds) make up a small fraction of registered motorcycles, they are overrepresented in fatal crashes. In fact, the death rate for supersport bikers is about four times higher than that of motorcyclists who ride cruisers or standards.
Yes. Everyone knows it is extremely dangerous – and illegal – to drive a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, a motorcyclist who is impaired has a higher chance of suffering serious consequences, including death, than an automobile driver in the event of a crash. In addition, the effect of drugs and alcohol on reaction time and other factors make it more likely for those under the influence to be involved in an accident.
According to the most recent data from the Michigan State Police, alcohol was a factor in the deaths of 36 (almost 30%) of the 122 motorcyclists who died in single- or multi-vehicle crashes.
National statistics from the Insurance Information Institute show a similar trend. Approximately 30% of the motorcycle drivers killed in accidents had blood alcohol levels (BACs) of at least 0.08, the legal limit in most states. Furthermore, 18% of these motorcyclists had BACs of 0.15 or greater at the time they crashed.
Brain damage and head injuries are a common cause of death and permanent disability for motorcyclists. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, helmets are found to prevent 37% of deaths among motorcycle operators and 41% of passenger deaths.
Additionally, helmets can help protect riders from sustaining traumatic brain injuries in the event of a crash. In fact, research from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) showed the fatality rate for helmeted riders was 73% less than for those not wearing helmets. Furthermore, the same study showed that helmets reduced the incidence of critical head injuries by 85%.
Although helmets are not legally required in Michigan for motorcyclists 21 and older, it is a good idea to wear a properly fitted helmet that meets U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) standards.
Recommended reading: What Every Biker Needs to Know About Michigan Motorcycle Helmet Laws
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