Motorcyclists are overrepresented in crashes and fatalities. In 2014, 4,486 motorcyclists lost their lives on America's roads. Ten times more unhelmeted motorcyclists died in states without universal helmet laws than in states with such laws (1,565 deaths vs. 151).1
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides these statistics on motorcycle safety in the United States:
NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,630 motorcyclists in 2013. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 715 lives could have been saved.
- Licensing Issues
Twenty-five percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2013 were riding their vehicles without valid motorcycle licenses at the time of the collisions.
- Impaired Riding
In 2013, there were 4,399 motorcycle riders killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 1,232 (28%) were alcohol-impaired (BAC of .08 or higher).
In 2013, 34 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding
States use both national and statewide data to find the right mix of rider education, enforcement and laws to decrease deaths and injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes.
1 National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2015, November). 2014 Crash Data Key Findings (Traffic Safety Facts Crash•Stats. Report No. DOT HS 812 219). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812219.pdf
Excerpted from GHSA's Highway Safety Policies & Priorities [115 KB, 27 pgs.]
H. Motorcycle Safety
Motorcyclists are over-represented in traffic crashes and, coupled with the greater vulnerability of the motorcyclist, this represents a serious highway safety problem. Hence, GHSA encourages funding for development, implementation, and evaluation of statewide comprehensive motorcycle safety programs. At a minimum, these programs should address rider training, protective gear use, impaired riding, operator licensing, motorist awareness and conspicuity.
H.1 Motorcycle Helmet Laws
GHSA urges states to support the use of DOT-certified helmets by motorcycle riders of all ages, oppose efforts to repeal their universal motorcycle helmet laws and adopt motorcycle helmet laws for all riders. States should vigorously enforce their motorcycle helmet laws to ensure that motorcyclists are not using helmets that do not meet DOT standards.
H.2 Motorcycle Operator Training
All states should require motorcycle operator training for minors, novice, and re-entry riders by qualified instructors.
NHTSA, along with motorcycle organizations and other stakeholders, should develop a model motorcycle operator training program and quality control guidelines for instructors, deploy them at selected locations and then evaluate their effectiveness. Once the model curricula and instructor guidelines are complete, then states are encouraged to use them. States should also examine their motorcycle crash data to determine if the model training program should address specific state problems by emphasizing certain situations or skills. States should be encouraged to enhance their training to ensure that state-specific needs are met.
H.3 Impaired Motorcycle Programs
Impaired motorcyclists are a substantial proportion of total motorcycle fatalities and injuries. States should develop and implement programs for the impaired motorcyclist that include enforcement, sanctions (including fines and vehicle sanctions), and publicity about the enforcement effort. States are also encouraged to develop, deploy and evaluate other initiatives that discourage drinking and riding.
H.4 Licensing of Motorcyclists
All states should require motorcyclists to obtain a motorcycle operator license and endorsement before they ride on a public highway. In order to obtain the license, motorcycle operators should be required to pass knowledge, skills and vision tests unless the motorcyclist can demonstrate that he/she has completed a state-approved operator training program. States should actively enforce their motorcycle operator licensing laws.
NHTSA, along with motorcycle organizations and other stakeholders, should develop a model motorcycle operator licensing and testing program that includes graduated licensing for motorcyclists. NHTSA should ensure that this program measures the minimum skills and knowledge needed for safe riding and should evaluate its potential impact on crashes, fatalities and injuries. Once completed, states should be encouraged to implement the model program statewide, periodically evaluate its effectiveness, and modify the program as necessary.
H.5 Motorcycle Awareness Programs
States should undertake awareness programs to promote motorcycle helmet use, publicize state motorcycling licensing laws, discourage impaired riding, and encourage the use of protective and conspicuous clothing as well as increased conspicuity of the motorcycle. Additionally, states should undertake public information campaigns to raise motorists’ awareness about sharing the road with motorcycles and should ensure that novice driver education and training courses include instruction on sharing the road with motorcycles.
H.6 Motorcycle Research
NHTSA should conduct a study on the causes of motorcycle crashes so that effective countermeasures can be developed and implemented.