We have a long history of motorcycle use. It’s one of the most popular modes of transportation. Due to their increasing popularity, you can almost say nearly everyone knows someone who rides a motorcycle. They’re a common sight on the road, and for good reason. Motorcycles are fun, easy to operate, and get you from point A to point B with little effort. However, they also come with a high risk of injury and death.
According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of motorcyclist fatalities in 2020 increased by 11 percent from 2019, from 5,044 to 5,579. This number is especially alarming due to the introduction of Covid-19 in 2020, so much fewer vehicles were on the road due to lockdowns. According to a preliminary study by NHTSA, which was conducted amidst the pandemic, though fewer vehicles were on the road, “of the drivers who remained on the roads, some engaged in riskier behavior, including speeding, failure to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Traffic data cited in those reports showed average speeds increased during the last three quarters of 2020, and extreme speeds, those 20 miles per hour (or more) higher than the posted speed limit, became more common.”
Despite safety programs and educational outreach, motorcycle fatalities represent a significant loss of life on U.S. roads.
We’re trailing behind other developed countries when it comes to road safety.
The U.S. has one of the highest rates of motorcycle fatalities compared to other developed countries. Countries like Italy, which have more cyclists on average than the United States, have significantly fewer road fatalities. Great Britain has had a decline in road fatalities by 51% from 2004-2020. So why is there such a difference?
One reason for this discrepancy may be cultural: many people feel that they can ride safely while under the influence of alcohol or partake in distracted driving—even though research shows otherwise. However, there are other factors at play as well, including cultural attitudes toward driving at high speeds on highways or city streets.
Motorcycle deaths are often related to helmet use, alcohol and speed.
Many factors contribute to motorcycle road deaths, but the most prominent variables involved include alcohol consumption, speed of the vehicle, and helmet use.
People who drink and ride are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. A staggering forty-one percent of motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2020 were alcohol-impaired, according to the annual NHTSA study.
Motorcycles are small, making it difficult for riders to see what’s ahead of them or react quickly enough when something unexpected happens. Speeding makes this problem worse. Riders within the age group of 25-34 accounted for the highest amount of fatal crashes where speed was a factor.
The U.S.’s high rate of motorcycle fatalities has been linked to its lack of proper helmet laws and the inconsistent helmet law requirements that vary from state to state. According to the 2020 NHTSA study, in states without universal helmet laws, 57 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2020 were not wearing helmets, as compared to 11 percent in states with universal helmet laws.
There are many efforts underway to reduce fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States. Education and advocacy can help reduce motorcycle fatalities.
There are many organizations and efforts underway to reduce motorcycle fatalities. The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is a great place to start. The AMA provides resources for motorcyclists, including educational materials, safety tips, and more. They also have a list of local chapters in your area where you can get involved with motorcycle advocacy efforts in your community.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) works with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), which provides training, education, and outreach programs to help riders learn how to ride safely. The MSF also runs national campaigns on helmet use and motorcycle safety in general.
In addition, organizations like ABATE of America (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) are working hard to promote awareness about motorcyclists’ rights and responsibilities so that we can reduce the number of motorcycle deaths in the future.
We need to get better… Together.
It is concerning how far the United States is falling behind other developed countries when it comes to road safety. While there are many factors that contribute to this problem, we can start by educating the public and advocating for better legislation that protects motorcyclists.