Why Motorcycle Injuries and Deaths Are on the Rise

Motorcyclist on road

While the number of fatalities for passengers and drivers of cars and light trucks has been falling since 1999, the number of deaths associated with motorcycle crashes has more than doubled. More than 80% of reported motorcycle accidents result in injury or death compared to 20% of car accidents because riders are less protected than passenger car occupants. Therefore, they are more likely to be severely injured or killed when they encounter factors like negligent or reckless motorists.

Negligence of Drivers

In 2019, 61% of rider deaths took place in multiple-vehicle motorcycle crashes. Most drivers who hit motorcyclists cite not seeing them as the reason for their negligence. Even a small momentary lapse in a driver’s awareness can lead to the death of a motorcyclist.

Motorcyclists can be easily overlooked by other motorists because of their relatively small size, particularly when the motorists are distracted. The number of reported distraction-affected crashes has been increasing in recent years. When drivers are distracted by things like their cell phone, radio, or food, they can merge into motorcycle riders, sideswipe them while passing, cause a collision in an intersection, or force riders off the road into dangerous situations. Because riders lack the protection that an enclosed vehicle offers, they are more likely to be killed or injured.

Riding Without Helmets

Failing to use helmets is also a contributing factor to rising motorcycle injuries and deaths. Head injuries are a leading cause of severe injury and death in motorcycle crashes.

In 2019, 70% of fatally injured riders in the states with no helmet laws, such as Illinois, were not wearing a helmet. In the states with partial helmet laws, which cover young riders or certain adult riders, 55% of fatally injured riders were not helmeted. On the contrary, only 8% of the fatally injured motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were not helmeted. Less than 50% of states have universal helmet laws that cover all motorcyclists.

Because many multi-vehicle crashes are not the fault of motorcyclists, personal injury lawyers in Chicago urge motorcyclists to take the necessary personal protection measures to reduce injury. Helmets are effective in reducing injuries and preventing deaths in riders. They are about 67% effective in preventing brain injuries, 37% effective in preventing motorcycle operator deaths, and 41% effective in preventing motorcycle passenger deaths.

Rising Number of Older Riders

In recent years, the number of middle-aged motorcyclists has been increasing. Some of these older adults have been getting onto bikes many years after they had stopped riding. They often are not as familiar with the rules and how to ride defensively, which is crucial because of their vulnerability to motorists’ mistakes.

As a result, accidents involving older motorcyclists that have caused severe or fatal injuries have increased. In 2019, 37% of fatally injured riders were 50 years and older. That is significantly higher than 1975 and 1997 when they accounted for 3% and 14% respectively.

States like Illinois have rolled out courses aimed at preventing older riders from forgetting procedures that help prevent accidents. If more states implement such programs, they could reduce serious injuries and save lives.


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