Motorcycles are less safe than other forms of transportation. On a per-mile basis, motorcycle accidents cause more deaths and injuries than car accidents.

Motorcycle accidents also have worse outcomes than car accidents. Motorcyclists have little protection in a collision. They can sustain catastrophic injuries even in minor accidents.

Curious how safe a motorcycle is? Today, we’ll explore the statistics you need to know.

Motorcycle Safety Statistics

The Insurance Information Institute (III) and the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) have collected and analyzed data from motorcycle accidents. Both the III and NHTSA have concluded that motorcycles are more dangerous than passenger vehicles.

Motorcycle Injuries and Deaths

The U.S. sees about 5,000 deaths and 85,000 injuries from motorcycle accidents every year. By comparison, car accidents cause about 36,000 deaths and 3 million injuries every year.

By this measure, more injuries and deaths result from passenger vehicle crashes than motorcycle crashes.

But these statistics do not tell the whole story. The U.S. has many fewer motorcycles than passenger vehicles. People also use motorcycles and cars differently. Motorcyclists typically use motorcycles for recreation. Drivers use passenger vehicles for commuting and longer trips for pleasure.

Deaths and Injuries per Registered Vehicle

One way to measure the relative safety of motorcycles and passenger vehicles is to divide the number of injuries and deaths by the number of vehicles on the roads. This tells you the likelihood of suffering an injury or death based on the vehicle you own.

Motorcycle owners experience:

  • 1,000 injuries per 100,000 registered motorcycles and
  • 20 deaths per 100,000 registered motorcycles

Passenger vehicle owners experience:

  • 875 injuries per 100,000 registered passenger vehicles and
  • 12 deaths per 100,000 registered passenger vehicles

By these measures, motorcyclists are slightly more likely to suffer an injury than a passenger vehicle occupant. But their risk of death is nearly double that of vehicle occupants.

Deaths and Injuries per 100 Million Miles Traveled

Another way to compare motorcycle safety and passenger vehicle safety is to normalize by the number of miles traveled. This accounts for the differences in how people use motorcycles and passenger vehicles.

Many motorcyclists store their motorcycles during the winter. Some motorcycles go unused for months or years at a time.

Using the statistics normalized by miles driven, motorcyclists in 2019 experienced:

  • 425 injuries per 100 million miles traveled and
  • 26 deaths per 100 million miles traveled

Passenger vehicle occupants in 2019 experienced:

  • 80 injuries per 100 million miles traveled and
  • 1.1 deaths per 100 million miles traveled

These statistics compare the risk of using a motorcycle. The statistics normalized by the number of registered vehicles only compare the risk of owning a motorcycle.

Comparing the Statistics

You might have heard the statistic that motorcyclists are four times more likely to get injured and 29 times more likely to die than vehicle occupants. This statistic comes from the deaths and injuries per 100 million miles traveled.

This statistic varies slightly from year to year. In 2019, the risk of injury was over five times higher for motorcyclists than it was for vehicle occupants. The risk of death was 24 times higher for motorcyclists when compared to vehicle occupants.

Why Motorcycles Are Riskier

Motorcycles require a unique set of skills to operate safely. But most motorcycle accidents result from errors by vehicle drivers, not motorcyclists.

Motorcycles are less safe than passenger vehicles due to the severe consequences of motorcycle collisions. An accident that might dent a vehicle’s fender can kill a motorcyclist.

Other reasons motorcycles are less safe than passenger vehicles include:

  • Less stability than four-wheeled vehicles
  • Less visibility than cars and trucks
  • Greater exposure to road hazards

Unfortunately, the negligence of vehicle drivers means that no matter what safety precautions and equipment motorcyclists use, motorcycles will always pose a higher risk of injuries and death.

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