Although motorcycles make up only 3% of all registered vehicles and 0.6% of all vehicle miles traveled in the United States, motorcyclists accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities, 17% of all occupant fatalities, and 3% of all occupant injuries in 2018. A factor that directly influences motorcycle fatality trends is helmet use. (Explore helmet use trends.)

Fatalities among motorcycle riders and passengers decreased 4.7% from 2017 to 2018, while the rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled decreased 4.3%. Longer term trends show a 3.7% decrease in the number of deaths from 2007 to 2018, but a 2.7% increase in the death rate, from 24.18 to 24.83. The number of motorcycle fatalities now stands at 4,985. Over the last 12 years, motorcycle fatalities peaked in 2008 (5,312), and reached a low point in 2009 (4,469).

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The number and rate of nonfatal injuries both decreased by nearly 8% from 2017 to 2018. Longer term nonfatal injury trends cannot be assessed. Starting in 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) transitioned from the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES) to the Crash Report Sampling System (CRSS). CRSS estimates and NASS GES estimates are not comparable due to different sample designs, so 2016 and later injury estimates should not be compared to earlier years. From 2016, the number of injuries has decreased 21.1%, while the injury rate has decreased 19.7%.

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*2016 and later injury estimates are not comparable to previous years.

Motorcycle exposure or use trends have been mixed from 2007 to 2018. Although the number of registered motorcycles has increased 22% from 2007 to 2017 (latest data year available), the number of vehicle miles driven has decreased 6.2% from 2007 to 2018. This decrease in miles traveled explains how the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles has increased since 2007, while the number of deaths have decreased.

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The infographic highlights a few key motorcycle fatality trends for 2018. The majority of motorcyclist fatalities occurred:

  • On urban roads (61%)
  • In good weather (88%)
  • During daylight conditions (52%)
  • In crashes involving two vehicles (54%)
  • When wearing helmets (60%)

In addition, 75% of the motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes where NOT alcohol-impaired (75%)

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Sources: National Safety Council analysis of NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data.

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