The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is partnering with the Iowa City Police Department to remind all motorists that May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. As May approaches with warmer temperatures throughout the country, the unofficial start of the summer road travel season begins. Safe riding and driving practices - and cooperation from all road users - will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways.
NHTSA reports that in 2020, there were 5,579 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes, an increase from 5,044 in 2019. An estimated 82,528 motorcyclists were injured in 2020, a 2% increase from 83,814 motorcyclists injured in 2019.
Research also shows that motorcyclists are significantly overrepresented in traffic crashes and fatalities each year. In 2020, per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists were about 28 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and were 4 times more likely to be injured.
One of the primary contributing factors to motorcyclist fatalities is speeding. According to NHTSA, 34% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2020 were speeding, compared to 22% for passenger car drivers, 16% for light-truck drivers, and 7% for large-truck drivers. Motorcycle riders 25 to 29 years old involved in fatal crashes had the highest speeding involvement at 45%.
Alcohol impairment also plays a significant role in motorcycle-involved crash fatalities. Forty-one percent of the 2,158 motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2020 were alcohol-impaired, according to NHTSA. Forty-five percent of those killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekends were alcohol-impaired. Motorcycle riders killed in traffic crashes at night were almost three times more frequently found to be alcohol-impaired than those killed during the day (40% and 14%, respectively).
Safe driving and riding practices from all road users will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Drive and ride alcohol and drug free.
- Observe all traffic laws.
- Obey the speed limit.
- Drive and ride defensively.
- Yield to motorcyclists, especially while turning at intersections.
- Avoid distractions that place motorcyclists and other road users at risk.
- Wear high-visibility personal protective gear and DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets. NHTSA data estimates that helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists’ lives in 2017, and that 749 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn their helmets. Learn how to identify a safe, DOT-compliant helmet at nhtsa.gov/motorcycle-safety/choose-right-motorcycle-helmet
Additionally, the completion of a rider education and training course can ensure a safer riding experience. As May nears, we should all commit to safe driving and riding, and to our role in ensuring a safe motorcycle-riding environment. For more information on motorcycle safety, visit www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycles. For additional statistics please visit https://cdan.nhtsa.gov/ and search “motorcycle” under Crash Data Publications.