According to a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 385 motorcycle riders died on California roads in 2009. Only two states had a higher motorcycle accident death toll. In the United States, 4,462 riders were killed that year.
Nationwide, both the total number of deaths and the rate of deaths in relation to the number of motorcycles have gone down in recent years. While the number of motorcycles registered in the United States has been steadily increasing, the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has been declining. Alarmingly, though, motorcyclists are 25 times likelier to die in a traffic accident than car passengers and drivers are, and they have a fivefold greater chance of injury.
Alcohol is a major factor in motorcycle accidents. Nationwide, 29 percent of fatal motorcycle accident victims had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. In California, about 23 percent of fatal accident victims had that elevated blood alcohol content.
Impaired motorcyclists were less likely to be wearing helmets when they died. Among those with no alcohol in their systems, 65 percent wore helmets, but only 42 percent of the impaired riders wore helmets.
NHTSA estimates that almost 1,500 lives were saved by motorcycle helmets in 2009, and that over 700 more could have been saved if every motorcyclist wore one.
The NHTSA report classified a number of motorized vehicles as motorcycles for the purposes of its report. Besides the typical two-wheeled road and off-road motorcycles, they also included three-wheeled motorcycles, along with all-terrain vehicles, mini bikes, pocket bikes, mopeds and scooters. The NHTSA statistics suggest that riders of all these types of vehicles would do well to avoid excess alcohol consumption and to use helmets.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Traffic Safety Facts: 2009 Data,” October 2011.