Did you know that A-List Hollywood celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Jim Carrey are all avid bike lovers? As of 2011, the United States motorcycle industry is estimated to be worth a whopping USD21 billion, with the top manufacturers being Harley-Davidson (28%), Honda (25%) and Yamaha (17%).
The problem with having literally millions of motorcycles on the road though is that it also increases the risk of fatal accidents. While there was one notable drop in biking accidents in 2009, the number of bike-related accidents has been on a steady upward trend. Statistically, there is 6% of experiencing a bike accident each time you ride out, which is considerably high compared to the risk of a car accident (1%). Another interesting numerical proof that it is much more dangerous to be riding a motorcycle than it is riding a car would be the fact that 13% of road fatalities are caused by motorcycles, despite the fact that only 3% of registered vehicles are motorcycles.
Why So Dangerous?
Although motorcyclists tend to go slower than larger cars, bikers are much more vulnerable to the external environment (such as rain or snow) and they are also unprotected from road hazards such as flying stray objects and poor road conditions. Relative to driving a car, a motorcyclist also has to pay close attention to his or her maneuvering ability at all times, which could be both mentally and physically taxing.
While big bikes might be built to be as robust as four-wheel drives, the fact that the rider is not protected in an enclosed environment such as a car frame also means that injuries to the rider will also be much more severe during accidents. After all, 50% of motorcycle accidents also involve a collision with other types of the motor vehicle whereas another 25% of the accidents involve the rider crashing into static road fixtures (such as a telephone pole or concrete abutment), all of which can take on a larger impact force relative to our fragile bodies.
Quite possibly the most dangerous aspect about riding the bike though is the ease of exceeding the speed limit. In 2007, it was deduced that the simple act of speeding on a motorcycle increased the probability of a fatal crash by 36%.
Rising Death Tolls
According to numbers gathered by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), deaths caused by motorcycle accidents have dramatically increased by over 70% between the years 2000 to 2007. NHTSA has also issued a warning in 2010 warning all motorcyclists that they are 25 times likelier to die during a road accident and 5 times likelier to get injured relative to car passengers traveling on the same road.
Beware Old Age
The number of fatalities and injuries suffered by motorcyclists in the USA can be divided in terms of age and driving style. Interesting enough, motorcycling seems to be much more popular with bikers over the age of 40. However, this age group also happens to account for 54% of fatal accidents that occur during motorcycling. The good news is that the death toll of motorcyclists under the age of 39 years and below have been steadily dropping from 24% to 19% in the past decade.
Riding Under the Influence
Like car accidents, motorcyclists who drink and ride on the road are also much more susceptible to crashing their ride. According to the NHTSA, 30% of drivers involved in serious accidents were legally drunk with a blood alcohol concentration over 0.08%. It should also be noted that out of this 30% of intoxicated drivers, a majority (41%) of those with a blood alcohol content of about 0.08% were aged between 40 to 44 years, closely followed by drivers aged between 35 to 39 (41%).
One other interesting pattern was that if you were over the age of 40 and had blood alcohol content over 0.08% on a weekend, you would also have an increased 63% chance of riding into a single-vehicle crash. Similarly, those who rode motorcycles at night were also three times likelier to have blood alcohol levels over 0.08% and hence, had a 46% higher chance of getting killed relative to those riding in the daytime.