What The Latest NHTSA Motorcycle Data Reveals

To carry on the helmet discussion here are some stats that are alarming…

November 18, 2013



For the third consecutive year, the number of U.S. motorcycle fatalities has risen again with 4,957 riders having been killed on the roads in 2012 according the latest report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Last year, 33,561 people lost their lives in road traffic accidents, an increase of 1,082 compared to 2011. Motorcyclists accounted for 14.8% of all highway deaths and saw the largest increase year on year at 7.1% (4,360 riders were killed in 2011).

This is a significant rise, as 10 years ago less than 9% of all road traffic fatalities involved motorcyclists.

NHTSA’s latest findings also revealed that 93,000 riders or their passengers were injured during 2012, another big increase of 15% compared to 81,000 that were hurt in 2011.

Drunk driving fatalities were also up in 2012, with 33,561 alcohol impaired drivers of all vehicle types killed compared to 32,479 in 2011.

However, of the 4,957 motorcycle riders who died during 2012, 1,390 (28%) were found to have been under the influence of alcohol with a BAC level of 0.8 g/Dl or greater. That was fractionally down on the 2011 figures where 1,397 impaired motorcyclists were killed.

As expected, part of the focus of NHTSA’s report looks at rider fatalities involving those wearing crash helmets and those that were not.

In 2012 there were 10 times as many unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities in states without mandatory helmet laws (a total of 1,858 unhelmeted fatalities). While states with helmet laws saw 178 unhelmeted fatalities.

NHTSA’s report does not specify what type of helmet was being worn by those who died in 2012 and who also accounted for around 59% of all motorcycle fatalities last year.

Finally, of all the 33,561 U.S. highway deaths during 2012 more than 70% of the people who died were men.

For further information about the NHTSA 2012 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview Report go to: http://www.nhtsa.gov

Author: advgrrl

Avid ADV rider! This Blog is all about the adventure in adventure riding. Researching new bikes, routes, accessories, learning about other riders and hopefully a great place for others to comment and explore with me. PLUS, up and down's, wildlife, my dogs, my life!

3 thoughts on “What The Latest NHTSA Motorcycle Data Reveals”

  1. When I read your post, that number seemed quite high – so I did a little digging around… I didn’t realise the US had such shockingly (for a westernised country) high RTA death rates – 13.9 deaths per 100,000 people?!? Compare this to Canada at 7.8/100,000, the UK at 4.8/100,000 and Japan at 3.8/100,000. Belgium has the reputation of having the worst drivers in Europe and their rate is 10/100,000 (actually it’s Lithuania which takes this title at 15.5/100,000)… Source: http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/road-traffic-accidents/by-country

    What is interesting is that the US has such large, open and comparatively straight roads compared to Europe, Japan etc, yet the Europeans (subjectively) tend to drive faster and more aggressively than their American counterparts… But then, Canada has roughly half the death rate of the US, with similar types of roads…

    So where is it all going wrong? Insufficient driving training – or driving training designed to pass the test and not actually teach real world skills? Canada of course has graduated licensing which probably helps bring the death rate down whereas the US varies state by state… Cultural/attitude/ego differences within the populations of the different countries? Japan, Canada and the UK are all countries which have reputations for high overall standards of conduct, etiquette and appropriate behaviour in public (although that goes down the toilet when the British travel somewhere warm!!)… Penalty rates? Europe, Canada and Japan tend to have FAR stiffer fines than the US… Drink/drug drivers? Who knows…

    All I know is that I feel a hell of a lot safer on the roads here than I did 10 minutes ago… And I’d bet you both do in Canada as well!

    1. Your findings are quite interesting George especially since I live in the US. It would be interesting to know the years of expirience these fatalities had. I see an awful lot of riders “underdressed” here in the US.

      1. The World Health Organisation (WHO) website has an interesting and very comprehensive report about RTA rates – http://www.who.int/entity/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2013/en/index.html – what is quite interesting is that the report identifies that RTA rates are disproportionately higher for lower income/education groups which makes logical sense… these groups typically aren’t using vehicles with the latest technology/safety features, and typically don’t have the disposable income for proper PPE, training etc.

        I drove (a car) for 14 years in Canada totalling in the region of 200,000 miles and about 20,000 miles in the US for holidays. While in general I never felt particularly endangered I did find, subjectively, that in both countries there was a whole lot more road rage than anywhere I’ve driven in Europe. Silly things like someone not looking when changing lanes, and the car which was wronged just not letting it go… people holding down the horn when pensioners were driving below the speed limit. Things like that. Of course this was mainly in cities/built-up areas – things were so much more relaxed in rural areas (Californian redwoods was a particular delight, as was Hwy 99 from Cache Creek to Pemberton, BC).

        It would be interesting to have someone who specialises in social/cultural psychology or a similar field provide an analysis. For example the differences in general stress levels between North America and the EU (the speculation being that higher stress equals more distraction equals higher accident rates)… One thing that stands out in my mind is paid leave from work. My understanding in the US is that there is no obligation for an employer to provide this – in Canada it was (when I lived there) a minimum of 10 working days (2 weeks). In the EU (where it is felt that sufficient time away from work makes for more productive and happy employees) it is a minimum of 20 working days but most people get 25 + bank holidays (of which there are between 5 and 10 depending on the country). In my current role (which I’ve done for 5 years now), I am entitled to 38 days of paid leave each year (including bank holidays) – in other words, nearly 2 months each year – and this is quite typical.

        The typical work ethic is different in the US, Canada and UK (three countries on which I can comment from first-hand experience). Canada and the UK are fairly similar – people are committed to their jobs but it’s not particularly commonplace to find people ‘burning out’ from work. However, in the UK people tend to include A LOT more about their personal lives in their relationships with colleagues than in Canada where this practice was a fair bit more restrained. A lot of my friends who live in the US seem have a huge drive (and therefore source of stress) to work as hard has they possibly can to get a promotion and a higher salary, move up the social ladder and repeat almost obsessively. They seem to take failure as just that, rather than a learning experience for success in future. There’s often no convincing them to take a holiday to come visit me out here, for example – and when I’ve visited them I know to make my own agenda to accommodate their work schedules! The culture is very much ‘keep aiming higher’ whereas in the UK it’s more ‘keep aiming higher but know when to stop and have a pint’.

        Aside from speculations about stress levels and work ethic, one serious and highly researched issue in both the US and Canada is people using mobile devices while driving – not sure if this has reduced in recent years and what laws have been passed. This used to be an issue here as well until the police started proactively handing out huge fines + 3 points on licences, and mandatory driving bans in certain circumstances. If you drive for a living, it’s a pretty convincing incentive to not use a mobile phone while driving when you could be banned for 2 years if you cause a crash or kill a biker…

        All of our countries have their positives and negatives (don’t get me started on the negatives of the UK) but the more you delve into the social and cultural complexities of each, the more you realise how unique each one is. Which may go some way in explaining the differences in RTA rates.

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