The small size and high speed of motorcycles can often reduce their visibility to larger vehicles such as trucks and cars on the road. Motorcyclists are known for taking the brunt of traffic accidents across the US, but has increased awareness of this issue reduced the frequency of motorcycle accidents in recent years? Or have growing populations and busier roads resulted in more dangerous collisions for drivers? To find out, we asked 2,003 US adults whether or not they’ve been involved in or witnessed a motorcycle crash in the past.
We then conducted additional research using NHTSA data to find out how often fatal accidents involving motorcycles have occurred in each state every year since 2006. We also studied how many motorcycles have been involved in accidents in the US since 1990. We then proceeded to research permit requirements for motorcycle licenses in each state, and use this data to find out whether changing roads and traffic laws have affected the frequency of motorcycle incidents in recent years.
To further our understanding of motorcycle accidents, what causes them and what preventative measures both drivers and the law are taking, we used Keyword Finder to discover how many people are searching Google for motorcycle safety courses and safety measures such as motorcycle helmets in the US. We then divided the search volume in each state by the population and multiplied this number by 100,000 to find out how many searches are conducted per 100,000 people in each state.
Motorcycling incident statistics: A speedy run through
Looking for the facts? Here are our key findings:
- 51.7 million US adults have been involved in a motorcycle crash. That’s over 1 in 20!
- 25 to 34 year olds are the most likely to be involved in motorcycle crashes, with 1 in 12 (8.6%) having been directly involved in an accident.
- 7.6% of men in the US have been directly involved in a motorcycle accident, compared to only 4.5% of women.
- The most dangerous region of the US for motorcyclists is the West, where more than 1 in 6 adults have either witnessed or been involved in an accident (17.1%).
- Kentucky, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia all require drivers to be over the age of 18 before being permitted to drive a motorcycle, the highest age restriction in the US.
- Despite this, Kentucky is the eighth most dangerous state for motorcyclists in the US, experiencing 30.56 crashes per 100,000 people from 2006 to 2020.
- Wyoming is the most dangerous state in the US for motorcyclists, experiencing 44.57 fatal crashes for every 100,000 people.
What we asked: Our survey question
To find out what percentage of the population has experienced a motorcycle incident across the US, we asked 2,003 US adults whether they’ve been involved in or witnessed an accident involving a motorcycle in the past. Respondents were asked the following question:
Which of the following statements, relating to motorcycle accidents, apply to you?
- I’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident
- I have witnessed a motorcycle accident
- I know someone who has been involved in one
- None of the above
Respondents were arranged by US region, age and gender to allow us to ascertain the influence of demographics on motorcycle incidents across the states.
How many US adults have been involved in motorcycle accidents?
Our research found that:
- A third of the population (32.3%) has either experienced, witnessed, or knows someone who has been involved in a motorcycle crash.
- Just over 1 in 20 adults in the US (6%) have been directly involved in a motorcycle accident. That’s 51.7 million people.
- And 1 in 12 have witnessed a crash (8%).
- On top of this, just under 1 in 5 (18.3%) US adults know someone who has been involved in a motorcycle crash.
At what age are US adults more likely to be involved in a motorcycle crash?
Stereotypes often paint motorcycles as a favored vehicle by young adults: whether or not this is true, many insurance companies raise the rates of insurance for young people due to this and other such preconceptions. We wanted to find out whether young adults are indeed more susceptible to motorcycle accidents in America, or whether older age groups are more likely to be involved in crashes involving motorcycles. To do this, we separated our respondents into age groups from 18-24 up to 65+. It should be noted that being involved in a motorcycle accident does not mean that the respondent was driving the motorcycle, and plenty of motorcycle accidents are witnessed or caused by larger vehicles.
- Over 1 in 12 adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have been directly involved in a motorcycle crash (8.6%) and nearly 1 in 10 have witnessed one (9.8%). That makes adults between 25 and 34 the most vulnerable to motorcycle accidents in the US.
- In contrast, just under 1 in 20 young adults between 18 and 24 have been involved in a motorcycle accident (4.7%).
- Younger adults are also far less likely to know someone involved in a motorcycle accident, with only 1 in 6 adults between 18 and 24 (15.7%) answering that they’ve known someone who’s experienced a crash.
- After the age of 35, US adults are much less likely to be involved in dangerous accidents. Only 2.8% of respondents between 35 and 44 have been directly involved in a motorcycle crash, less than half as many as the previous age group.
- The likelihood of experiencing a motorcycle crash increases again after the age of 45, with 6.4% of 45+ year olds having been involved in an accident.
- Additionally, adults between the ages of 55 and 64 are the most likely to know someone who has been involved in a motorcycle accident (21.7%).
Are men or women more likely to be involved in motorcycle accidents?
Alongside assumptions about the average age of motorcyclists in the US, we wanted to study whether gender has any bearing on vulnerability to motorcycle accidents. To do this, we separated our respondents by gender. We found that:
- Men are 3.1% more likely to be involved in motorcycle crashes than women.
- 1 in 10 men (9.9%) have witnessed a motorcycle accident, compared to just over 1 in 20 women (6.2%).
- Women are less likely to be involved in or to witness motorcycle accidents, and are also less likely to know someone who has been involved in one.
Which US regions are more dangerous for motorcyclists?
Different states have different laws regarding road safety and motorcyclists. Some of these are stricter than others, and introduce higher age restrictions and safety standards for the road. Other states have fewer road safety laws, which can result in more dangerous motorist interactions. The frequency of motorcycle accidents can also be affected by terrain, population and visibility, all of which change according to location and region in the US. To find out more about the influence of location on motorcycle accidents, we arranged our survey respondents by the regions of the US they live in.
- Just over 1 in 6 adults in the West have either witnessed or been directly involved in a motorcycle accident (17.1%).
- That’s 4.1% more than the Midwest and the South, making the West the most dangerous region for motorcyclists in the US.
- The safest region is the Northeast, where 1 in 8 adults have been involved in or witnessed an accident involving a motorcycle (12%).
What age do you have to be to get a motorcycle license in the US?
In light of this, we wanted to find out how carefully each state regulates motorcyclists. Do areas with higher age restrictions have fewer motorcycle accidents? And are there any regional patterns when it comes to age restrictions? We used data from Cardosystems to find out the legal requirements for acquiring a motorcycle license in each state. We then supplemented this data with information from Permit Bike to find the legal requirement for the District of Columbia. We discovered that:
- Kentucky, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have the highest age restrictions in the US for motorcycle licenses, requiring a driver to be over 18 years old before legally riding a motorcycle.
- North Dakota is the most lenient state in the US, allowing motorcycle licenses to be distributed to drivers as young as 14.
- The age restriction in 32 out of 50 states is 16 years old, and a few months above 16 in 3 states (Indiana, Maryland and Missouri).
- The South is the most likely region of the US to have a high age limit for motorcycle permits, with 5 out of the 13 states with an age limit higher than 16 located in the South: Kentucky, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi, and Maryland.
- In contrast, 3 out of 6 states with an age limit of lower than 16 are in the West: New Mexico, Idaho, and California.
Which US states most prioritize safety when it comes to motorcycling?
While road safety laws are integral to reducing the rate of accidents, individual drivers are equally responsible for keeping themselves and others safe on the road. To find out where in the US drivers prioritize safety the most, we used Keyword Finder to analyze the search terms ‘motorcycle safety course’ and ‘motorcycle helmet’ in each state. We then divided average monthly Google searches in 2022 by the population of each state and multiplied the figure by 100,000 to find out the search volume per 100,000 people in each state.
|Rank||State||Average monthly searches for ‘motorcycle helmet’ and ‘motorcycle safety course’ per 100,000 people|
|3||District of Columbia||77.61|
- People in Utah have the most interest in road safety when it comes to motorcycles, searching for motorcycle safety courses and helmets an average of 86.68 times per month per 100,000 people.
- Americans living in Vermont appear to also be highly interested in safety on motorcycles, searching 82.10 times per month per 100,000 people.
- People in Louisiana are the least likely to research motorcycle safety measures in the US, only searching an average of 46.93 times per 100,000 people per month.
- 3 of the top 10 states searching for motorcycle safety measures have age restrictions of 17 or above (the District of Columbia, Nebraska, and Colorado), and all of the top 10 restrict motorcycle permits to drivers under the age of 16.
How many people are interested in learning to ride a motorcycle in each state?
We wanted to further our understanding of motorcycle culture in the states by finding out how much interest people in each state show in learning how to ride a motorcycle. We did this by analyzing Google search data for the key terms ‘motorcycle lessons’ and ‘learn how to ride a motorcycle’. We then collected the search volumes, divided them by state populations and multiplied the figure by 100,000. We found that:
|Rank||State||Average monthly searches for ‘motorcycle lessons’ and ‘learn how to ride a motorcycle’ per 100,000 people|
|1||District of Columbia||5.97|
- Americans in the District of Columbia have the most interest in learning to ride motorcycles, searching for motorcycle lessons an average of 5.97 times a month per 100,000 people.
- People in California and New York also show comparatively high interest in motorcycles, searching 4.97 and 4.29 times per 100,000 people respectively.
- Iowan Americans show very little interest in learning to drive motorcycles, searching a mere 0.94 times per 100,000 people.
Are motorcycle incident rates on the rise?
So how often do motorcycle accidents occur in the US? And has this figure changed with the structure of the roads over the past 20 years? To find out, we analyzed NHTSA data* to find out how many incidents involving motorcycles were reported every year since 1990.
- The rate of motorcycle accidents peaked in 1991 at 1,155 reported crashes in the US.
- This figure reduced exponentially between 1991 and 1992, dropping by a quarter (387) in just one year.
- The rate of motorcycle incidents continued to drop until the year 1999, reaching a low of only 556 reported incidents that year.
- The safest year for motorcyclists was 2008, when only 547 accidents occured, less than any other year since 1990.
*The injury and crash data in this table are from NHTSA’s General Estimates System (GES). The data from the GES, which began operation in 1988, are obtained from a nationally representative probability sample selected from all police-reported crashes. The GES sample includes only crashes where a police accident report was completed and the crash resulted in property damage, injury, or death. The resulting figures do not take into account crashes that were not reported to the police or that did not result in property damage.
How many fatal motorcycle crashes happen each year in each state in the US?
So how often do fatal motorcycle accidents actually occur on the road? To find out, we used the NHTSA’s road fatality and injury reporting tool to collect state-by-state data on the number of fatal crashes involving a motorcycle reported from 2006 to 2020. We used this to determine which states are the most dangerous for motorcyclists in the US.
|Rank||State||Number of fatal crashes involving a motorcycle per 100,000 people from 2006-2020|
|51||District of Columbia||9|
- Wyoming is the most dangerous state for motorcyclists, with 44.57 accidents involving a motorcycle occuring for every 100,000 people since 2006, despite being one of the top 10 states for Google searches for motorcycle safety courses.
- Despite its residents showing more interest in learning to ride a motorcycle than people in any other state, the District of Columbia experiences the fewest motorcycle accidents out of all states in the US.
- Despite sharing an age restriction of 18 with the two safest states in the US (Massachusetts and the District of Columbia), Kentucky is the 8th most dangerous state, experiencing 30.56 fatal crashes involving motorcycles per every 100,000 people between 2006 and 2020.
- South Carolina and New Mexico are also in the top 10 most dangerous states, both states enforcing a lower-than-average age restriction for motorcyclists (15 years).
- Despite this, most states with low age restrictions are comparatively safe for motorcyclists, with Texas, North Dakota, Idaho and California falling in the top 25 states with the lowest fatal crash rates.
Hopefully, this data has helped you understand the rate of motorcycle accidents in the US in 2022, and the measures being taken to reduce these figures. For more information on motorcycle safety and what to do if you find yourself involved in a motorcycle accident, access our blog here.