According to U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov), estimates, in 2005, 4,553 motorcyclists died in crashes, up 13.0 percent from 4,028 in 2004, marking the eighth consecutive year of higher motorcycle deaths. Motorcycle fatalities are at the highest level since 1986. From 1997, a historic low, to 2005, motorcycle fatalities are estimated to have risen 115 percent. In 2005, 87,000 motorcycle riders were injured in accidents, up 14.5 percent from 76,000 in 2004 and 53 percent from 57,000 in 1995.
In 2005 motorcyclists accounted for 10.5 percent of total traffic fatalities, 13.8 percent of occupant fatalities and 3.5 percent of all occupants injured. In 1997 motorcyclists accounted for only 5 percent of total traffic fatalities.
Older motorcycle riders, who account for an increasingly larger proportion of all motorcyclists, now account for about half of all motorcycle rider fatalities. NHTSA data show that in 2005, 47 percent of motorcycle riders killed in crashes were age 40 or over, compared with 25 percent ten years earlier. In contrast, fatalities among young motorcycle riders have declined in the past 10 years, relative to other age groups. In 2005 fatalities in the under 30-year old group dropped to 32 percent, from 50 percent in 1995. Fatalities among motorcyclists in the 30- to 39-year old group fell to 21 percent in 2005, from 26 percent ten years earlier.
Motorcyclist operators have high incidences of alcohol use. NHTSA says that in 2005, 27 percent of motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08 grams per deciliter (the national definition of drunk driving), compared with 22 percent of drivers of passenger cars, 21 percent of light truck drivers and 1 percent of large truck drivers in fatal crashes. These figures take into account fatally injured operators, passengers and/or pedestrians.
Of all fatally injured motorcycle operators, 27 percent had BAC levels of 0.08 or higher. Another 7 percent had lower alcohol levels (0.01 to 0.07 BAC.). Fatally injured motorcycle operators between the ages of 35 to 44 had the highest percentage of BACs 0.08 and above (39 percent), compared with those ages 45 to 49 (34 percent). Forty-one percent of the 1,878 fatally injured motorcycle operators who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2005 (for example, those in which the motorcycle crashed into a stationary object) had BAC levels of 0.08 or higher. On weekend nights, the proportion was higher: 61 percent of motorcycle operators who died in single-vehicle crashes had BACs of 0.08 or higher.
In 2005, 34 percent of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with 26 percent for drivers of passenger cars and 25 percent for light truck drivers, according to NHTSA.
Twenty-four percent of motorcycle operators who were involved in fatal crashes were riding without a valid license in 2005, compared with 12 percent of passenger vehicle drivers. NHTSA says that motorcycle operators were also 1.4 times more likely than passenger vehicle drivers to have a prior license suspension or revocation.