The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has released its preliminary report on Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities By State for 2017, and initial findings indicate that rider fatalities are expected to have decreased by 5.6 percent nationwide from 2016, a reduction of 296.

However, the report also points out that “motorcyclist fatality numbers have fluctuated over the past 10 years, showing several increases and decreases absent of sustained trends. The projected decline in fatalities in 2017 may not be an ongoing trend in this direction. Identifying effective and efficient motorcyclist safety programs is a priority for states, and efforts to increase the effectiveness of these campaigns should be maintained.”

Since 2010, the GHSA has requested preliminary motorcyclist fatality data from each state to predict deaths, and incorporates those numbers with a series of questions that attempt to determine trends and explanations for these trends. This is all compiled into a yearly report.

Click here to read the 2017 preliminary report.

While there are some bright spots in the report (30 states and the District of Columbia reported a decrease in fatalities), there are also some troubling facts, especially in regards to alcohol and drug use and helmet use.

We encourage you to read the entire report, where you can also see how your state stacks up in fatality and helmet use, but we’ve also pulled a few key facts for you to scan if you don’t have time to go through all 27 pages of the report.

  • In 2016, 5,286 motorcyclists were killed on U.S. roadways. This was a 5.1 percent increase from 2015.
  • In 2016, motorcyclists were 28 times more likely to die in a crash than those in a  passenger vehicle, when accounting for vehicle miles travelled.
  • In 2016, 25 percent of motorcyclists in fatal crashes were under the influence of alcohol. This is the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers than any other vehicle type.
  • In 2016, 37 percent of motorcyclists killed in single-vehicle crashes were alcohol-impaired. 55 percent of those killed on a weekend night were impaired.
  • Motorcyclist fatalities increased steadily from 1997 through 2008, for an all-time high of 5,312. Then they dropped in 2009 and fluctuated in the ensuing six years before hitting 5,286 in 2016, the second-highest on record.
  • Motorcycle registrations as a percentage of total motor vehicle registrations rose from 1.9 percent in 1994 to 3.2 percent in 2016.
  • In 2016, Nevada had the highest number of motorcyclist deaths as a percentage of total motor vehicle deaths, at 22.6 percent. Alaska was the lowest, at 7.1 percent.
  • Motorcyclist fatalities increased in 18 states. Seven states reported increases of 20 percent or more. The highest was Rhode Island with a 175 percent increase.
  • Motorcyclist fatalities decreased in 30 states and D.C.. Fourteen states reported decreases of 20 percent or more. The highest was D.C. with a 66.7 percent decrease.

Scroll to page 9 of the report to see how your state fared.

  • In states where deaths increased, speed, crossing the center line and an increase in motorcycle registrations were cited as possible contributing factors.
  • In states where deaths decreased, a reduction in motorcycle registrations was cited as a possible contributing factor.
  • Older riders have surpassed young ones in fatalities nationwide. Over the last four years, the 40-and-older age group was the largest percentage of motorcycle fatalities, at 54 to 55 percent.
  • Female rider fatalities are growing, with more women taking up riding. Males still represent the majority of deaths.
  • Most motorcyclist fatalities are single-vehicle incidents.
  • Nebraska, despite having a universal helmet law, reported a decrease in helmet usage from 99.7 percent in 2016 to 84.8 percent in 2017. It also reported an increase in non-DOT compliant helmet use from 10.3 percent to 15.7 percent. Incidentally, it was one of the states with an over-20 percent increase in fatalities.

Scroll to page 14 of the report to see each state’s helmet laws.

  • In 2016, 27 percent of motorcyclist fatalities were riding without a valid motorcycle endorsement.
  • Fatal crashes are 31 percent lower on ABS-equipped bikes than on the same model without ABS.
  • “Supersport” bikes have fatality rates that are 4 times higher than cruisers, standards, touring and sport-touring bikes.
  • At least 14 states are currently under pressure to adopt lane sharing/splitting laws, which is believed to reduce congestion and rear-ending accidents with motorcycles.

So what’s the best way to make sure you don’t end up a statistic? Wear proper gear, including a DOT-compliant helmet, take a training class (and continue your rider education throughout your life–we’re always learning!) and never get on your bike after you’ve been drinking. Then get out there and be a good ambassador for riders!

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