Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

| Defensive Driving |

As May heralds the arrival of warmer weather, many motorcyclists across America eagerly anticipate the beginning of the riding season. However, May is also Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, a crucial time to remind all motorists that motorcyclist safety is everyone’s safety. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) underscores the importance of motorcycle safety for all road users, advocating for consistent safe driving and riding practices to reduce the number of motorcyclist fatalities on America’s roads.

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

The Stark Reality of Motorcycle Accidents

Each year, motorcyclists are disproportionately represented in traffic crashes. According to NHTSA data, 6,218 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes in 2022, accounting for 15% of total highway fatalities for that year—a 1% increase from 2021. Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, motorcyclists were about 22 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle crash and four times more likely to be injured.

Two significant contributors to these fatalities are speeding and alcohol impairment. In 2022, 35% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 22% of passenger car drivers, 15% of light-truck drivers, and 6% of large-truck drivers. Motorcycle riders aged 21 to 24 had the highest speeding involvement at 51%.

Alcohol impairment also played a critical role in motorcycle-involved crash fatalities. Of the 2,254 motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2022, 42% were alcohol-impaired. Motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes had a higher percentage of alcohol impairment than any other type of motor vehicle driver (28% for motorcycle riders, 25% for passenger car drivers, 21% for light-truck drivers, and 3% for large-truck drivers). Notably, 46% of motorcycle riders killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekends and 42% of those killed at night were alcohol-impaired.

The Importance of Helmet Use

Like seat belts, wearing DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets saves lives and reduces injuries. After three years of declines, helmet use among motorcycle riders increased from 64.9% in 2021 to 66.5% in 2022. Similarly, helmet use among motorcycle riders with passengers rose from 52.1% in 2021 to 58.3% in 2022. Unfortunately, helmet use among motorcyclists in light traffic decreased significantly from 59% in 2021 to 35.5% in 2022. NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists’ lives in 2017 and that 749 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.

Helmet use remains significantly higher in states with mandatory helmet laws. However, the rise of novelty helmets that do not meet federal safety standards is concerning. These helmets, often adorned with false DOT labels, offer no real protection in a crash. The use of noncompliant helmets increased significantly from 2021 to 2022 across various traffic conditions.

Promoting Safe Driving and Riding Practices

To help reduce fatalities and injuries on America’s roadways, all road users—vehicle drivers and motorcyclists alike—should follow these safe driving and riding practices:

  • Observe all traffic laws and always obey the speed limit.
  • Drive and ride alcohol- and drug-free.
  • Avoid distractions while driving or riding.
  • Yield to motorcyclists, especially when turning at intersections.
  • Motorcyclists should wear high-visibility protective gear and DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets.
Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Motorcyclists can further promote road safety by completing a rider education and training course. During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month—and every month—motorcycle riders should commit to adopting and promoting safe driving and riding practices. By working together, we can create a safer environment for motorcycle riders and all other motorists.

For more information on how to choose a safe, DOT-compliant helmet, visit NHTSA’s Motorcycle Safety Page.

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