The Shocking Truth About Motorcycle Accidents
Good riding conditions year-round, hundreds of miles of level highways, and beautiful coastlines appear to make South Florida the ideal destination to be a motorcyclist. However, one look at recent motorcycle accident statistics paints a very different picture. Florida annually leads the entire nation in the number of motorcycle deaths and injuries. Making matters worse, Florida allows all riders over the age of 21 to opt out of helmet use, so long as they carry medical coverage. With a staggering amount of fatalities, traumatic brain injuries, and life-altering crashes in the state of Florida, the following motorcycle accident statistics are truly sobering.
Staggering National Fatality and Injury RatesMotorcycles makeup just 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States and account for only 0.6 percent of all vehicle miles traveled. Yet motorcycle deaths accounted for 14 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2017. In fact, the fatality rate for motorcyclists was six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants. In 2017 alone, a total of 5,172 motorcyclists were killed in an accident. Of these motorcyclist deaths, 38 percent occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 62 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes. The vast majority of motorcyclists both injured and killed in 2017 were male, making up 91 percent of fatalities. This overwhelming amount of motorcycle accidents is not a new trend. Rider deaths have steadily been increasing, and in 2017 fatalities among motorcycle drivers and passengers were more than double those in 1997.
A Troubling 30 Year TrendDespite a decline in motorcycle accidents in the early 1980s, the total accident rate in the U.S. unexpectedly spiked in 1998. This led to a continuous annual increase that ultimately peaked in 2008. That year, more than 5,300 people died in motorcycle crashes, the highest number of motorcyclists killed in one year since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began collecting fatal motor vehicle crash data in 1975. After declining 16 percent in 2009, motorcycle deaths climbed once again in 2016. In 2016 alone, 5,286 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 5.1 percent from 2015. Motorcycle fatalities have increased for the past two years in a row, and to date, 2018 is currently projected to be on par with 2008’s previous peak for total fatalities nationwide.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics in Fort LauderdaleIn 2015, Florida had a total of 550 motorcyclist deaths. The total for the entire nation was 4,837. This means that 11.4 percent of all motorcycle accident deaths occurred in Florida alone. To put these numbers into perspective, Florida’s population is just over 21 million people versus the United States’ population of 327 million. So, while Florida’s population is barely 7 percent of all the nation’s residents, more than 11 percent of all motorcycle fatalities occurred in Florida. Unfortunately, South Florida counties are the leading locations in the state for motorcycle crashes. In 2017, Broward County ranked second in Florida for the most motorcycle crashes. A total of 736 motorcycle accidents were reported, resulting in 33 fatalities and 607 injuries. Fort Lauderdale, Broward County’s county seat, has become a hot spot for motorcyclists due to its winding beachfront roads. However, these open spaces can be deadly for motorcycle riders. Last year, 53 percent of motorcyclist accidents occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways. Likewise, 58 percent of deaths were more likely to occur in urban than in rural areas.
Motorcycle Rider Safety in Fort LauderdaleMuch like driving a car, operating a motorcycle demands certain safety procedures, including being properly insured. However, almost one out of every six motorcyclists in South Florida does not have motorcycle insurance. Likewise, approximately one out of seven motorcyclists do not wear a safety helmet. In fact, almost one-third of the bikers in Florida do not believe they should be mandated to wear a safety helmet by law.
- Face Shield or Glasses: 81%
- Boots: 64%
- Gloves: 63
- Protective Jackets: 55%
Why Are Motorcycles More Dangerous Than Other Vehicles?It’s widely believed that motorcycles are more dangerous than other vehicles, and for a good reason. For one, motorcycles are less visible to other drivers and pedestrians. In 2016, 43 percent of two-vehicle fatal motorcycle crashes involved a vehicle turning left while the motorcyclist was going straight, passing, or overtaking the vehicle. In many of these accidents, the driver of the vehicle did not see the motorcyclist before impact. For this reason, stopping, turning, and properly braking a motorcycle is crucial. Antilock braking systems (ABS) prevents motorcycle wheels from locking up. On a car, a lockup can result in a skid. On a motorcycle, however, a lockup can lead to a deadly fall. For motorcycles lacking antilock brakes, the rate of fatal crashes is 69 percent higher than for the same models without them. Lastly, the sheer openness of a motorcycle can make it inherently more dangerous. Both motorcyclists and their passengers are more vulnerable to road conditions and hazardous weather than drivers in closed vehicles. Likewise, in the case of an accident, a motorcyclist does not have the protection of two tons of steel protecting them as a car does. Falls from a motorcycle can throw the driver onto the hard concrete, or drag them against it.
The Type of Motorcycle Can Impact Accident RatesMuch like four-wheel vehicles, motorcycles can be grouped into ten different classes. Some of these types are intrinsically more dangerous than others. Supersport motorcycles, for example, are consumer versions of racing motorcycles. Their combination of lightweight and high-horsepower engines means many models can quickly reach speeds of more than 160 miles per hour. Supersport motorcycles have driver death rates about four times as high as that of cruisers and standards – both larger bikes with a lower power-to-rate ratio. Sadly, it appears the smaller, faster bikes are appealing more to South Florida’s younger residents. Among fatally injured motorcyclists in 2017, 84 percent of cruiser or standard motorcycle drivers were 30 or older. In comparison, 56 percent of fatally injured supersport drivers were younger than 30.
Trends in Helmet Use: Florida vs. United StatesAmong both fatal and non-fatal motorcycle accident injuries, a head injury is the most common. Therefore, a helmet is an essential piece of safety equipment a motorcyclist could own. In fact, the federal government estimates that helmets are 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries and reduce the risk of dying in a crash by 37 percent. Yet, only 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate helmet use by all riders. Florida is not one of them. The state repealed its universal helmet law in 2000, allowing riders over the age of 21 to opt out of helmet use so long as they carry medical insurance coverage of at least $10,000. By 2008, crashes and injuries in the state had nearly doubled. Since the helmet law repeal, the number of fatal crashes for every 10,000 registered motorcycles has increased by 21 percent, suggesting motorcyclists without helmets are more likely to suffer severe and fatal injuries. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), if all motorcyclists in deadly crashes in 2016 had worn helmets, an estimated 802 lives could have been saved.
The High Cost of Head InjuriesFollowing Florida’s helmet law repeal, the state’s hospital admissions of motorcyclists with injuries to the head, brain, and skull increased by 82 percent. These types of injuries come at high costs. Gross costs charged to hospital-admitted motorcyclists with head, brain, or skull injuries more than doubled, from $21 million to $50 million. Between nonfatally injured motorcyclists who wore helmets and unhelmeted riders, those who had not worn helmets incurred higher healthcare costs. Moreover, motorcyclists who do not wear helmets are more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries, incurring median hospital charges that are 13 times higher than for those without such injuries. Florida motorcyclists who do not wear helmets also are less likely to have health insurance, and therefore are more likely to suffer under the weight of medical bills following an accident.
Alcohol Involvement in Motorcycle AccidentsUnder no circumstances should an individual operate any motor vehicle while drunk, whether it be a passenger vehicle or a motorcycle. However, recent motorcycle accident statistics suggest that alcohol is a bigger problem in single-vehicle crashes of motorcycle drivers than in accidents with other vehicles. 37 percent of the 1,846 motorcycle drivers killed in single-vehicle crashes in 2016 had blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. In comparison, 29 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers had BACs at or above 0.08 percent. Moreover, 49 percent of motorcycle drivers killed between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. in 2017 had BACs at or above 0.08 percent.
Most Common Days and Times for AccidentsOf course, you can never plan for when or where an accident will occur. However, a look at recent motorcycle accident statistics shows a trend among the most common days and times for accidents in Florida.
- 48 percent of motorcyclist deaths in 2017 happened on weekends.
- 24 percent of weekday accidents occurred between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., and 19 percent between 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- 25 percent of weekend accidents occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., and 17 percent between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
- The least accidents occurred between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.
- Fatalities peaked in July and were lowest in January.
- 58 percent of motorcyclist fatalities in 2017 occurred between May.
What to Do After a Motorcycle AccidentMore than 7,700 people suffered motorcycle accident injuries throughout Florida in 2017. Over 500 were killed.
- Traumatic brain injury
- Broken bones
- Road rash
- Spinal cord injuries
- Cuts and scrapes
- Facial and/or dental damage