Community Motorcycle Deaths Up 10% in 2015 | Fatalities from Crashes Top 5,000

Motorcycle Deaths Up 10% in 2015 | Fatalities from Crashes Top 5,000

Motorcycle Deaths Per Year

Motorcycle Deaths Up 10% in 2015 | Fatalities Top 5,000
Motorcycle Deaths Up 10% in 2015

With much attribution to lack of helmets, and riding while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that more than 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in 2015, which represents an estimated 10 percent increase over 2014.

This preliminary crash data – based at an early look at current data, trends, and developing issues – reports that this is more than 450 motorcycle fatalities over 2014. GHSA says it projects the final motorcyclist fatality total for 2015 will be 5,010 – only the third year in U.S. history, and the first time since 2008, in which the fatality number topped 5,000. Also, this report follows two years of decreasing motorcycle fatalities.

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The report takes data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and compared to 2014, motorcycle deaths by state increased in 31 states, decreased in 16, and remained the same in three others along with the District of Columbia. The GHSA report was created by Richard Retting and Heather Rothenberg of Sam Schwartz Consulting.

“These sobering findings provide a stark reminder of how susceptible motorcyclists are to fatal and life-threatening injuries,” Retting says. “The risk of motorcycle crashes and fatalities is compounded by factors such as alcohol and drug use, increased speed limits, the repeal of state helmet laws, and a record number of vehicles on U.S. roads. Concerted efforts are needed to reduce this tragic loss of life.”

The GHSA claims the way to reverse these growing statistics is to increase motorcycle safety by restoring the helmet law in the 32 states that don’t have a law. The GHSA further says that some states with helmet laws don’t require DOT standards, which, if employed, could further reduce the risk of fatal motorcycle crashes.

The GHSA reports that, currently, only 19 states and D.C. require all riders be helmeted. Another 28 mandate helmet use by riders younger than age 18 or 21, and three have no requirements. According to a 2014 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, the use rate of helmets in universal law states was 89 percent, compared with 48 percent in all other states.

GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins notes that “state and national data illustrate that motorcyclists are far more likely to be injured or killed in a crash than motor vehicle occupants. GHSA and its members will continue to support the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based motorcycle safety countermeasures to improve rider safety and, ultimately, save lives.”

The GHSA provides the following advice for motorcyclists to reduce fatal crashes:

  • Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet, even when not required by state law
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to make it easier to be seen by other drivers
  • Never ride impaired by alcohol or other drugs
  • Obey posted speed limits
  • When purchasing a new motorcycle, opt for a model with antilock brakes, which have been shown to decrease fatal motorcycle crashes by preventing a motorcycle’s wheels from locking during braking and assisting with maintaining the stability of the motorcycle
  • Drivers of other motor vehicles should always be aware and looking out for motorcyclists around them and, of course, obey all traffic laws – including not texting and driving

All 2015 data in the report are preliminary. State-by-state data and image files are available from GHSA.


Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

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