Motorcycle Accident Statistics in Washington & the U.S.

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Damaged Motorcycle on Road After AccidentYou are 28 times more likely to die in a crash if you are on a motorcycle than if you are in a car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In the state of Washington, the NHTSA found a spike in motorcyclist fatalities in 2016. Motorcycle rider deaths rose from 75 in 2015 to 81 in 2016. The 81 deaths in 2016 made up 15 percent of the total traffic fatalities in the state, including motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and the occupants of all types of vehicles. This is notable, as motorcycles do not make up 15 percent of the road and foot traffic. Of the 5,286 fatalities in 2016, 94 percent were riders, and 6 percent were passengers.

The number of registered bikes has steadily risen over the last decade, from 7,138,476 bikes in 2007 to 8,679,380 in 2016. Washington had 236,385 registered motorcycles in 2015.

How Fatal Accident Rates Compare Between Motorcycles, Cars & Light Trucks

According to the NHTSA, the fatality rate per registered vehicle is much higher for motorcyclists than it is for drivers operating cars and light trucks. In 2016, the fatality rate for motorcycles was almost 70 per 100,000 registered vehicle. That same year, the rate was almost 10 for cars and close to 8 for light trucks.

Most Fatal Motorcycle Accidents Involve Another Motor Vehicle.

According to the NHTSA data, over half of fatal motorcycle wrecks in 2016 occurred because a biker crashed with another motor vehicle. Of these two-vehicle fatal wrecks, the point of impact was in the front of the motorcycle in 72 percent of the cases, and in the rear only 7 percent of the time. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 40 percent of motorcyclist fatalities in 2016 nationwide were single-vehicle crashes, and 60 percent involved multiple vehicles.

Speeding Is a Factor in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents.

Speed was a factor in a higher percentage of fatal motorcycle wrecks than in any other vehicle type. The NHTSA found that about a third of the motorcycle fatalities happened when the rider was speeding, as opposed to 19 percent of car drivers, 15 percent of the drivers of light trucks, and 7 percent of the drivers of large trucks. The NHTSA defines “speed-related crashes” as those in which:

  • The driver received a speeding ticket; or
  • The officer reported that racing, exceeding the speed limit, or driving too fast for the road, traffic, or weather conditions caused the crash.

Motorcycle Fatalities Differ Throughout the Year.

According to the IIHS, the number of motorcycle deaths plummets in the winter, likely because the cold weather keeps many riders off the road. The highest number of fatalities occurs in July, while the fewest number of deadly crashes happen in January. In 2016, 58 percent of all motorcycle deaths happened between May and September.

Age and Gender Are Factors in Motorcycle Fatalities.

According to the NHTSA, the age of drivers killed in motorcycle wrecks has shifted to the older end of the spectrum in America. The average age of motorcycle fatalities was 39 in 2007 and 43 in 2016.

The IIHS found that males made up 91 percent of all motorcyclist fatalities in 2016. Nearly 70 percent of all passengers killed on motorcycles were female.

Here is how the ages of fatalities on motorcycles broke down in Washington in 2016.

Number of Motorcyclist Deaths in Washington State, By Age, 2016
Age Range Number of Deaths
Under 20 2
20-29 12
30-39 12
40-49 23
50-59 13
60 and older 19




Driving Records for Motorcycles Versus Other Vehicle Types

The NHTSA compared the previous driving records of drivers in fatal crashes in 2016. Motorcycle riders had the highest percentage of previous:

  • Recorded wrecks;
  • DWI convictions;
  • Speeding convictions; and
  • Recorded suspended or revoked licenses.

Alcohol Use of Motorcycle Riders Has Changed During the Last Decade.

The NHTSA data shows that, in 2007, 28 percent of the 4,853 riders killed in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. In 2016, that dropped to 25 percent. Even though there were more motorcycle fatalities in 2016 than in 2007, fewer crashes involved an illegal BAC.

Helmets Can Reduce Motorcyclist Fatalities.

The NHTSA estimates that 802 of the people who lost their lives in motorcycle crashes in 2016 could have lived had they worn helmets. The organization speculates that helmets could prevent 37 percent of motorcycle rider fatalities and 41 percent of motorcycle passenger deaths. Preventing a fatal accident is just one reason to wear a motorcycle helmet.

Call Max Meyers Law for Help If You Were in a Motorcycle Crash.

At Max Meyers Law, our motorcycle accident team is proud to represent riders in Washington. If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, call us at 425-399-7000 today. We can investigate your accident, determine who caused your crash, and determine if you qualify for recoverable damages. We offer free case evaluations to get started.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.