California Motorcycle Accident Statistics
We don’t usually associate motorcycle accident statistics with good news, but the Governors Highway Safety Association did just that in their latest report. Just in time for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, the non-profit organization’s study revealed that fatalities related to motorcycle accidents dropped from 5,286 in 2016 to 4,990 in 2017.
One of the reasons for this drop is beyond our control: weather, but the others are most definitely not.
Factors that have helped contribute to this drop:
- Weather - Bad weather played a major role in this statistic as Mother Nature wreaked havoc on several regions of the country. Ridership in the Southeastern United States and Texas took a dip due to Hurricanes Harvey and Katrina. In parts of the Midwest and Northeast, a long, harsh winter kept motorcyclists off the roads for longer than expected as well.
- Increased Helmet Use – As of this writing, only three states don’t have any helmet laws. Some states have age-specific helmet laws for anyone under 21. Studies show that states with universal helmet laws have lower rates of head, brain, and facial injuries. Overall, motorcyclist helmet use increased overall, with the biggest jump among riders in the western U.S., where it went up from 74% in 2015 to 90% in 2016.
High-risk behaviors most associated with motorcycle accidents and fatalities:
- Impaired Riding – Impaired riding continues to claim a large number of motorcyclist lives. 25% of motorcyclists killed in accidents last year had elevated blood alcohol levels. In addition, the accident rate was 3% higher in states where marijuana has been legalized, as opposed to states where the use of the recreational drug is still restricted.
- Distracted Driving – Distracted driving comes in many forms. Most involve some sort of cellphone use. Incredibly, some motorists will take both hands off the wheel while their vehicle is in motion in order to take a call or text. The NHTSA equated a motorist taking their eyes off the road for just 5 seconds to them driving the length of a football field with their eyes closed.
A fender bender between two vehicles due to cellphone use can usually be classified as a fender bender. However, the same distracted motorist hitting a motorcyclist can result in severe injuries or even death for the much more vulnerable motorcyclist.
- Older Motorcyclists – 54% of all motorcycle fatalities in 2016 involved riders who were 40 and older. This is partially due simply to demographics. As the motorcycle rider population ages, the number of younger riders joining their ranks has not kept pace, so there just happen to be a larger number of older riders on the road.
But that only partially sheds light on this percentage. Older motorcyclists often have diminished faculties, such as slower reaction times. That, together with today’s more powerful motorcycles helps to explain why this group figures so prominently among the number of fatalities.
Efforts to Reduce Motorcycle Accidents and Fatalities:
- Ignition Locks - One idea being tested to reduce impaired riding fatalities involves the use of ignition interlocks. These devices, which connect to any ignition, can detect breath alcohol levels. If the device reads a blood alcohol level above that state’s limit, the motorcycle will not start.
Currently, 26 states require anyone convicted of a DUI to have one of these ignition interlocks on their vehicle or motorcycle.
- Combining Rider Education with Licensing – A whopping 27% of fatally injured motorcyclists were not carrying a valid driver’s license. Unlicensed riders are also more likely to be self-taught.
To combat this, several states have made the process of obtaining a motorcycle license more efficient while implementing safety training. For example, in a few states, riders who take a safety training course do not have to take the skills test portion of their motorcycle licensing test.
In spite of this good news, the fatality rate for motorcycle riders is still 28 times higher than for passenger vehicles. Hopefully, ongoing safety measures and awareness on the part of both motorists and motorcycle riders will help this downward trend in motorcycle accident fatalities continue in 2018.
California Motorcycle Accident Statistics: Fatal & Injuries
California has the highest number of roads listed in the ‘Top 100 Motorcycle Roads’ in motorcycleroads.com, an online guide to motorcycle roads, rides and events. Not surprisingly, it also has the highest number of registered motorcycles in the United States. There are more than 800,000 registered motorcycles in the state. With such a large number of motorcycles, it is inevitable that the state beats every other state in the number of motorcycle crashes.
Below are the motorcycle fatality and injury statistics for the year 2013, the last year for which complete data is available. The data was obtained from the SWITRS Report on California Highway Patrol (CHP) website.
Total Number of Motorcycle Fatalities and Injuries
- Total number of fatalities: 467
- Total number of people injured: 11,644
Motorcycle Fatalities and Injuries by Age Group
- The age group with the highest number of injuries was 25-34 with 3,370 injured.
- Other age groups with high number of injuries were 15-24 with 2,765 injured, 35-44 with 1,918 injured, 45-54 with 1,948 injured, and 55-64 with 1,314 injured.
- The age group with the highest number of fatalities was 25-34 with 121 killed.
- The age group with the lowest number of injured was 0-4 with 11 injured.
- The age group with the lowest number of fatalities was 85 and over with 1 killed.
- Other age groups with the high number of fatalities were 15-24 with 83 killed, 35-44 with 87 killed, 45-54 with 67 killed, and 55-64 with 80 killed.
- The age group that was found to have violated the most traffic rules was 20-24 (53 violations causing fatalities and 1,255 violations causing injuries).
- Other age groups that were found to have violated a high number of traffic rules were 25-29 (45 crashes causing fatalities and 1,077 crashes causing injuries) and 30-34 (45 crashes causing fatalities and 742 crashes causing injuries.
California Motorcycle Fatalities and Injuries by Months
- Most injuries occurred from May to October. There were over 1,000 injuries in each month.
- Number of fatalities were distributed almost evenly in all months, the highest being 57 in August and the lowest being 13 in January.
California Fatalities and Injuries by Counties
- The county with the highest number of injuries was Los Angeles with 3,509 injured.
- Other counties with over 500 people injured were Orange with 989 injured, Riverside with 525 injured, and San Diego with 1,285 injured.
- The county with the highest number of fatalities was Los Angeles with 105 killed.
- Other countries with over 20 fatalities were Orange with 30 killed, Riverside with 37 killed, Sacramento with 22 killed, San Bernardino with 32 killed, and San Diego with 47 killed.
- The counties with the lowest number of injuries were Glenn and Modoc with only 3 people injured in each.
- The counties with the lowest number of fatalities were Alpine, Colusa, Glenn, Inyo, Kings, Modoc, Mono, Sierra, Siskiyou, and Yuba with 0 killed.
Number of Motorcycle Crashes causing Fatalities by Collision Factor
- Total number of fatal accidents: 319
- Top cause of fatal motorcycle crashes was driving at an unsafe speed (128 crashes).
- Other collision factors with high number of fatal crashes were DUI (65 crashes), driving on the wrong side of the road (27 crashes), improper turning (59 crashes) and violation of right-of-way regulations (13 crashes).
Number of Motorcycle Crashes causing Injuring by Collision Factor
- Total number of crashes causing injuries: 6,563
- Top cause of injurious motorcycle accidents was driving at unsafe speed (3,179 crashes).
- Other collision factors causing high number of injuries were DUI (465 crashes), following too closely (111 crashes), driving on the wrong side of the road (218 crashes), improper passing (244 crashes), unsafe lane change (210 crashes), improper turning (1,432 crashes), violation of right-of-way regulations (221 crashes), and violation of traffic signals (165 crashes).
The rates of injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcycle crashes have remained more or less the same from 2009 to 2013.
These statistics show that, on average, there are about 18 motorcycle accidents every day across California resulting in injuries to 32 people and the death of 1.28 people. What this implies that any motorcyclist can easily become one of the victims on any day. If you have lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, then call a skilled and experienced motorcycle accident attorney to learn about your rights and best options for recovery.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in California? Call Us Now
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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Motorcycles (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 812 492). U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC; 2017.