Although the market for motorcycles in the U.S. declined in 2009 due to the recession, the numbers were back up by 7.2 percent during the first quarter of 2011 thanks to an unusual source, retiring Baby Boomers. The average age of riders is inching upward, with more and more riders getting on a bike for the first time in their 50s and 60s, or returning to riding after decades out of the saddle.
High gasoline prices are also contributing to increased ridership. The average miles per gallon achieved on two wheels hovers around 56. Broaden the definition of “motorcycle” to include the class of Vespa-like scooters, and the average fuel economy is 85 mpg.
Two-Wheeled Vehicles Present Higher Risk
Any two-wheeled mode of transportation is at a higher risk in traffic with automobiles. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of all motorcycle accidents are caused when the passenger vehicle does not yield right of way to the rider.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a non-profit group, has released some of the first motorcycle fatality statistics compiled for 2010. Although the data represents only the first nine months of the year, when the group made its preliminary projection last year, the figures were only off the final totals by one-tenth of a percentage point.
Statistically, Motorcycle Deaths Are Down
The news is both good and bad. For 2010, motorcycle fatalities are down 2 percent from 4,465 in 2009 to 4,376 or fewer in 2010. While that sounds good, it’s far less than the impressive 16 percent drop in fatalities calculated for 2009. Those numbers followed 11 straight years of steadily increasing motorcycle deaths.
Some states are tallying better numbers. For instance, deaths in Texas dropped 16 percent, with Oregon showing at 27 percent dip, and Oklahoma 30 percent. Each of these states have strong laws levying penalties for non-licensed drivers, regulating helmet use, and imposing mandatory safety training.
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A companion statistic, however, is frightening. In 2009 nationwide, 67 percent of riders used a helmet. In 2010, only 54 percent of riders were protecting themselves with appropriate headgear.
How Do Traffic Fatalities Compare?
By comparison, traffic fatalities for automobiles fell to their lowest level since 1949 during 2010, dropping three percent from the previous year, and 25 percent since 2005 — just 1.09 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled.
There are more than 5 million motorcycles registered in the United States. In 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figured there were 33.38 motorcycle fatalities per 100 miles traveled.
Going by the GHSA statistics, you’re roughly 20 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than an auto accident. Additionally, with an absence of airbags and the alarming decline in helmet use, motorcycle riders are at a proportionally higher risk for suffering debilitating brain injuries.
Given these numbers, it is absolutely imperative for riders to be adequately insured, not only to protect themselves and their machines, but also to guard their families against the high cost of health care.
Insurance is based on the risk level of any behavior or situation, but it is possible to get affordable coverage for yourself and your bike. Visit our cheap motorcycle insurance start page to find out how. And — train appropriately to get your license, wear a helmet, and ride safe!