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Motorcycles

While overall traffic crash fatalities continue to decrease in Washington, motorcyclist fatalities continue to rise.

In our state, motorcycles make up just 4 percent of the registered vehicles, but account for almost 15 percent of the traffic fatalities (2009-2011 average).

Year Total Traffic Fatalities Motorcycle Fatalities Percentage of Total
2009 492 69 14%
2010 460 70 15%
2011 454 72 16%
2012 438 83 19%
2013 (Preliminary) 435 72 17%

Highlights from Washington’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan: Target Zero (2009-2011 data)

Training and Endorsement

Around 75% of fatalities involve: 1) riders with less than two years’ experience, 2) unendorsed riders or 3) riders with unknown experience levels. Approved motorcycle rider training schools can be found at many locations around the state.

A license endorsement is required in Washington to ride a motorcycle. Data shows that endorsed riders have fewer infractions and are less likely to be involved in fatal collisions when compared to unendorsed riders.

In 2007 legislation was passed allowing law enforcement to impound unendorsed riders’ bikes when they’ve been pulled over for a routine traffic stop. The result was a dramatic increase in new riders taking training courses on their path to endorsement.

Motorcycle Helmets

Universal motorcycle helmet laws are effective at increasing helmet use, and are recommended by NHTSA as a “countermeasure that works”. Review Washington’s helmet law.

Impaired Riding

Alcohol impairment was involved in 25% of fatalities. And motorcyclists are the only person group where drug impairment, involved in 29% of fatalities, exceeds alcohol impairment. This means one in four motorcyclists killed on our roads were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Speeding

Speeding was involved in 57% of fatalities and 30% of serious injuries among motorcyclists.

Age

Young and middle aged riders are over-represented in fatal crashes. Overwhelmingly younger riders choose a “sport bike” which is generally a low to the ground, high performance and very fast. The middle aged riders frequently choose “cruisers” which are heavy, large, highway type motorcycles designed for comfort and longer rides.

Gender

Male riders were involved in 92% of fatalities and 83% of serious injury collisions.

Violations

The average number of violations for all endorsed motorcyclists is a 1.1. Endorsed riders in fatal collisions have had an average of 4.1 violations.


Program Contact

Mark Medalen - Program Manager

360.725.9878 mmedalen@wtsc.wa.gov