We hear a lot about how dangerous it is to ride a motorcycle. Compared to driving a car, that’s more or less true, depending on how you frame the numbers. But how dangerous is dangerous?
In this article I take a look at some of the numbers that are available, predominantly from U.S. Sources, in order to get a better idea of how much more dangerous it is to ride a motorcycle than it is to drive a car.
It stands to reason that when you get into an accident it’s better to be in a big steel cage with airbags and all sorts of other design and technology features aimed at getting rid of that impact energy before it actually wrecks your body. When it comes to crashing with a bike you have none of that advantage at all. It’s pretty much the big bad world, your body, and any protective gear that you were smart enough to invest in.
The comparative numbers don’t look good, however. In the US, according to the 2006 NHTSA figures, there were 13.1 fatal crashes for every 100,000 cars on the road in the States. For bikes? A shocking 72.34 per 100,000 registered bikes.
The reason these numbers are given in “per 100,000” format is because of course the number of motorcycles and vehicles sold are not the same, so quoting absolute numbers would make cars seems more dangerous simply because way more people drive them. So on the face of it there’s no argument that bikes kill their owners more than four times as frequently when compared to cars.
Unfortunately the story doesn’t get much better.
Over the decades various reports have been compiled about motorcycle safety. One of the most famous is known a bit unfortunately as the Hurt report. This report came out in the early 80s and is responsible for a lot of current U.S. bike safety regulations.
In that original report they found that three-quarters of bike accidents were a collision between a motorcycle and a car. Two thirds of accidents involving only the bike were put down to rider error – braking too hard and too late, entering a corner too fast; that sort of thing.
Half of fatal accidents involved alcohol. The bigger the bike the higher the speed, and the more alcohol involved the more severe the injuries.