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  • State-by-state rider trends identified by GHSA suggests motorcyclist fatalities in the United States decreased by 5.6 percent in 2017, a difference of 296 lives from the year prior.
  • As with a majority of states, Kentucky also reported a decline in motorcyclist fatalities from 90 deaths in 2017 to a comparable 113 in 2016.
  • Male riders over the age of 40 contribute to the greatest share of the fatalities nationwide and alcohol, drug impairment and helmet use remain major motorcycle driver induced crash risk factors.
  • Safety officials at the NHTSA say motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars and call for greater safe motorcycling awareness like proper bike training for riders of all skill levels, and less negligent driving habits from other motor vehicle operators such as distracted driving and speeding.

U.S. Motorcyclist Fatalities Decrease but Greater Safety Awareness Still Needed to Lessen Rider Accident Injuries

From popular Harley Davidson softtail convertibles and glides to off-road bikes, super-sports, scooters and street motorcycles, every motorized bike requires varying stability, performance, visibility and handling needs for optimized rider safety experiences. And drivers will require more skilled coordination, alertness and noticeability versus those who operate everyday passenger vehicles. Without these added protections, motorcyclists, no matter what their skill level, will be more likely involved in a crash and carry a higher risk of serious and fatal injury since these bikes are much smaller fixtures on the road and its users are not riding within a safety enclosure other than in some cases, a helmet. For these reasons, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says motorcyclists and their passengers are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars.

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Most recent NHTSA reports (2017) stemmed from nationwide census data regarding fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle traffic crashes revealed these conclusions in motorcycle accident trends:

  • Age: There was an increase in older driver fatalities in 2017, bringing a shift from younger riders being overrepresented in motorcyclist fatalities to riders over the age of 40. State officials have made the suggestion that crashes specific to older, more experienced riders may result from a loss of skills and the lack of familiarity with the increased power and technology related accessories of motorcycles made today.
  • Sex: Males remain to be consistently overrepresented in motorcyclist fatalities and all U.S. states reported that male riders represent the majority of those involved in serious traumas and related crash injuries.
  • Rider Impairment: 25 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes in 2016 had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over the legal limit, the highest percentage of any other vehicle type, a trend which continued in 2017. Marijuana impairment is also on the rise and known to increase a person’s motorcycle crash risk. A 2017 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study found that “overall vehicle collision claims in states with legalized recreational marijuana were three percent higher than would have been expected without legalization.”
  • Crash Type: Motorcycles are becoming more frequently involved in fatal single-vehicle collisions with fixed objects than other vehicle types. Rider ability, in conjunction with alcohol and/or drug use, may be increasing the incidence.
  • Distracted Driving: With smartphone use and social media sharing on the rise, an increase in distracted driving related fatalities impacting all road users, including motorcycle operators, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Although these trends have been identified for motorcyclists, their related crash injuries are more often caused by other (non-motorcycle) drivers who violate the motorcyclist’s right of way and who disregard the general safety of other road users by making poor driving decisions.

Keep Motorcyclists Safe in Kentucky

As the weather allows motorcycle riding to grow in popularity for Kentuckians, drivers should be reminded of the many risks motorcyclists face while traveling. Because even non-motorcyclists play a serious role in their safety too. In order to prevent both these bike crashes and the tragic rider fatalities that too often result, the Kentucky Governor’s Commission on Motorcycle Safety and Education expects all drivers to:

  • Look Twice for Motorcycles: Motorists need to be especially alert at intersections and when making a left-hand turn. This is where most accidents occur, so be sure to look both ways for motorcycles.
  • Allow for Greater Following Distance: Road conditions that are minor annoyances to you can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcyclists may change their speed or adjust their position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement. Allow a greater following distance, three or four seconds, when following a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Share the Road: Remember that motorcyclists are entitled to a full lane to drive in. Give the motorcyclist respect by treating them like any other motor vehicle. Sharing the road will save lives.

Motorcycle Helmets Reduce Risk of Serious Head Injuries

Kentucky is one of the twenty-eight states to require only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet, even though the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) says 1,859 motorcyclist lives were saved in 2016 because they were wearing helmets and if all riders had worn helmets, an additional 802 lives would have been saved. Motorcycle helmets have also been shown to decrease the incidence and severity of traumatic brain injury and reduce the risk of head injuries by 69 percent and cervical spine injury from motorcycle crashes by more than 50 percent.

Other sustained injuries related to unhelmeted riders include:

  • vertebral fractures
  • cervical spine fracture
  • neck and shoulder injuries
  • hearing loss
  • skull fractures
  • facial lacerations

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety state the majority (82 percent) of Americans favor state laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets to protect people from one of the leading causes of death and disability. In Kentucky, only registered motorcycle owners over 21 years old are permitted to ride without a helmet but we encourage all riders to please consider wearing a DOT-compliant helmet marked with an identifying sticker on the back.

The experienced Kentucky motorcycle accident lawyers at Rhoads & Rhoads have seen numerous causes for these accidents. Despite taking all safety precautions and wearing protective gear, motorcycle crash injuries and serious fatalities still occur and are caused by driving distractions, dangerous road conditions or simply put – non-motorcycle negligent drivers.

Experienced Kentucky Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at Rhoads & Rhoads

If you or someone in your family has been seriously injured in a bike accident, the Kentucky motorcycle accident lawyers at Rhoads & Rhoads can help. Take advantage of our free initial consultation and discuss your case with us. Call us today at 888-709-9329.

Source: The full Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report, including state-by-state data, is available at