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CONSUMER ADVISORY: Safely 'Share the Road' with Motorcyclists

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Safe riding practices, helmet use and cooperation from all drivers
will reduce fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways

WASHINGTON U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) remind motorists and motorcyclists to ‘Share the Road’ during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. A motorcyclist has the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as any other motorist on the roadway.

“Sharing the road means looking out for your neighbors, whether driving, riding, or walking – and when everyone obeys the rules of the road we all travel more safely,” said Secretary Foxx. “It’s especially important now as the weather gets warmer and more motorcyclists will be out on the road – we must look out for their safety.”

In 2013, 4,668 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes – a six percent decrease from 2012 (4,986). Those deaths account for 14 percent of the total highway fatalities that year, despite motorcycle registrations representing only three percent of all vehicles in the United States in the same year. 

Key statistical findings in NHTSA’s new 2013 Motorcycle Traffic Safety Facts include:

  • There were an estimated 88,000 motorcyclists injured during 2013, a five percent decrease from 93,000 motorcyclist injured in 2012.
  • Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclist fatalities occurred 26 times more frequently than passenger car occupants in a traffic crash.
  • 25 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2013 were riding their vehicles without valid motorcycle licenses.
  • 40 percent of motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2013 were alcohol impaired.
  • Motorcycle riders killed in traffic crashes at night were almost four times more frequently to be alcohol impaired than those killed during the day.

Alcohol continues to be a factor in motorcycle fatalities.  According to data from 2013, motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were found to have the highest percentage of alcohol impaired drivers than any other vehicle type (27 percent for motorcycles, 23 percent for passenger cars, 21 percent for light trucks, and 2 percent for large trucks).

“Drunk driving by motorcyclists remains a serious, unacceptable threat to our families and our communities,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “It's critical to safety that motorcyclists never ride while drunk or distracted, and always wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear every time they take to the road. All road users must share the road conscientiously.”

Helmet usage remained the same from 2012 to 2013 at 60 percent. NHTSA estimates that 1,630 lives were saved in 2013 because of proper helmet usage, but another 715 lives could have been saved if helmets had been worn. In states without universal helmet laws, 59 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2013 were not wearing helmets, as compared to 8 percent in States with universal helmet laws.

Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers.

Currently 19 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico require helmet use by all motorcyclists. In 28 States, helmet use is required for only a subset of motorcyclists (typically, motorcyclists under age 18), and 3 States (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) did not require helmet use for motorcyclists of any age.

NHTSA offers these tips to drivers on how to prevent a fatal crash with a motorcycle:

  • Though a motorcycle is a small vehicle, its operator still has all the rights of the road as any other motorist. Allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane at all times.
  • Always signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful: motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and could have been forgotten. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.
  • Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic, especially at intersections.
  • Always allow more follow distance – three to four seconds – when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Never drive distracted or impaired.

Motorcyclists can increase their safety by following these steps:

  • Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.
  • Obey all traffic laws and be properly licensed.
  • Use hand and turn signals at every lane change or turn.
  • Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
  • Ride in the middle of the lane where you will be more visible to drivers.
  • Never ride distracted or impaired.

For more information on motorcycle safety, visit

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