A Comprehensive Approach
            to Motorcycle Safety


Traffic crashes are a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Motorcycle crashes claim the lives of over 2,100 riders each year. Per mile traveled, motorcyclists are 16 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash and about four times as likely to be injured.1 While only 20 percent of car crashes result in injury or death, that figure jumps to an astounding 80 percent for motorcycle crashes.2

As with other traffic safety programs, a comprehensive motorcycle safety program works to prevent crashes, reduce injuries during a crash, and provide rapid emergency medical services response and better treatment for crash victims.

Crash prevention components. Preventing crashes before they occur is a key component of a motorcycle safety program. Motorcycle safety crash prevention programs focus on four areas:

  • Delivering nationally recognized rider education programs taught by trained instructors to teach riders the basic knowledge and skills needed to safely operate a motorcycle on streets and highways.

  • Increasing the number of properly licensed motorcycle operators to insure that riders who have not completed a rider education course can demonstrate basic knowledge of riding and can safely perform basic handling skills.

  • Reducing alcohol and other drug involvement in motorcycling because riding while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs decreases an operatorís ability to ride safely.

  • Supporting awareness activities to reach motorists who share the road with motorcyclists. Operators of other vehicles must be knowledgeable of the special characteristics of motorcycles and must use this knowledge to interact safely with these vehicles.

Injury prevention components. Despite the best prevention efforts, motorcycle crashes do occur. The majority of the crashes with other vehicles are not the motorcyclistís fault. During a crash, the most important factor in reducing injury is personal protection for the motorcyclist. Leather jackets, gloves, trousers, proper footwear, eye protection, and helmets provide this personal protection. Helmets are by far the motorcycle riderís most important safety equipment because they protect against injuries to the head and brain.


Why is injury prevention important during a crash? Consider some facts:

  • More than 80 percent of all reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death to the motorcyclist.3

  • Head injury is a leading cause of death and serious injury in motorcycle crashes, which is why helmets that meet or exceed federal safety standards should always be worn.

  • Research studies show that motorcycle helmets are 29 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries and 67 percent effective in preventing serious brain injury.4, 5

Clearly riders need protection when a crash occurs!


A helmet only works if a motorcyclist wears it, and the most effective means of increasing helmet usage is by enacting helmet laws that cover all riders -- universal motorcycle helmet laws.


Rapid emergency response. After a crash has occurred, an injured riderís life can depend on rapid and appropriate emergency medical response. Emergency medical service personnel provide life support at the scene and during transport to the optimal emergency care facility. Injury severity and time are critical to survival. Wearing a motorcycle helmet lessens the severity of head injuries and may give the emergency response team the extra time needed to save a life.


Table of Contents / Comprehensive Approach to Safety / Anatomy of a Crash /
Preventing Brain Injuries / Reducing Injuries & Saving Lives / Helemet Laws Work /
Reducing Costs / Not a Stand Alone Issue / Common Myths /
Tax Payer vs. Personal Freedom / More Info. / End Notes