Motorcycle traffic fatalities increased by about 9% in 2012, says a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association. The report examined data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and produced a preliminary estimate based on data collected from the first nine months of 2012.

Based on those figures, the report projects 5,027 fatalities in 2012, a 9% increase from the 4,612 fatalities reported in 2011. Again, this is a preliminary estimate based primarily on data from the first nine months of 2012 and the final total may turn out to be a bit higher or a bit lower than 5000. Last year’s GHSA report, for example, estimated a toll of 4,500 fatalities, a figure that turned out to be 2.4% lower than the actual  year-end tally.

The report attributes the increase in motorcyclist deaths to record high temperatures last spring. A warmer spring means a longer riding season and therefore more riders on the road. From January to March, the study counted 690 motorcycle fatalities in 2012, a 24.3% increase from the 555 deaths tallied in the same months of 2011. Statistics from April to June saw a much smaller increase of 6.4%, rising to 1,570 deaths from 1,476. There were fewer deaths from July to September however, with the numbers decreasing 3.9% to 1,662 from 1,729 for those three months.


And of course, when there are more riders, there are likely to be more accidents and, unfortunately, more fatalities. According to the report, motorcycle fatalities closely follow trends in the number of motorcycle registrations over the last 14 years. High gasoline prices also lead to more riders, and spikes in gasoline prices have also translated to more registrations and more fatalities.


According to the report, traffic fatalities more than doubled from 1997 to 2008. The report found a decrease in fatalities in 2008, but the numbers have slowly risen since then.

Broken down by state, the report saw a decrease in fatalities in 16 states, while fatalities increased in 34 states (D.C. stayed even with three fatalities in the first nine months in both 2011 and 2012). The largest increase was reported in Indiana, with 130 deaths reported in the first nine months of 2012 compared to 101 deaths in 2011.

Texas saw the largest decrease, with 358 fatalities in the first nine months of 2012 compared to 392 in the same period of 2011. That being said, Texas still leads the nation in motorcycle fatalities followed by California at 318 and Florida with 287 (although Florida is the only state that did not include motorcycle passenger fatalities in its accounting; including passengers, Florida’s statistics would be higher.)


The GHSA report recommends four strategies for decreasing the number of motorcycle fatalities. The GHSA has long been a champion for universal helmet laws so it’s no surprise the report recommends legislation mandating helmet usage.

The report also suggests fighting alcohol impairment, reducing speeding, providing motorcycle operator training to all who need and/or seek it, enforcing licensing requirements and encouraging other motorists to better share the road with motorcyclists.

[Source: GHSA]

  • George Erhard

    Sad that rider instruction and driver awareness are the last two items on the list.

    And living (and riding) in Texas after doing the commute-and-canyon-carve thing in Cali for three years, I can see why moto fatalities are up here. Gear (including helmets) seems to be optional for most riders, drivers have a hard time doing lane checks or even using their signals before changing lanes (sometimes two or three in one shot), and the TXDOT seems to think “under construction” is the state all freeways should be in at all times. My advice to moto riders in Texas is simple: ride to another state and stay there.

  • Frank Snively

    It isn’t clear to me that Texas is any worse than other states, when you take into account the fact that there are more miles of road there, and that the riding season is year around (excepting hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and Blue Northers on the high plains). Of course, the lack of mandatory helmet laws and the light clothing we all prefer in hot weather are surely contributing factors.

  • Brian Maher

    Hey Everyone, Let’s Look Twice and Save a Life !!!
    Watch Out for Motorcycles !!! Share the Road !!!
    A Little Courtesy Won’t Kill You !!!

  • William Turney

    I have been riding or racing a motorcycle for 45 years and there is one thing very clear to me. There are two kinks of motorcyclist.
    I don’t say this to be a fatalist but just to point out the inherent risk factor. Let’s take it to heart that not everyone is looking out for our safety while being out on the road and ride like you are invisible. ASSUME NOTHING!
    Wear your safety gear. You don’t see the MOTO GP guys complaining about to much safety. Growing up in California racing motorcycles, my father would have taken my scooter away and thumped my head if he caught me without my helmet.
    Enjoy the ride and watch your top knot.

  • William A. Downey

    This report seems to parallel NHTSA findings that automotive crash stats are up for the same period. It’s important to avoid mystifying bike crashes as something magically different. They aren’t. It’s mainly that the results are different: in automotive crashes, roughly 20-25% result in serious injury or fatality; in bike crashes, 80 – 85% result in serious injury/fatality. The issue is to address the same attentional, perceptual,and behavioural problems that result in crashes of any sort.
    And that isn’t easy, because drivers and riders are all heavily conditioned to believe what they’re doing is fine, because MOST of the time, they don’t crash; this makes it too easy to simply blame the other guy when we do crash – we never crash, so they must have screwed up, not us.
    This is interestingly complicated by the tendency of drivers and riders to increase their risk threshold when they feel their safety’s been increased; airbags and ABS are probably having an ironic paradoxical effect.
    One of the most important steps that can be taken is to move beyond basic motorcycle operational skills as the primary emphasis in training, and into observed defensive riding in situ (parking lots just don’t get this done, has to be on the road).
    Another obvious step, and one guaranteed to set everyone’s hair on fire, is to institute mandatory training and periodic mandatory re-certification for all road users. After all, vehicles are the most powerful, complex and dangerous pieces of equipment most people ever own/operate. Plus, it’s just simple fairness: the firegighters, police, and paramedics who have to come and scoop us off the road all have to do high levels of training and annual recertifications to undertake their role, why not spread the responsibility around a bit more?
    Oh, yeah, sure, big government, blah blah blah. The choice of states around the world so far has been to waste billions of dollars on unnecessary emergency response, health care, and lost productivity (not to mention untold human suffering) on allowing citizens to wander around casually injuring and killing each other off, rather than simply ask them to demonstrate now and then that they can actually see a stop sign, recognize it, and respond appropriately.
    Think I’ll go for a ride now, and you want to bet I won’t be relying on my gear (yep, helmet, full gear and all – ATGATT)to save what’s left of my crispy old bacon. Training, skills, and personal discipline are more likely to take care of that. The gear’s on just in case of that momentary lapse of judgement.
    Ride safe and happy out there!

  • Andrew Sapp

    The motorcycle is like a single action revolver. Respect it the same way.

  • george m hamilton

    All true, and i say stop wearing black helmets, jackets, on a
    dark or black bike, on a black road !! Try wearing high vis bright green jackets, hi-viz helmets or white helmets.
    BE VISIBLE BE SAFER. Keep riding. Geo.