Sharp Rise In Motorcycle Deaths.

High gas prices are pushing people to drive less  their cars, but encourage people to buy more motorcycles and to put more and more miles on their bikes. Is it the reason why in the USA motorcycle fatalities increased 128% since 1997 which was the lowest number of deaths on motorcycles (2116)? Or is it also related to the inexperience of new motorcycle riders, or to the aging of motorcyclists who no more have the reflexes of their youth, or the fact that less US states require to wear a helmet? As other reasons I can also add the number of automobilists getting more and more distracted by cellular phones (phoning and texting), and of course the big increase of registered motorcycles during the last 10 years. So, one or more reasons? In which proportion? Nobody knows and will ever know for sure whatever our government agencies are proposing as the ultimate explanation of the dramatic rise in motorcycle deaths. We even don’t know for sure if riding a motorcycle is getting more dangerous per mile travelled because there is no official tracking of the average number of miles ridden per motorcycle. So, my conclusion is only based on my personal experience. You are never too defensive when you ride your bike. So, always ride it like nobody cares about you and your life. 



34 Responses to “Sharp Rise In Motorcycle Deaths.”

  1. 1 Dave Aug 19th, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    I live in Southern California, a mix of many different driving styles, most of which suck, too slow, on the phone, not paying attention, putting on makeup, sudden lane changes, etc.
    My thought has always been that when taking the test’s to get your car license you should have to also do the following,
    a. Drive a big rig for a day.
    b. pull a 5th wheel
    c.ride a motorcycle.
    If everyone had to do this people would realize what the truckers, trailer pullers, and of course, motorcyclist have to deal with on a daily basis.
    We must try to always be on the defensive.

  2. 2 Nitrous Phil Aug 19th, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    too many idiots on the road – reading the newspaper, putting on make-up, talking on the phone behind the wheel in combination with idiots who take one motorcycle safety course, buy a Hayabusa and think they’re the new upcoming star of superbikes – makes for a lethal cocktail.

  3. 3 Nicker Aug 20th, 2008 at 12:07 am


    As i understand Justian’s response to my question about how they do testing in Europe,
    (see Cyril’s blog on the Florida testing requirements)
    he tells us, in Europe the MC test includes a “supervised” ride in real traffic with a tester following them…

    So, ya take the test, if ya pass you get to ride your scooter out on the street.
    If ya don’t pass you need to find yourself a school or a “personal trainer” to teach you what you need to know.

    If you are too old, too young, too inept, too distracted, too stupid or just not committed enough to want to really learn how to ride….. Well, then ya probably won’t be able to pass the test. So ya go take up golf instead……


  4. 4 MJ Reynolds for Aug 20th, 2008 at 7:20 am

    Very rarely does anything come across my desk about motorcycle traffic testing, compared to the constant tracking and analyzing of automobile traffic based on accident reports. Both of my brothers are accomplished riders, and motocross racers, and both were seriously injured riding their motorcycles on the street due to idiot drivers. One woman actually backed down her driveway in a stationwagon across both lanes of oncoming traffic because she didn’t see my bother on his motorcycle trying to avoid her. He went through the back window of her car, thankfully wearing a helmet and only had to have his knee replaced. She on the other hand was so “shaken” by the accident that she drove back up the driveway, went inside and locked the door. And had the nerve, later to claim that my brother’s attorney was causing her to have “emotional distress!” AMEN. Wear the BEST HELMET MONEY CAN BUY every time you get on a bike. It saved my brother from head injures.

  5. 5 Michael Schacht Aug 20th, 2008 at 7:31 am

    I saw a guy eating a bowl of cereal while driving on the Allan Expressway in Toronto yesterday morning. One of the rare times I was happier being on 4 wheels.

  6. 6 Kephas Aug 20th, 2008 at 9:13 am

    It’s the risk we take when we get on our bikes. This cautioin is in our head when we aren’t on our bikes. All I can contribute is “Speed Safely”.

    Soccer mom’s, over worked truck drivers, Idiots reading the newspaper and “Eating Cereal”, inexperience riders. They all equal rider disaster. I ride on average 700 to 1000 miles a week. I have a close call every 4000 miles. Praise God it’s been just a close call.

  7. 7 Mike Greenwald Aug 20th, 2008 at 9:36 am


    Crash survivors and crash survivability have many factors involved. Some manufacturers have applied various forms of air bag technology to motorcycles and others have applied it to garments worn by the motorcyclist.

    In the interest of having a longer life while riding, I would like to know, what is the “BEST HELMET MONEY CAN BUY” and how is that determined that it is the best?

    Mike Greenwald

  8. 8 Hondo Cat Aug 20th, 2008 at 9:45 am

    It certainly takes a hyper vigilance to ride these days. I’m a much better cage operator because of my cycle riding safety precautions. You never know if they see you at stop lights, intersections, changing lanes…etc. Then there are the road hazards like gravel or sand on the outer edge of curves, slick and oily pavement (or even painted pavement lines) due to a recent rain, hydroplaning in the rain, spider cracks the county, state, or federal road crews try to fill in with tar….etc. Sometime I can relax a little on a rural country road only to find a deer dart out from the corner of my eye………..Yup, it takes hyper vigilance and awareness, and of course, not riding over one’s riding capabilities. Still, it’s all worth it to ride!

  9. 9 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian MotorCycles Aug 20th, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Dave’s ABC’s hit a home run. When one has driven or been a passenger in them, it will give a whole new respect and understanding of ones surroundings.
    When we see the statistics broken down the vast majority by far is 1/ new to m/c’s and 2/ alcohol use by the rider. It is interesting pouring over the statistics. I’m a proponent of helmet use however I don’t preach to others but they do save lives.
    There is no doubt in the US that drivers do not pay any attention to motorcyclists nor are they reminded enough about it in the car license hand book, newspapers, tv, etc. I’d like to see the m/c manufacturers and industry take a leading role and promote a campaign about noticing motorcycles. The trucking industry did likewise plus provided stickers that remind people of blind spots.
    With the high price of gas motorcycle use will only increase. There is no substitute for defensive driving every moment that we are upon our bikes.

  10. 10 BO Aug 20th, 2008 at 10:03 am


    As someone has already asked….how is that determined that it is the best?
    Helmet or no helmet, when your time is up it is up. At a funeral if the deceased was wearing a helmet then it’s open casket.If the deceased was NOT wearing a helmet then it’s a closed caket funeral. It seems that most of the stupid and inexperienced riders are wearing helmets these days and they are the cause of the Sharp Rise In Motorcycle Deaths.

  11. 11 burnout Aug 20th, 2008 at 10:09 am

    As I have said MANY times, 85% of bike riders have no business being on a bike. If you sit and watch, say, The Trail of Tears riders you will start to see what I am talking about. The 15% are CONSTANTLY watching out for the others. I am most saddened when I hear of a seasoned rider going down. Being a biker makes me a better cage driver also. Every bike related death is one too many. However, people are dying in record numbers in cages but I don’t see our “governments” efforts to prevent deaths as being successful. If everyone looked out for each other we would all be safe. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening here in my lifetime! peace

  12. 12 Rogue Aug 20th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    All of the things mentioned add to collisions, crashes and deaths.
    There are always going to be people that have the answers to what they think are going to solve these situations But history shows that most are wrong.
    Mandatory helmet laws do not stop colisions crashes or deaths. Mandatory Rider Education does not necessarilly make those who take the classes better riders. Many take the classes because they can Not Pass the test at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
    I am not suggesting that indivuals not wear what ever safety equipment they feel is necessary and by all means get all the education you can and continue to learn as you ride.
    You need to be defensive and aware as you operate a motorcycle, be aware of what is going on around you,,do not ride over your skill level and take responsibility for your own actions.
    Hopefully laws will be passed that penalize people who are doing other things while operating vehicles that keep them from giving full attention to that task. Do not look for this to happen real soon unless motorcycle riders aggressively push for this type of legislation.
    Let us also be honest and admit many people riding motorcycles do stupid things as well. If they do and get injured or killed let the blame be placed where it belongs.
    There is no one easy answer and I do not want others telling me what to do to protect myself. I have been riding over 55 years and put a lot of miles on each year. I do not claim to be the best rider in the world but what I am doing seems to work for me and I would like to keep doing it my way.
    Of course everyone else should be allowed to do so also.

  13. 13 madpuppy Aug 20th, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Aug 19th, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    In So Cal. That’s a great Idea ! But as simple as it is it wont ever happen because it is to simple and a bureaucrat didn`t think of it. PS, Sorry Cyril I`m not trying to slip politics into the blog again ! LOL

  14. 14 Troy Aug 20th, 2008 at 10:25 am

    My personal rule is that they will hit you if you don’t take care of yourself. No daydreaming, no alchohol, assume they are going to not see you. I have never used a horn on a bike or a truck because that’s a few seconds that you could use to save your life. My biggest mistake on a bike was going for a nice country ride, relaxed because of zero traffic, and a big German Shepard jumped out of the bushes. I was able to miss him only to hit his buddy that was right behind him.
    You can never completely relax! As for helmets, some people wish they weren’t wearing one instead of ending up without legs or being in a care center for the rest of their lives. The local news is quick to point out that the rider wasn’t wearing a helmet when that SUV or big rig ran over him. A helmet does you very little good when 8000 lbs. or more runs over you and turns your bike into nuts and bolts. Be careful!

  15. 15 steveb Aug 20th, 2008 at 11:04 am

    IMSHO, the Arai Quantum II is the best helmet for my money..comfy, quiet and highly rated.

    After a collision with a cage 100″ from my driveway last year, i dont get on the bike w/out a hat on my head…3 broken ribs were painful enough, for long enough that it woke me up to the fact that as careful as I might be…shit will happen…and it is up to me to be prepared for every possibility….

    As an aside, when i was in the ER with my wife – she asked me if I was wearing a helmet…and then reached up and pulled some dirt out of my hair….crying…if I had crashed 10″ further down the road, my head would have hit concrete and not soft dirt – and she would have been buying a box for in this particular instance, a helmet would have helped.

    I decided to view this as a wake up call and a 2nd chance, I am sure many would have simply gone on…biz as ususal….. its all about making the right decisions – for yourself…

    “Nothing is the same after a head injury”……. I keep that in mind when i think “do i need to wear my hat?”

  16. 16 hoyt Aug 20th, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    I agree with the bottom line: ride defensive as though you are not seen or that people don’t care about bikes (both are reality).

    In addition to ever-increasing bad habits on the road, senior citizen’s decreased driving skill is also a big topic that should not be forgotten.

  17. 17 M3 Aug 20th, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    As the population grows so do the numbers used to exemplify the statistics for alarmists, perhaps the numbers should be, instead, garnered from percentages of the overall population, rather than the simple number.
    If there are 10 people and 5 get in accidents and die it’s a major problem
    If there are 10 million people and 50 get in accidents it’s not a big deal
    The increase in accidents, does seem alarming if you look only at the simple number over the %.

  18. 18 Somewhere Out There Aug 20th, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I just purchased a used sport bike this week and had the ocassion to ride it to the office yesterday. Now, I work for one of the large “custom” manufacturers and ride those bikes regularly. I don’t know if it was bad karma or moon or water or what but I had 4 close (2 really close) calls yesterday in the matter of two hours and 64 miles. I haven’t had 4 close calls on the big choppers in the past 6 months, although there have been a couple of occasions where I had to make a quick decision but nothing as close as they were yeasterday.

    Are sport bikes harder to see? I wasn’t riding above the posted speed limit and in the case of the two really close calls I was below the speed limit by quite a bit. The bike has ultra brite HID lights on the front and I know darn good and well it can be seen even in the brightest of sun. The bike is mostly black but I would think that that wouldn’t matter so much in the daytime. I have ridden many black bikes and never had a day like that.

    With all that being said, I promptly went to the local MC store and bought a top of the line full face helmet, riding jacket with body armor, riding pants and gloves. I gave the little DOT half helmet that I had been wearing for the past five years to a guy standing in the parking lot, suited up, rode home, parked the bike out front with a For Sale sign on it and appologized to my wife for buying the darn thing in the first place.

    I live in a no helmet law state but have always worn one just because it’s my companies policy and my life and health insurance are void if I have an accident without one. And besides, who’s going to walk my little girl down the isle when that day comes if I’m in a box or sitting in a wheel chair drooling on myself. I have 30+ years of accident free driving under my belt (sans a few stupid moments where I was riding beyond my ability off the road) but it seems even though there are more bikes on the road than ever the cage drivers are less able to see them.

    I don’t know what defines “the best helmet money can buy” but I’m going out on a limb and guessing that a $300 one will offer more protection than a $49.95 one. (I went the $450 route, not that I couldn’t afford the $800 ones they had there, the $450 one fit good, looks good and I liked it most.)

  19. 19 Kiwi Mike Tomas Aug 20th, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    I’m a believer in good quality helmets. I tend to believe what we ride has some relationship of what becomes of people around us. I ride my old Indians every day and don’t run into any issues what so ever however I did a chopper Indian (just added med apes for a guy and rode it around to put some test miles on it and folks started honking at me while I was doing nothing differently. One day 1 stopped at a stop sign (which I always usually do) and an old lady started honking at me and gave me a not so common (for me) gesture. I figure they can patch my arm or leg back on but they can’t patch my head so for that reason I’ll spend the bucks on a good helmet. Shoei has been my choice but their are several other very good ones. Shoei has provided outstanding customer support which goes a long way in my book.

  20. 20 BOBCAT Aug 21st, 2008 at 4:17 am

    Ive been riding motorcycles for 20+ years I can tell you helmets dont save lives they can snap your neck but That is not why I am posting this But I had to let you know Helmets do not save lives… AWARENESS does.

    I just wished that people in their cages would respect the bikers
    They can see a Bicycle so why cant they see us? Maybe they drop the cell phone or the latest craze is texting while behind the wheel. But its not these excuses folks what it is is that people feel safe behind the wheel of a cage and they get so wrapped up in their own little world they forget about the surroundings.
    People are hitting livestock in the middle of the roads so why would they not be neglegent and hit a biker?

    I think with gas prices effecting the economy and more people are driving motorcycles people will wake up because it is going to get to the point of everyone will know someone who owns a motorcyle to get back & forth to work. Too bad people have got to pay the ultimate price.

    Hey Cyril Thanks for the email.

    Come on and ride the wind…

  21. 21 Jeff Nicklus Aug 21st, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    I went down this last January in a slow speed crash ….. my head “tapped” the concrete just enough to get my attention …. I personally will never ride a bike again without a helmet. That is my choice, everyone else (except my Son) can do as they see fit.

  22. 22 Sheridan Aug 22nd, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Where I am in Western Australia, we have a practical test to get out license that involves someone from the licensing dept. following you out on the streets in real traffic. They mark you for following the road rules, your positioning on the road throughout the test, low speed manoeuvres such as performing figure 8’s inside the width of a single lane road, emergency braking which requires stopping within a certain distance from a certain speed.

    Once you pass all this you are then issued a license which restricts you to riding a motorcycle with an engine capacity no greater than 250cc for a period of 12 months. After this 12 month period you can then go and perform another practical test (same as above) to obtain your unrestricted license which then allows you to ride a bike not limited in engine capacity.

    This might sound draconian to most of you, but I think it’s a good idea, and was most than happy and thankful to spend that first 12 months of my riding life gaining experience on a bike that didn’t have too much power for someone of no previous riding experience.

    I would imagine that our road toll would be a lot higher around here if every hot headed young 18 year old could go from riding a bicycle, get a license and then jump straight on a Hyabusa or R1…

  23. 23 burnout Aug 22nd, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Sheridan I assume this is required for all ages whether you have a current drivers license or not. I think the test and waiting period is a great way to “weed” out inexperienced riders. peace

  24. 24 BOBCAT Aug 23rd, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    To each their own. Jeff if you would of had a helmet on, yeah you would had felt the shock of the weight reflect in your neck Since the helmet adds extra weight that your neck has to carry & the helmet bounces when it hits the ground, gee I wonder what will happen to the neck? **SNAP** To each their own…

    I am not trying to say that helmets should not be worn but I am just giving you something to really think about the next time you snap that bucket on your head. Talk to the paremedics who comes to pick up the riders after the crash. Or the people in the emegancy room. I think they will enlighten the issues of wearing helemts.

    But the real issues of motorcycle crashing is because of the
    same-o same-o excuse “But officer I didn’t see the motorycle.”
    That’s why motorcycle saftey education is so important… AWARENESS. The Aussies seem to have it together maybe the United States can learn from them. I for one feel that before people should be allowed to drive a car they should operate a motorcycle for 1 year. Imagine how the motorcycle crash stastitics will drop because of the fact, “Hey that could be my kid.”

    To each their own…
    Ride safe

  25. 25 gustian Aug 25th, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Somewhere, somehow, everyone is right, and we all deffent our opinion.

    Of course, Europe has another motorcycle-culture than the US, and that’s what makes us looking at it in a different way. We simply didn’t ever know the experience of driving a bike without a helmet.

    It’s a bit the same discussion about wearing your seatbelt in a car. There are big pro’s and even big contra’s. If you ask around, you will find a lot of people who are going to tell you the fact they didn’t wear their belt saved their live. On the other hand, you will find as well people who will tell you the belt did save their live.

    ” Since the helmet adds extra weight that your neck has to carry & the helmet bounces when it hits the ground, gee I wonder what will happen to the neck? **SNAP** To each their own…”

    Don’t see it as a one-way theorie,
    I don’t see any motorraces (GP, Superbike, Supersport, etc….) with guys wearing no helmets. And they do fall off their bikes (sometimes more than they like to) at high speed. Not all of them do have severe neck-injuries after a crash.

    Helmets are no “wonder-items”. It may not give you a false safety-feeling, pulling you drive faster. Just see it that way, sometimes it does protect you from worse.
    I am well aware that if I crash at 150miles/hour, into a truck that crosses the road and did not see me comming, it doesn’t matter much if I wear a helmet or not.
    And here I reply to you again ;
    RE “same-o same-o excuse “But officer I didn’t see the motorycle.”
    It is sad, but here I fully agree. As many of you know, I’m a police-officer, and me also, I heard this one (to) many times. (I lost a very good friend that way 20 years ago)
    Sometimes, the responsability is on both sides. Some car drivers are not aware of the speed of a motor bike and some bikers simply think the road is their own private circuit.

    Me, iff I don’t wear my helmet (or seatbelt) I feel naked.

    Peace and ride safely (however you do it)


  26. 26 Diane Pearson/Mother on a Mission Aug 26th, 2008 at 11:14 am

    My son Gene was wearing his helmet when a stupid driver pulled out in front of him, killing him instantly. Wearing or not wearing a helmet in this instance would not have saved his life or anyone elses. He broke his neck and die instantly from the impact. Helmets save lives in certain circumstances, but in most cases where there is such an impact where the driver pulls out in front of you, nothing but God Himself can save you.

    Responsible drivers save lives, and educating the ones that are just learning how to drive to share the roads safely with motorcycles.

    This problem is not going to go away until motorist who kill motorcycle riders get stiffer punishments for their careless driving. The ” I did not see them” mentality, is getting old and laws have to change to protect motorcyclist. Lets hold careless drivers responsible for their careless actions, after all they get to go home every day to their families, and we who are left behind get to go to the cemetery and suffer the pain, grief, and agony for the rest of our lives.
    God Bless, and Ride Safe
    Diane/Mother on a Mission

  27. 27 Jeff Nicklus Aug 26th, 2008 at 6:03 pm


    The only “Snap” I heard was from other bones in my body breaking …. Thank God!

    I agree that a helmet will only work in and under certain conditions. Fortunately I didn’t receive a scratch on my head in the accident, however, my head did “touch” the ground and I had the awareness to jerk my head up so as not to “smack the melon” anymore than I already had. My Son, who was behind me when the accident happened, thought that my head had bounced off the ground when I had “jerked” the melon up so hard.

    As in most accidents the car that pulled out in front of me had the driver reciting the “I didn’t even see you” mantra, and I am sure he didn’t. He didn’t see me because, like most non riders, he wasn’t looking for a motorcycle.


    “This problem is not going to go away until motorist who kill motorcycle riders get stiffer punishments for their careless driving.”

    I couldn’t agree more, however, the bulk of society do not ride nor do they give a second thought to any of us who do. In fact most would like to see motorcycles and bikers disappear from the American Highways all together. Therefore changing the laws and having the “elected officials” such as judges and District Attorneys enforce the laws, even if the laws were changed, will be a major undertaking.

    Over & Out,


  28. 28 Nicker Aug 28th, 2008 at 2:01 am

    Jeff & Diane;

    “…This problem is not going to go away until motorist who kill motorcycle riders get stiffer punishments for their careless driving…”

    Simply don’t see any judge sanctioning a “citizen” for “not seeing” a biker.
    The legal system does a (not so subtle) value judgement.
    Putting a ditracted mother in jail for killing a biker doesn’t score high on their “social justice scale.”

    This has always been a problem. However, i believe it’s worse now the because general public’s driving ability is going down the toilet. People behind the wheel these days:
    -1- don’t really know how to drive a car.
    -2- don’t know the traffic rules… and,
    -3- don’t obey the ones they do know.

    IMHO, about the only way this is gonna turn around is to tighten up driver’s skills across the board. And that’ll be tough because it cots time and money. People here in CA expect not to be retested for years, routinely getting new licenses in the mail without setting foot in the DMV.

    Moreover, driving is a necessity for most people. Any comprehensive testing measures would be seen as draconian by an increasingly stupid general public.

    When a society has gotten to the point where it will graduate a functional illiterate for high school, you have a recipe for just this sort of social disaster… and many others.

    IMHO, anyway.

  29. 29 burnout Aug 28th, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Nicker you are spot on! peace

  30. 30 Jeff Nicklus Aug 28th, 2008 at 10:53 am


    Roger that!


  31. 31 Nicker Aug 29th, 2008 at 1:23 am

    burn- & jeff-

    Just got home from a meeting with a conservative black mayor running for the CA legislature.

    My message was that much of what is wrong in CA today goes back to the School System.
    For decades the schools here have been gradually dumbing down students, trying to remove the concept of competition and trying to elimination “requirements” to achieve goals.

    My suggestion was that, if he is successful in his bid for office, a good place to cut a busted budget would be to replace neighborhood high schools with regional high schools.

    There would be two positive effects.
    The economies-of-scale would provide the same service at a reduced cost. And there would be an added benefit of reducing the number of Leftist administrators who are at the heart of the problem.

    He agreed that poor driving skills is one of the symptoms of an increasingly stupid public.

    So, i “put my money where my mouth is”…… and also posted a sign on the front lawn…. 🙂
    Hope he gets elected.

    I figure if i don’t do anything, i can’t expect change any time soon…… 🙁


  32. 32 Jeff Nicklus Aug 30th, 2008 at 1:42 pm


    “….He agreed that poor driving skills is one of the symptoms of an increasingly stupid public…..”

    Hopefully this guy gets elected, however, from the sound of things he has his head screwed on correctly which is a determent in politics. Lets keep our fingers crossed for his election …. that, in and of itself would be a great beginning!

    Keep up the good work from the left coast!

    Over & Out,


  33. 33 Tony Oct 19th, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Anyone who says helmets don’t save lives is dead wrong and out of their minds! My helmet saved my life when my head met the pavement from some crazy woman who cut me off and kept on going. Top of the line Shoei 3/4 helmet.

  34. 34 charlie Dec 28th, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    If you asked most motorcycle riders if they are certain they could brake or swerve their bikes as effectively as their cars in a panic situation I believe most, if they were honest, would say no. Most bikes turn and brake better than any other vehicles on the road yet most riders haven’t got the skill to use a fraction of it. The reason they don’t is because they don’t do the necessary drills and exercises necessary to acquire and maintain those skills. Formal training is a waste of time unless riders follow up with relentless, ongoing practice. Because of lack of skills most riders are just two wheeled target drones.

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