Crashes involving motorcycles are a major traffic safety concern in the United States. Since motorcyclists are susceptible to injury during crashes, they comprise a disproportionate share of all injured and killed vehicle occupants. In 2020, motorcyclists comprised 14.4 percent of all traffic deaths in the US.
The primary countermeasures used to address this problem include motorcycle helmet laws and other helmet-oriented programs, rider training and licensing programs, vehicle enhancements, including anti-lock braking technology, rider conspicuity programs, campaigns to increase other road users’ awareness of motorcycles, and campaigns to reduce impaired riding. The United States Department of Transportation uses the Safe System Approach to work towards zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries. The Safe System Approach recognizes that people may make unsafe decisions or may have momentary lapses of attention, and designs a roadway system with redundancies in place to protect everyone. The Federal Highway Administration names safe road users, safe vehicles, safe speeds, safe roads, and post-crash care as key elements of a Safe System. These elements together create multiple layers of protection to improve safety.
The 2020 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) reported that DOT-compliant helmet use among all motorcyclists in the US (riders and passengers) decreased to 64.9 percent in 2021, not statistically different at the 0.05 level from 69.0 percent in 2020. In states with a universal helmet law, which requires all motorcyclists to use a helmet, the known helmet use rate increased to 86.1 percent in 2021, not statistically significant from 84.0 percent in 2020.
Analyses presented in the motorcycle program area include fatal and serious injuries to drivers and passengers riding two- and three-wheel motorcycles, mopeds, motorized scooters, motorized bicycles, off-road motorcycles, and other motor-driven cycles. Motorcycle crashes are defined as a crash where one or more victims is a motorcycle driver or passenger.