Since its introduction to the roadways over a century ago, motorcycles have always been considered more dangerous that traditional vehicles on the road. The vulnerability of the driver and any passengers even when wearing proper protection is simply no match for the enclosed design of cars and trucks.
One significant factor in the number of deaths is the use of helmets which are only required in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Helmets are effective in preventing up to 37% of deaths and roughly 67% of brain injuries from occurring. However, even with the advantage of wearing a helmet, it is still far more dangerous to ride a motorcycle than driving an enclosed vehicle.
From the early 1980s to the late 1990s, the trend in fatalities had been declining. However, since 1998 that trend reversed and rose upwards until 2009 when it started dropping again. There is no singular reason known as to why the trend fluctuates. But currently, it seems that fewer people are dying than in the past several years.
This stands in contrast to those who die in passenger vehicles which have been on a decline since the turn of the 21st century.
The Age and Gender Gap
One of the more interesting trends is fatalities among men over 50 on motorcycles has been increasing steadily since the early 1980s. Conversely, the deaths of men under the age of 30 have been declining since that time. Again, there is no singular reason as to why this is occurring. But it may have something to do with the wearing of helmets which is more prevalent in younger men.
Of the total fatalities in 2014, the latest year for statistics, 92% consisted of male motorcycle riders. However, men do outnumber women regarding motorcycle ownership by a considerable degree which may explain the bulk of the statistic. Of the women who died, 66% were passengers on the motorcycles. Plus, men are less likely to wear a helmet than women which again may explain the ratio.
The Helmet Conundrum
The raw stats show that 62% of motorcycle drivers who died were wearing a helmet. Plus, 91% of those killed in motorcycle accidents were in states that mandate the wearing of helmets for everyone on a motorcycle. However, this statistic may reflect the fact that 19 states that do have mandatory helmet laws have a far greater population than the 31 who do not or only have partial laws covering helmets.
In addition, there has been a sharp rise in fatalities in terms of those who drive motorcycles with engines at least 1,400cc and larger since the late 1990s.
Furthermore, the summer months from May to September are still the worst for fatalities arguably because more people are out driving their motorcycles.
In the end:
The statistics demonstrate the danger of motorcycle concerning fatalities compared to vehicles. Better safety measures and improved training may have an impact on reducing deaths or serious, life-altering injuries. But the truth is that motorcycles are still more inherently dangerous compared to cars and trucks.