Motorcycle Safety Overview
May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. This year’s observance comes after a particularly deadly April for motorcyclists in Washington. Fatalities in motorcycle crashes were the highest in a decade.
A common myth is that most motorcycle crashes are caused by other motor vehicles committing errors and hitting a motorcycle. So far in 2020, rider behavior or action is the major contributor in 70 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes.
On this page you can download our 2020 Motorcycle Crash Fact Sheet, It’s a Fine Line Video, and the joint Washington Traffic Safety Commission and Washington State Department of Licensing news release on the trend in rider fatalities. We hope you will communicate with your audiences so we can raise awareness.
Motorcycle Fatalities in Washington
Please incorporate these messages in your communications to your audience over the next few days
- Due to the stay at home culture around the COVID-19 virus, there are fewer vehicles on the roads, and overall traffic fatalities are down. But we are witnessing an alarming increase in deadly motorcycle crashes early this year.
- Our state has had an increase in deadly motorcycle crashes over the last six weeks. There were 12 just in April. So over half of the statewide traffic deaths in April were motorcycle riders. We haven’t seen this many April motorcycle fatalities since 2006.
- Motorcycles are only 3% of all registered vehicles in Washington. And on average, they make up less than 20% of our traffic fatalities each year. But in April, motorcycle fatalities were 53% of our total traffic fatalities. We haven’t seen this many motorcycle rider deaths in the month of April since 2006.
- In early May, eight motorcycle riders died in crashes in one week (May 3-10) for a total of 24 motorcycle fatalities this year in Washington.
- July, August, and September are when we usually see more motorcycle crashes in Washington. So it’s disturbing that so many motorcycle riders are dying in crashes in April and May this year.
Crash Fault or Causation Factors
- These crashes are preventable and unacceptable. The MISPERCEPTION from some riders is that these crashes are caused by another car driver. The fact is that 70% of fatal crashes last year were caused by the rider.
- Washington State Patrol (WSP) is reporting an increase in the number of riders who are traveling at over 100 miles per hour. WSP is also reporting an increase in the number of riders failing to stop for law enforcement (eluding police) the past couple months.
- In 2020, officer reports show that 18 of the 24 motorcycle fatalities were caused by the rider’s behaviors or actions. Six of the 24 fatalities in 2020 involved another vehicle interfering with the rider’s path of travel.
- Only one crash involved an impaired rider. But SPEEDING, loss of control in corners and curves, following too close, and failure to yield are the main contributing factors.
- We know that people have more free time to ride, gas prices are low, and there are fewer cars on the roads resulting in less congestion. This allows an opportunity for more space and increased speeds.
- Motorcycles are vulnerable road users. Riders must create their own safety. This includes wearing helmets and other personal protective gear. Always ride sober, slow down, be aware of your surroundings, and get training to have the skills to help keep you safe.
- And with more motorcycles on our roads, drivers should watch out for motorcycles. Drivers should leave space around motorcycles. And do all you can to protect yourself by driving sober, wearing a seatbelt, and watching your speed. A collision with a motorcycle can still cause serious injury and death to the car or truck driver.
- Even though there is less traffic on the roads, please don’t take unnecessary risks while driving. We need to work together to protect our community in these unprecedented times.
Joint WTSC and DOL News Release on Motorcycle Fatalities
Deadly Motorcycle Crashes Are Increasing
May is national Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and officials are concerned that fatal motorcycle crashes have increased in Washington. The Department of Licensing (DOL) and Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) are reminding drivers of all motor vehicles,including cars, trucks and motorcycles, to safely share the road.
Twenty-four motorcycle riders have died in crashes so far in 2020. In April alone, there were 12 motorcycle fatalities which was 46percentof all traffic deaths in the state that month. There have not been that number of rider deaths in the month of April in over a decade.
“We are concerned about the death of so many motorcyclists in 2020 with the traditional riding season still to come,”said Pam Pannkuk, Acting Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “We hope to prevent further carnage by working with DOL to promote rider training and education.”
From May 3-10, eight motorcycle riders died in crashes on Washington roads. This includes three rider deaths in separate crashes on a single day. Speeding, losing control in corners and curves,and riding under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs are the main contributing factors in these crashes.
“Operating a motorcycle at high speeds often has deadly consequences,” said Chris Johnson, Owner and Trainer at Washington Motorcycle Safety Training. “Speed, depth perception, cornering, and braking are very different on a motorcycle than in a car.
”A common myth is that most motorcycle crashes are caused by other motor vehicles committing errors and hitting a motorcycle. So far in 2020, rider behavior or action is the major contributor in 70 percent of the fatal motorcycle crashes.
“The Department of Licensing is committed to work with our training partners to make training and education available, accessible, and affordable to the riders in our state,” said Bryan Jackson, Assistant Administrator of the Motorcycle Safety Program. “More skill and better decision making can save lives.”
Six of the 24 motorcycle fatalities in 2020 involved another vehicle interfering with the motorcycle’s path of travel. With more motorcycle riders on our roads this time of year,drivers should remember to watch out for motorcycles. Before you change lanes, before you turn left, before you pull out into traffic, look twice for motorcycles.
This concerning early increase in motorcycle rider deaths in 2020comes after a 13 percent increased in motorcycle rider traffic death in Washington from 2018 to 2019. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported that motorcycle fatalities across the country decreased one percent over the same time period.
A motorcycle awareness and safety campaign called “It’s A Fine Line” promotes safe riding through social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And DOL continues to use targeted social media messaging, as well as in-person rider outreach, to encourage training and inform riders of the inherent risks of motorcycling.
The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) is our state’s designated highway safety office. We share a vision with numerous other state and local public agencies. That vision is to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030. The WTSC Director is the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative, which is a designated position each state is required to have in order to qualify for federal traffic safety funding. Our Commission is made up of 25 employees and ten Commissioners chaired by Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee.