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Motorcycle Safety

The Reality

Motorcycle Safety: How To Save Lives and Save Money (Motorcycle Safety Guide)was developed by CDC to provide evidence-based motorcycle safety information in an easy-to-use format. The Guide provides key details on:

  • the public health significance of motorcycle crashes,
  • the best way to protect motorcycle riders,
  • state-by-state data on motorcycle-related deaths and economic costs, and
  • what you can do to increase motorcycle safety.

The Guide and state-based fact sheets are available online.

Preventing serious injuries and deaths from motorcycle crashes is a major and growing public health concern.

Consider that:

  • Motorcycle crashes killed 4,502 people in 2010.
  • Motorcycle-related deaths have increased by 55% since 2000.
  • Motorcycle crash-related injuries and deaths totaled $12 billion in one year, in medical care costs and productivity losses.

The good news is that riders’—and their passengers’—can protect themselves by wearing helmets. Helmets are estimated to prevent 37 percent of crash deaths among motorcycle riders and 41 percent of crash deaths for motorcycle passengers.

Universal Helmet Laws Increase Helmet Use, Save Money

The most effective way to get people to wear helmets is the universal helmet law.

Universal helmet laws, which require that every motorcycle rider and passenger wear a helmet whenever they ride, can increase helmet use and save money, according to a new CDC study.

In one year, cost savings in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws were nearly four times greater (per registered motorcycle) than in states without these comprehensive laws. In 2010, annual costs saved from helmet use, in terms of medical, productivity, and other costs, ranged from a high of $394 million in California (which has a universal helmet law) to a low of $2.6 million in New Mexico (which has a partial law). Partial helmet laws require only certain riders, such as those under age 21, to wear a helmet.

Universal helmet laws result in cost savings by increasing helmet use among riders and passengers, which reduces crash-related injuries and deaths. According to a CDC analysis of fatal crash data from 2008 to 2010, 12 percent of motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were not wearing helmets. In comparison, 64 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with partial helmet laws, and 79 percent of riders were not wearing helmets in states with no helmet laws.

Photo: Person driving a motorcycle on the open roadLaws That Save Lives

Each state decides its respective helmet law. As of May 2012, 19 states and the District of Columbia had universal helmet laws, 28 states had partial helmet laws, and 3 states had no helmet law.

Safety Tips for Riders

When you ride your motorcycle or are a passenger, follow these tips to stay safe:

  • Always wear a DOT-approved helmet.
  • Never ride your motorcycle after drinking. Alcohol greatly impairs your ability to safely operate a motorcycle. If you have been drinking, get a ride home or call a taxi.
  • Don't let friends ride impaired. Take their keys away.
  • Wear protective clothing that provides some level of injury protection. Upper body clothing should also include bright colors or reflective materials, so that other motorists can more easily see you.
  • Avoid tailgating.
  • Maintain a safe speed and exercise caution when traveling over slippery surfaces or gravel.


More Information

  • Page last reviewed: June 18, 2012
  • Page last updated: June 18, 2012
  • Content source: