Motorcycle Crash Trends In Virginia

The incidence of motorcycle accidents is falling in Virginia, according to data from the Virginia Highway Safety Office.

According to Commonwealth figures, the number has for the most part been on the decline here for the last three years. The Highway Safety Office’s annual reports from 2011 to 2013, the latest available, show:

 2011  2012        2013
Number of Motorcycle Accidents 2,288 (1.9% of all crashes) 2,416 (2%) 2,079 (1.7%)
Number of Motorcycle Fatalities 90 (11.8% of all fatal crashes) 78 (10.1%) 63 (8.5%)
Number of Motorcycle Accident Injuries 2,036 (3.2% of all traffic injuries) 2,149 (3.2%) 1,828 (2.8%)

Nationally, however, the numbers reflect the opposite trend. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s motorcycle accident statistics, published most recently in June 2014, show a steady rise in motorcycle accident fatalities:

2008 – 5,312 motorcycle fatalities
2009 – 4,469
2010 – 4,518
2011 – 4,630
2012 – 4,957

The NHTSA’s motorcycle accident injury figures reflect a different and less consistent trend:

2008 – 96,000 motorcycle accident injuries
2009 – 90,000
2010 – 82,000
2011 – 81,000
2012 – 93,000

Motorcycle Helmets and Biker Safety

One of the best ways for motorcyclists to protect themselves is to wear a DOT standards-compliant helmet. Virginia is one of 19 states and the District of Columbia that required all motorcyclists to wear helmets as of January 2015. Virginia’s universal motorcycle helmet law was adopted in 1970.

The NHTSA says helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries for motorcycle riders (operators) and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says a rider without a helmet is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than is a helmeted rider. Helmets are:

  • about 29 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths overall
  • about 67 percent effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries.

The NHTSA says of motorcyclists in Virginia involved in fatal accidents (not necessarily in which the biker was killed):

  • 92% were wearing helmets in 2012
  • 99% were wearing helmets in 2011
  • 99% were wearing helmets in 2010
  • 93% were wearing helmets in 2009
  • 93% were wearing helmets in 2008.

Nationally, helmet use was 60% in 2012, according to the NHTSA – a decrease from 66% in 2011.

Alcohol Use and Motorcycle Crashes

The impairment caused by alcohol and its effect on a drivers’ and motorcyclists’ capabilities are well known. In Virginia, according to state statistics, relatively few motorcyclists involved in crashes are found to have been drinking.

VA Motorcyclists in Crashes who were:

2011 2012 2013
Drinking and Impaired 83 (3.9% of all MC crashes) 84 (3.7%) 70 (3.5%)
Drinking, Impairment Unknown 45 (2.1% of all MC crashes) 43 (1.9%) 39 (2.0%)
Drinking, Not Impaired 34 (1.6% of all MC crashes) 27 (1.2%) 24 (1.2%)
Not Impaired 1,971 (92.4% of all MC crashes) 2,115 (93.2%) 1,855 (93.3%)

Nationally, year after year, more than a quarter or motorcycle riders in fatal crashes have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or more (the level of legal impairment), the NHTSA says.

BAC of 0.08 or more among motorcyclists in fatal crashes:

  • 2008 – 29%
  • 2009 – 29%
  • 2010 – 28%
  • 2011 – 29%
  • 2012 – 27%

In 2012, the highest percentage of fatally injured motorcycle riders with a BAC of .08 or higher was the 40-44 age group (37%), followed by the 45-49 age group (36%) and 35-39 age group (35%).

Statistics can be tricky, as we all know. The numbers show that motorcyclists in Virginia are safer than motorcyclists counted nationwide. But if you or a loved one of yours is injured in a motorcycle accident, that is the one accident that matters most to you.

Since motorcycle accidents can happen to anyone, motorcyclists should consider taking a motorcycle safety course.  In Richmond, you can find motorcycle safety classes, as well as general rider classes, that take place behind the Richmond Harley-Davidson at the Marks & Harrison Pavillion.  To find out more information about classes and schedules, you can contact the Motorcycle Safety Center of Virginia here.”

If you have suffered injuries or other losses in a motorcycle accident in Virginia that was not your fault, talk to a Marks & Harrison motorcycle accident attorney about your case. We can help you seek justice and potentially obtain compensation for your medical bills, lost income, property damage and more.

Marks & Harrison was founded in 1911 by David A. Harrison, Jr. and has continued its practice uninterrupted since that time. For more than three generations our attorneys have represented the families of Virginia.