While overall traffic crash fatalities continue to decrease in Washington, motorcyclist fatalities continue to rise.

In our state, motorcycles make up just 4 percent of the registered vehicles, but accounted for 17 percent of the fatalities and 18 percent of the serious injuries between 2012 and 2014.

Year Total Traffic Fatalities Motorcycle Fatalities Percentage of Total
2010 460 68 15%
2011 454 70 15%
2012 438 82 19%
2013 435 73 17%
2014 462 69 15%


It’s A Fine Line

It’s a fine line between the best ride ever and the last ride ever. We all have a responsibility to share the road so that we arrive home safely to our families. Join riders from all walks of life with one common mission of Target Zero. Together we can eliminate crashes that result in fatalities and serious injuries. http://itsafineline.com/

Highlights from Washington’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan: Target Zero (2009-2011 data)

The common belief that most motorcycle crashes are caused by other motorists is inaccurate. In actuality, 75 percent of all 2012-2014 motorcyclist fatalities can be traced to causal factors committed by the motorcyclist. When we break this down by type of motorcycle, the risky nature of sport bikes again shows up—86 percent of their fatalities were rider-caused. Looking at the 25 percent of the overall fatalities where the rider is not at fault, the data indicates that older riders are more likely to be the victim of others drivers’ errors.

License Endorsement and Training:

A license endorsement is required in Washington to ride a motorcycle. Data shows that endorsed riders have fewer infractions and are less likely to be involved in fatal collisions when compared to unendorsed riders.

Currently, motorcycles may be purchased and registered in Washington without a valid motorcycle license endorsement. This contributed to the fact that from 2012-2014, 36 percent of riders involved in fatal crashes were not legally endorsed to be riding a motorcycle.

In 2007 legislation was passed allowing law enforcement to impound unendorsed riders’ bikes when they’ve been pulled over for a routine traffic stop. The result was a dramatic increase in new riders taking training courses on their path to endorsement.

About 75 percent of fatal motorcycle crash victims have no record of a training program completion, leaving us to wonder if the outcome would have been different had they received training. Approved motorcycle rider training schools can be found at many locations around the state.

Motorcycle Helmets:

Universal motorcycle helmet laws are effective at increasing helmet use, and are recommended by NHTSA as a “countermeasure that works”.  Review Washington’s helmet law.

Washington has a strict law that requires all riders, regardless of age or motorcycle type, to wear a DOT compliant helmet. Only 8 percent of the riders involved in fatalities were not wearing helmets. Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67% effective in preventing brain injuries. This is important because there are annual challenges to Washington’s helmet laws by advocates wishing the law repealed. To reach zero fatalities and serious injuries, it is important that this law stay in place.

Impaired Riding:

In this 2012-2014 review, 57 percent of motorcycle operators were under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both, on par with the 56 percent average for all impairment involved in fatality crashes.


Speeding was involved in 51 percent of fatalities and 30 percent of serious injuries among motorcyclists.


Young and middle aged riders are over-represented in fatal crashes. Overwhelmingly younger riders choose a “sport bike” which is generally a low to the ground, high performance and very fast. The middle aged riders frequently choose “cruisers” which are heavy, large, highway type motorcycles designed for comfort and longer rides.


Motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes are primarily male, comprising 91 percent of fatalities.


The average number of violations for all endorsed motorcyclists is a 1.1.  Endorsed riders in fatal collisions have had an average of 4.1 violations.

Mark Medalen – Program Manager

360.725.9878 mmedalen@wtsc.wa.gov

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