Deadly Motorcycle Crashes Increased In 2019 and 2020

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.

In 2019 and 2020, over 90 motorcycle riders died each year in crashes on Washington’s roads. This was the highest number of motorcycle rider fatalities in a single year in our state since 1982.

“We are concerned about the high number of motorcycle rider deaths and we know that we can all work to prevent these deaths,” said Shelly Baldwin, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “Drivers can watch out for motorcyclists. Riders can improve their skills through training. All of us can respect speed limits and ride and drive sober.”

While about 2/3 of fatal motorcycle crashes involved another vehicle, illegal and dangerous actions by the rider including speeding, losing control in corners and curves, improper passing, and riding under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs were the main contributing factors cited in these crashes.

“The Department of Licensing is committed to working with riders, training providers, and other agencies to improve rider safety in Washington,” said Bryan Jackson, Assistant Administrator of the Motorcycle Safety Program. “Through good decision making, reoccurring training, and knowing their limits, riders control their own safety.”

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 moving traffic, look twice for motorcycles.

“In the last year we have seen an exceptional number of people buying motorcycles and taking training during the pandemic,” said Chris Johnson, Owner and Trainer at Washington Motorcycle Safety Training. “Unfortunately, we have also seen a huge spike in motorcycle fatalities, making the need for motorcycle rider awareness greater than ever before.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that motorcycle fatalities across the country decreased .5 percent from 5,038 in 2018 to 5,014 in 2019. Per vehicle mile traveled in 2019, motorcyclists were about 29 more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a crash and 4 times more likely to be seriously injured.

A motorcycle awareness and safety campaign called “It’s A Fine Line” promotes safe and fun 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 inform riders of the inherent risks of motorcycling and the need to create your own safety.