Auto Club Analysis Reveals Sharp Increase in Motorcyclist Deaths and Injuries

Risky Behavior by Both Car Drivers and Motorcyclists Leads to Increase

(IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY, Aug. 14, 2007) — Motorcycle crashes have risen sharply since 1998 in California, partly because of the rapidly increasing number of motorcycle registrations in the state, according to a new analysis of California Highway Patrol crash data by the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Combined deaths and injuries from all types of vehicle crashes in California have risen by 1 percent from 1998 through 2005. But deaths and injuries from motorcycle crashes have risen by nearly 50 percent over that same period. In fact, motorcycle crashes alone can account for almost all of the increase in overall crash deaths and injuries during that time.

In 1998 - the lowest point in recent history for motorcycle crashes — there were 200 fatalities and 6,330 injuries statewide from motorcycle crashes. In 2005, those numbers jumped to 404 fatalities and 9,347 injuries — a 102 percent increase in deaths and a 48 percent increase in injuries. In most of these crashes, another vehicle in addition to a motorcycle was involved.

"This increase is alarming over such a short time period of time and should concern all motorists, because nearly 65 percent of motorcycle crashes involve more than one vehicle," said Steven Bloch, Ph.D., the Auto Club's senior research associate. "Car drivers should be aware that the number of motorcycles on the road has risen sharply, and that motorcycles can be much more difficult to spot than cars because of their smaller, narrower profile."

Some of the most common crash scenarios between motorcycles and other vehicles include:

  1. A vehicle driver turning left into the oncoming path of a motorcyclist
  2. A vehicle driver suddenly backing out of a driveway without seeing a motorcyclist in the roadway
  3. A vehicle driver changing lanes suddenly without seeing a motorcyclist in his blind spot

In conjunction with the California Highway Patrol and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the Auto Club is warning drivers of all vehicles about the increased danger of becoming involved in a motorcycle crash.

"Every day, CHP officers witness the aftermath of tragic motorcycle crashes that could have been prevented by driving defensively and obeying traffic laws," said CHP Sgt. Mark Garrett.

Tim Buche, president of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, added, "Motorcyclists and other vehicle drivers need to learn to share the road safely so these tragedies can be prevented."

Bloch, who performed the data analysis for the Auto Club, said that one reason why motorcycle crash statistics have risen is a 71 percent increase in the number of motorcycle registrations in the state from 1998 through 2005. But increased vehicle registrations don't always lead to increased crashes. The overall number of registered vehicles in the state rose 21 percent from 1998 through 2005, while the number of fatalities and injuries from all crashes has remained relatively stable — 294,000 in 1998 compared to 297,000 in 2005.

"The increase in California motorcycle registrations alone can't fully account for the increase in motorcyclist fatalities," Bloch said. "Other possible factors are an increase in the number of miles that motorcyclists are riding, and increased speeding by motorcyclists and all vehicles."

The Auto Club has developed a set of tips to help motorcyclists and car drivers more safely share the road. The tips are available to members and non-members at any Auto Club office or online at

California Vehicle Crash Statistics, 1998-2005*




Percentage Change

Motorcyclist Fatalities




All Vehicle Crash Fatalities





Motorcyclist Injuries




All Vehicle Crash Injuries





Motorcyclist Fatalities + Injuries




All Vehicle Crash Fatalities + Injuries





Number of Motorcycle Registrations




All Vehicle Registrations




*Source: California Highway Patrol
** 2005 is the most recent year for which these statistics are available.