Although motorcycles represent only a small percentage of the vehicles registered in Colorado, motorcycle accident fatalities equaled more than 20 percent of those who died from crashes.

Climbing onto your motorcycle, twisting the throttle, and heading out on the road could lead you on a twisting road to injury or death. Grim as that sounds, it was just so for 125 Colorado motorcyclists in 2016 and at least 18 by the end of March 2017.

2016 was the deadliest year for motorcyclists since at least 2002, when only 73 bikers died, an astounding 71 percent increase, according to statistics kept by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Perhaps even more alarming is that 125 deaths is a 19 percent increase from 2015, when 105 died. And it’s a 58 percent increase from 2012, when 79 died.

The deaths were part of a record year for fatalities of all kinds on Colorado streets, roads, and highways as 607 died from crashes.

Call to Action

“There are several possible reasons for the uptick, such as more people on Colorado’s roadways,” CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt said. “The new data is troubling and represents a call to action for all our traffic safety partners in Colorado, because the loss of even one life is one too many.” Denver Channel 7 news reporter Mark Belcher reported Bhatt’s comments. Most of the motorcyclists weren’t wearing helmets, Bhatt said, noting that a helmet is a common-sense measure just like a seat belt.

CDOT is spending $390,000 in the 2017 fiscal year on motorcycle safety campaigns targeting both motorcycle riders and all motorists, he said.

Colorado State Patrol Chief Scott Hernandez said:

“Fatal crashes continue to be a tragic ending for hundreds of people in Colorado each year. Every life matters. They matter to me, my troopers, and the families suffering from these preventable tragedies. We encourage drivers to make good decisions, avoid distractions, and drive sober. Kick off the new year by buckling up, dropping the distractions and focusing on driving.”

Disproportionate Risk

Although motorcycles represent only a small percentage of the motor vehicles registered in Colorado, the 125 motorcycle accident fatalities equaled more than 20 percent of the 605 people who died from crashes.

Motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled, and almost five times more likely to be injured, across the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s analysis of motorcyclist deaths in 2014.

The Insurance Information Institute recently cited the NHTSA research and other facts to illustrate the degree of risk motorcyclists take.

  • In 2015, 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes across the United States, up 8.3 percent from 4,594 in 2014.
  • In 2015, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured, down 4.3 percent from 92,000 in 2014.
  • There were 8.6 million motorcycles on the road in 2015.
  • The number of motorcycles on U.S. roads increased from 8 million in 2009 to 8.6 million in 2015, the Federal Highway Administration reported.
  • 40 percent of the motorcyclists killed in 2015 were not wearing helmets. Helmets are optional for motorcyclists in Colorado, however.
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