Deadly Motorcycle Crashes Increased in 2019 and 2020, State Officials Report 


May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and Washington officials are reminding drivers of all motor vehicles, including cars trucks, and motorcycles, to safely share the road.

In 2019 and 2020, more than 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 the state since 1982, according to data from the state Department of Licensing (DOL) and Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC).

"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 WTSC. "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 two-thirds 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 or drugs were the main contributing factors cited in these crashes, according to data from WTSC and DOL. 

“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 DOL’s motorcycle safety program. “Through good decision making, reoccurring training and knowing their limits, riders control their own safety.”

With more motorcycle riders on roads this time of year, officials remind drivers to watch out for motorcycles before changing lanes, turning left or pulling out into moving traffic.

“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% from 5,038 in 2018 to 5,014 in 2019. Per vehicle mile traveled in 2019, data show motorcyclists were about 29 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to die in a crash and four 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.

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