September 12, 2007

Popularity of high-performance motorcycles helps push U.S. rider deaths to near-record high

Arlington, Virginia – “Supersport” motorcycles built on racing platforms but modified for highway use and sold to consumers, have the highest death rates and worst overall insurance losses among all types of motorcycles, according to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Analyses by the Institute and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) show that motorcyclists who ride supersports have driver death rates per 10,000 registered motorcycles nearly four times higher than rates for motorcyclists who ride all other types of bikes.

Supersports are especially popular with riders younger than 30, and typically have more horsepower per pound than other bikes. A 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, for example, produces 111 hp and weighs 404 lbs (183 kg), while a 2006 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide touring motorcycle produces 65 hp and weighs 788 lbs (357 kg).

“Supersport motorcycles are indeed nimble and quick, but they also can be deadly,” says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research. “These bikes made up less than 10 per cent of registered motorcycles in 2005, but accounted for over 25 per cent of rider deaths. Their insurance losses were elevated, too.”

Motorcyclist fatalities in the U.S. have more than doubled in 10 years and reached 4,810 in 2006, accounting for 11 per cent of total highway fatalities. Speed and driver error were bigger factors in fatal crashes of supersports, and sport and unclad sport bikes, compared with other classes of motorcycles; speed was cited in 57 per cent of supersports riders’ fatal crashes in 2005, and 46 per cent of sport and unclad sport riders. By comparison, speed was a factor in 27 per cent of fatal crashes among riders on cruisers, and 22 per cent on touring motorcycles. However, alcohol was a far higher factor on crashes of cruisers, standard and touring motorcycles than supersports, particularly among riders 30 to 49 years of age.

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