After hearing yet another WSP press release claiming that rider error is the cause of the vast majority of motorcycle crashes, I took it upon myself to check the stats. Most of us are familiar with the Hurt Report. To the best of my knowledge, this report is the most comprehensive study of motorcycle accidents and their root causes. NHTSA initiated the study which ultimately found that two-thirds of motorcycle-car crashes occurred when the car driver failed to see the approaching motorcycle and violated the rider's right-of-way. The report also provided data showing clearly that helmets significantly reduce the risk of brain injury and death but with no increased risk of crash involvement or neck injury. Unfortunately, the study was initiated in 1976 and published in 1981. A great deal has changed since the study and unfortunately, no similarly comprehensive study has been performed since. I had hoped to find motorcycle accident data, but it quickly became apparent that there is no clearinghouse for this information. The National Center for Statistics does keep records of fatal accidents which can be found within the Fatality Reporting System (FARS). [http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov] The most recent information I could find was from 2010. The FARS website is very user friendly and I was able to find a map showing the exact location of 65 of 69 total 2010 motorcycle fatalities in Washington. Using the information I got off from the FARS site, I did a Google search for each accident. To get additional background information, I checked news reports and where available, on line police records. I found that the information in the FARS database which the NHTSA relies upon was mostly correct. The location was wrong on one incident and some of the details reported for several others was incorrect. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any information about evasive maneuvers attempted by rides. Essentially, I found that the WSP is correct that most fatal motorcycle accidents in Washington (at least in 2010) do involve a single rider. We all too commonly hear reports of speed being a factor and thus, most people infer that these single rider fatalities involve speeding riders and sport bikes in particular. It is also not a huge logical leap to infer that most of these incidents involve younger riders. As always proves to be the case, the statistics dont tell the whole story and the inferences raised by the WSP are not entirely correct. THE NUMBERS As stated, I was able to find data on 65 of 69 total motorcycle fatalities in 2010. Of this number 35 involved a single bike and 30 involved more than one vehicle. SINGLE MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS (WA Total in 2010 = 35) 2 riders were killed when they hit deer. 1 rider had unrelated medical condition which caused him to collapse while riding. 1 rider was blown off the road (he was reportedly doing 10 over the limit when he crashed) 7 riders were killed when they failed to negotiate a turn. 15 riders killed were legally drunk - several were extremely drunk. I was unable to find any information to piece together what happened for the other 9 incidents. Of the 22 incidents were speed was reported to be a factor, 9 involved drunk riders. There were 2 riders killed who were older than 65 and 1 younger than 21. It was very hard to figure out what type of bike was ridden, but I did find 6 incidents involving cruisers, 4 involving sport bikes, and 1 involving a sport touring bike. 1 fatality involved a rider that was fleeing the police .he was on a sport bike and was also reportedly DWI. MULTIPLE VEHICLE ACCIDENTS (WA total in 2010 = 30) Rider at fault (5): 5 fatal accidents involved a rider who was at fault (3 riders rear-ended another vehicle; 1 was fleeing police when hit by a truck which in turn fled; and one crossed the centerline and hit another vehicle head-on). Motorist at fault (15) 9 fatal collisions involved another motorist failing to yield the right-of-way. The most common scenario was an oncoming driver turning left in front of the rider. A good number also involved drivers pulling out into the path of a rider. 1 fatal collision involved a motorist rear-ending a stopped rider. 5 fatal collisions involved motorists crossing the center line and striking riders head-on. One of these incidents involved a DWI motorist taking out two bikes and killing both riders. 2 collisions involved young (under 20) drivers and 2 involved old (over 65) drivers. Other (10) There were 10 multiple vehicle incidents where I could find no information. From what I could gather from the FARS data, I suspect that most of these are fail to yield scenarios since they involve intersections, but because I didnt find anything to support my theory, I didnt count them. CONCLUSIONS/OBSERVATIONS: Too many of us drink and ride. 44% of all single bike accidents involve a drunk rider. While it is easy to stereotype these riders as the typical Harley riding weekend warrior, I found almost as many sport bikers ride drunk as cruiser riders. If you take out those that drink and ride, only 17% of single rider crashes involve riders who carry too much speed into a turn. Most of these crashes occurred in intersections or sweeping turns. I was unable to find any single bike crashes on our favorite twisty roads. Almost all accidents whether single or multi vehicle occur in daylight. Motorcycle accidents occur with about the same frequency in rural vs. urban areas. Deer suck and running from the cops will get you killed. Don't blindly rely on stats to support an argument. Just because there is a single bike accident, doesn't necessarily mean that the rider was speeding or even that the accident was his/her fault (see 2 deer strikes and unrelated medical condition causes). I also found a creepy instance where two riders having the exact same name were killed within one month of each other on opposite sides of the country. Finally, I suspect some of you might know brothers or sisters who were killed in 2010 while riding. I did find several incidents that were discussed in PNW and have tried to be as vague as possible to avoid offense. Ive got to make one exception though. I came across a newspaper article from Benton County about District Court Judge Terry Tanner who threw out a negligent driving charge against a guy who, while speeding, failed to yield the right-of-way in an intersection and killed a fellow rider. There were witnesses and WSP recommended vehicular homicide charges, but the Benton County prosecutor only brought a failure to yield and negligent driving infraction. To add insult to injury, the driver, after getting off on the negligent driving charge, blamed everything on the rider. For those of you in Benton County, keep in mind that both prosecutors and judges are elected .vote.