NY Motorcycle Accidents at Lowest Levels in 9 Years

Last year saw a decline in motorcycles in New York State, bringing the total number of crashes to the lowest levels in nine years. According to newly released data from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2017 there were 4,673 motorcycle accidents in NY. This is a 4.73% decrease over 2016, in which 4,905 motorcycle accidents were reported.

The 2017 figure is 9.26% fewer than in 2009, the earliest data that was made available. It’s also 21.01% fewer than the peak of 2012, in which 5,916 crashes were reported.

Motorcycle Fatality Rates Up

The overall death and injury rates of motorcycle crashes has remained relatively consistent for the past nine years, by comparison to total traffic accidents, which have seen gradual declines in these figures. Injuries and deaths from NY traffic accidents have fluctuated by ultimately fallen from about 43% in 2009 to about 40% in 2017. Meanwhile, motorcycle accidents have averaged an injury and death rate of around 87.93% during the same time period.

Despite the decline in total motorcycle crashes, fatalities in particular from such accidents actually rose. In 2017, 143 motorcycle accidents in New York involved fatalities, or 3.06% of all crashes. By comparison, just 134 motorcycle crashes, or 2.73%, were lethal in 2016. The fatality rate for all New York State traffic accidents declined from 0.32% in 2016 to 0.30% in 2017. Total deaths fell as well, from 969 to 933.

Drivers in Motorcycle Accidents Skew Younger Than in Car Accidents

Unlike car crashes, which tend to occur more frequently among older drivers, motorcycle accidents more often involve younger drivers—though not dramatically so. In 2017, 24.22% of motorcycle crashes involved drivers aged 21 to 29, while 19.32% involved drivers aged 30 to 39. For overall traffic accidents in the state, in 20.75% of crashes the driver was between 21 and 29 years old and in 17.89% of crashes the driver was 30 to 39 years old.

Speed Most Common Factor in Motorcycle Crashes

Speeding is the most common factor in motorcycle accidents in New York. Last year, 848 crashes, or 18.14%, involved drivers using excess speed. Failing to yield the right of way was the second-most common factor, followed by driver distractions.

This is different from overall traffic accidents, where driver distraction is the most common factor, seconded by following too closely. Unsafe speeds were the fifth-most common factor in total traffic accidents.

Top 10 Contributing Factors in NY Motorcycle Accidents 2017
Unsafe Speed 848
Failure to Yield Right-of-Way 768
Driver Inattention/Distraction 722
Passing/Lane Changing/Improper Use 671
Following Too Closely 460
Driver Inexperience 345
Reaction to Other Uninvolved Vehicle 281
Animal’s Action 261
Turning Improperly 260
Traffic Control Device Disregarded 176

NY Counties With the Most Motorcycle Accidents

Brooklyn and Queens saw the most motorcycle crashes of any two NY counties in 2017. More than 10% of all motorcycle accidents occurred in Brooklyn, and about 9% happened in Queens. Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties had the fifth and third most motorcycle accidents respectively.

NY Counties With the Most Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle Accidents Percent of Total
BROOKLYN 488 10.44%
QUEENS 421 9.01%
SUFFOLK 355 7.60%
MANHATTAN 289 6.18%
NASSAU 274 5.86%
BRONX 226 4.84%
ERIE 214 4.58%
WESTCHESTER 202 4.32%
MONROE 190 4.07%

The list of counties with the most motorcycle accidents is not surprising given that they are some of the highest population counties in the state. When taking population into account, the counties with the most motorcycle crashes per capita are predominately smaller. Hamilton County, which has the smallest population in the state at 4,485 people, had the second-highest number of motorcycle crashes per capita in 2017. It was topped only by Essex, which saw 0.922 motorcycle crashes per 1,000 people.

County Population # Motorcycle Crashes 2017 Per Capita Crashes
Essex 37,956 35 0.922
Hamilton 4,485 4 0.892
Warren 64,532 49 0.759
Schuyler 18,000 13 0.722
Greene 47,470 24 0.506
Genesee 57,956 27 0.466
Seneca 34,498 16 0.464
Ulster 179,417 83 0.463
Sullivan 75,485 34 0.450
Allegany 46,894 21 0.448

Motorcycle Accidents Most Common on the Weekends

With motorcycles most often used for leisure riding versus general commuting, it should be no shock that the majority of accidents involving motorcycles last year took place on the weekend. Sundays were the most common day for motorcycle crashes in NY in 2017, with 903 (19.32%) taking place then. Saturdays saw 784 crashes, or 16.78%. Monday and Tuesday were the slowest days for motorcycle accidents, with 534 and 543 crashes respectively.

Cars can be enhanced with airbags and engineered to deflect impact energy around drivers and passengers. But it is difficult to engineer motorcycles that are safer to drive. That may be a significant reason for such a relatively consistent injury and death rate among motorcycle accidents, as well as why they are notably higher than automotive accidents at large. Thankfully, the total number of accidents involving motorcycles is on the decline, which means fewer overall injuries and deaths. That same is true of total automotive accidents, which, despite an uptick last year, have been generally falling over the past nine years. There’s much more to glean from our analysis of New York State traffic ticket and traffic accident trends–check out our data pages here.