In 2010, 4,502 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents in the U.S., a slight increase from the 4,469 in 2009. In addition, over 83,000 motorcyclists were injured. Many of these injuries and deaths could have been prevented if more motorcycle riders and their passengers wore helmets. Wearing a helmet lowers a motorcycle rider’s risk of fatal injury by 37%. Despite the documented effectiveness of helmets, many motorcyclists choose not to wear them, especially when state laws don’t require helmet use. Currently, only 20 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require helmet use by riders of all ages. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,550 motorcyclists in 2010. And if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 706 lives could have been saved.
Per vehicle mile traveled in 2010, motorcyclists were about 30 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 5 times more likely to be injured. While motorcycles made up no more than 3% of all registered vehicles in the U.S., motorcyclists account for 14% of total traffic deaths. In 2010, 35% of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 23% for passenger car drivers, 19% for light-truck drivers, and 8% for large-truck drivers.
In Maryland, motorcyclists are subject to the same speed restrictions as other vehicles. All motorcyclists are required to drive at a speed that is reasonable and prudent. Md. Transp. Code § 21-801. Any speed in excess of the following speeds is evidence of unreasonable driving:
- 35 mph in a residential district.
- 30 mph in a business.
- 50 mph on undivided highways, 55 on divided highways, unless the director of highway traffic states otherwise. Md. Transp. Code § 21-801.1.
In addition, the State Highway Administration maintains the authority to set speed limits on any part of the highway to promote and maintain public safety. Md. Transp. Code § 21-802.