8 Most Dangerous States for Motorcycle Riding in the US [Explained]
There’s no sugarcoating the fact that riding a motorcycle is a dangerous activity. No matter how confident you feel while riding, a single mistake can turn fatal.
The reason is simple. Unlike a driver in a car, a motorcyclist is more vulnerable to a much higher level with full exposure to the elements.
Statistics reveal that there are some states where more motorcycle accidents occur. As per one interpretation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, Mississippi, Texas and South Carolina are the top three names in terms of motorcycle fatality rate by state.
Frankly, statistics can be misleading at times (especially when they are published by insurance companies). So, it is necessary to look beyond the number of fatalities. For example, some warm-weather states have more riders as well as a longer riding season. This could be the main reason why there’s a higher chance of accidents.
But here’s the worrying fact.
In 2020, the number of motorcycle deaths in the US was as high as 5579, setting an all-time record. (Luckily, in 2021 and 2022, according to preliminary studies, the tide began to turn slowly.)
It is simple – the more you ride, the higher the chances of a crash. Still, to stay safe, it is best to know where the risks are higher.
Where Do Most Motorcycle Accidents Happen?
In 2021, the number of riders killed in motorcycle-related crashes in Kentucky, rose to 99. One study has also indicated that the “danger rating” of the roads in Kentucky is the sixth highest in the nation. (Did I mention Mississippi roads have the highest “danger rating”?)
It seems the drivers have not been able to get rid of the habits they picked up while driving during the pandemic. And overspeeding is the worst of them.
Moreover, the law doesn’t require motorcyclists in Kentucky to wear a helmet if they are over the age of 21. But it goes without saying, wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is the safe choice.
What’s worse, helmet use seems to have taken a downswing nationally since 2019, as you can see in the chart below. So it’s not unrealistic to assume that the fatality rate in Kentucky would have got even worse in 2021. Anyway, we can’t know until the reports are in.
While riding through Kentucky, we suggest that you slow down and take your time. By staying vigilant, you can avoid running into other drivers who are not.
7. New Mexico
New Mexico has one of the highest motorcycle fatality rates by state in the country with 9.8 deaths for every 10,000 motorcyclists. Unfortunately, one report also indicated that crashes involving intoxicated drivers are common in the state.
The data obtained from the New Mexico Department of Transportation in 2021 indicated that a large percentage of the riders killed were without helmets. As expected, the two other reasons behind the fatalities were driving under the influence and driver inattention.
6. North Carolina
Just its south counterpart (more on that later), North Carolina has a high fatality rate when it comes to motorcycle crashes. In 2020, out of 3409 motorbike accidents, 82 were fatal.
Since the warmer weather leads to a higher number of motorcyclists, the months between May and September see the highest number of crashes. So, the state has declared the month of May as the Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.
While there are a lot of factors in play, two main reasons for the high numbers are speed and inattention. But as anywhere, there are also fender benders, dooring accidents, and so on. To stay safe, be cautious when you are approaching intersections, and try to avoid lane splitting.
Arizona had one of the highest rates of motorcycle fatalities with 2594 total crashes in 2021. Even though reports indicate a decrease in the number of fatalities in 2022, the roads are far from being safe for riders.
The growing population in the state in recent years has resulted in more drivers and riders on the streets. This has increased the chances of accidents. The rise in fatalities after the pandemic was mainly due to distracted driving and riders not respecting the speed limits.
A major chunk of the crashes in Arizona take place on roads other than the state highways. Most motorcycle accidents happen due to a collision with cars, trucks, or other motorcycles.
However, 19% of motorcycle accidents in 2021 also happened due to collisions with fixed objects. Those can be anything from trees to roadside barriers! Other reasons include rollovers, and driving under the influence.
To prevent a vehicle from slamming into you, it is best to avoid distractions while riding through the streets in Arizona. And distractions are plenty – especially with all the scenery that can take a biker’s breath away!
Also, make sure to stay watchful during left-hand turns and lane splitting.
In 2021, there were 583 fatal motorcycle crashes in Florida, making it one of the highest in the country. Data suggests that Miami-Dade County is the most accident-prone zone in the state.
In its defense, the number of registered vehicles in the state is higher and the riding season is nearly year-round.
The fact is, the state experiences heavy motorcycle traffic as riders cannot resist the lure of the beautiful coastal roadways and the sunny weather. Also, there are quite a few motorcycle events for the buffs. And as always, the math is unrelenting: with a higher number of bikes on the road, the rate of accidents goes up.
Another reason for the accidents is the rough weather conditions during the thunderstorm season. Sudden rainstorms and related flooding can affect road conditions and lead to crashes.
When you are riding through Florida, make sure that you remain highly visible and practice defensive driving. Since a large number of motorcycle accidents happen in intersections, stay alert when crossing one.
3. South Carolina
In 2021, there was a 9% increase in the number of casualties in motorcycle accidents in South Carolina. Since the pandemic, plenty of riders have been attracted to the excellent views, long stretches of highway, and the warm weather in the state.
The diminished volume of traffic on the roads during that period gave the riders a chance to go full throttle. However, as the traffic volume rose in 2022, speeding has been a major reason behind the number of motorcycle accidents rising.
However, there is no single reason that has contributed to this rise. In many cases, the accidents were a result of an ‘I didn’t see you’ scenario. This means drivers need to check their blind spot for motorcyclists and “look twice” before making turns and switching lanes.
That said, some of these tragedies have taken place as riders ignored safety. For example, in one accident, the rider was not wearing a helmet when he crashed into a pick-up truck.
There’s a lesson to this story, and we should all stick it on the garage wall. Yes, car drivers are the ones who can inflict most damage. But that doesn’t mean us bikers should hang our safety gear on a hook!
Even with Covid affecting the number of vehicles on the road in 2020, Texas registered a 17% increase in motorcycle fatalities the same year. In 2021, 519 riders died in crashes in the state.
The data also reveals that the period between May and October is the most dangerous period for motorcyclists in the state. With intersections being the “hot spots”. According to one survey, the stretch between I-45 between Galveston and Dallas is the deadliest road in the US!
A large number of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes had drugs or alcohol in their systems. Many of these accidents also occurred due to the inability of drivers to notice a motorcycle in time.
The annual “Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles” campaign has been launched to provide the necessary safety tips to drivers about keeping the roads, especially the intersections, safe for motorcyclists.
Mississippi tops the fatality chart with around 15 fatalities per 10,000 registered motorcycles. Some reports say that between 2019 and 2020, motorcycle fatalities in the state have gone up by 55%!
Even worse, you can’t just explain away these figures. As one theory has it, it is more of a rural state, and speed limits in rural streets are higher than in urban streets. This can make crashes more deadly.
Moreover, being a rural area, the hospitals or first responders are far from a crash site in most scenarios. That increases the time gap between an injury and medical treatment.
You may think that rural roads have less traffic, but they have different challenges. Many of these roads are narrower and test the cornering skills of the rider. And since the number of lanes is fewer, there is less space to avoid any hazard. On top of that, the traffic laws in Mississippi are not the strongest either.
Quite simply, while riding on such dangerous roads, seconds matter. So, distractions and intoxications are your worst enemies.
While I am not discouraging you from riding through these states and enjoying their beauty, being careful is the key to safe riding. As a motorcycle rider, “that’s when it hit me” are my least favorite words.
Despite being cautious, you may still get involved in a motorcycle crash by sheer bad luck. But by taking the right precautions, you can reduce the risks of rising through any of these most dangerous states for motorcycle riders.
Perhaps you are a non-motorcyclist in one of these states reading this article. Then remember, you too have an important role to play in keeping the roads safe for motorcyclists while driving.