Office on Highway Safety

Motorcycle Safety

Motorcyclists are one of our most vulnerable road users. Each year we promote public awareness campaigns that encourage safe riding for motorcyclists and for other motorists to be on the lookout for motorcycles and to share the road. On a national level motorcyclist are about 28 times more likely than people in passenger cars to die in a traffic crash.

Safe riding practices and cooperation from all road users will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our highways. It's especially important for vehicle drivers to understand the safety challenges faced by motorcyclists.  This includes things such as the motorcycle visibility and motorcycle riding practices to know how to anticipate and respond to them. By raising motorists' awareness, both drivers and riders will be safer sharing the road.

The Numbers

In the past five years, the numbers of people killed in motorcycle crashes has varied from as few as four in 2016 to as many as 18 in 2018.  In 2019, we lost 13 people in these types of crashes.

  • Nationally about 40 percent of fatalities in motorcycle crashes involved people not wearing helmets. Unfortunately, Rhode Island does not have a universal helmet law for all motorcyclists - state law only covers passengers and operators during the first year of having a motorcycle license. Preliminary data for Rhode Island (2019) shows that 30 percent of motorcyclist fatalities were not wearing a helmet (4 out of the 13 fatalities).
  • In 2019, preliminary statistics show that 61 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes involved the presence of alcohol and/or drugs. The average age was 42. The youngest was 25 and the oldest 62. The highest number of fatalities occurred in Providence County (8) followed by Washington County (3). There was one each in Newport and Kent Counties.
  • Motorcyclists continue to be overrepresented in traffic-related fatalities, accounting for 14 percent of all traffic-related fatalities, while representing only 3 percent of the entire registered motor vehicle fleet.

What We Are Doing

Our approach includes looking for partners to work together in developing educational materials and training programs as well as marketing materials. These efforts look to encourage safe riding practices and to remind motorists to share the road. We also want to include the importance of avoiding dangerous behaviors such as impaired riding, distraction and speeding.

RIDOT works with the Traffic Safety Coalition (TSC), a consortium of traffic safety advocates that include community groups focusing on all of our traffic safety emphasis areas. A TSC Motorcycle Safety Subcommittee, which includes private citizens, CCRI, RIDMV, the Rhode Island Motorcycle Association, RI National Guard and RIDOT has explored avenues to increase motorcycle safety in the areas of education, training, license requirements and legislation. One such product of this partnership is proposed legislation to increase licensing requirements to include a 3-wheel licensing training program that is currently working its way through the State House.

We also have led an effort to develop informational pocket cards to bring awareness to motorcycle safety. They are called “Get Up to Speed on Motorcycles. Motorcyclists and Motorists Can Work Together to Save Lives". These handy cards were given to law enforcement and community groups to hand out at events and to bring to local businesses for distribution.

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