(COLORADO SPRINGS) — May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is urging motorcyclists and all drivers to practice safe habits on the road, amidst one of the deadliest years for motorcyclists.

According to CDOT, motorcycle fatalities have reached their highest level on record.  As the weather gets nicer, motorcycle fatalities tend to increase during the summer riding months.

In 2022, 149 motorcyclists were killed on Colorado roads, representing 20% of the state’s total traffic fatalities. So far this year, motorcycle deaths are down 22% compared to this time last year. To date, 21 motorcyclists have lost their lives on Colorado roads, down from 27 fatalities at this time last year. 

Motorcycle fatalities
Courtesy: Colorado Department of Transportation

Last year, the counties with the most motorcycle deaths were El Paso County at 25, Jefferson at 19, Adams at 12, Denver at 12 and Arapahoe at 11. 

In Colorado, 75 of the 148 motorcycle fatalities in 2022 involved riders not wearing helmets. Nationally, helmet use has declined in the past few years. The use of DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets declined from 69% in 2020 to 65% in 2021.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that speed and alcohol are large contributing factors in motorcycle crashes. According to NHTSA, 34% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2020 were speeding, compared to 22% for passenger car drivers, 16% for light-truck drivers, and 7% for large-truck drivers. Motorcycle riders 25 to 29 years old involved in fatal crashes had the highest speeding involvement at 45%.

Alcohol impairment also plays a significant role in motorcycle-involved crash fatalities: 41% of the 2,158 motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2020 nationwide were alcohol-impaired. In 2020, motorcycle riders involved (killed or survived) in fatal crashes had higher percentages of alcohol impairment than any other type of motor vehicle driver.

Drivers also need to use caution around motorcycles. Intersections are particularly dangerous since drivers of passenger vehicles often fail to see on-coming motorcycles. Therefore, CDOT recommends drivers and motorcyclists alike to keep the following tips in mind to reduce crashes: 

  • Observe all traffic laws and always obey the speed limit.
  • Drive and ride alcohol- and drug-free.
  • Avoid distractions such as phones or anything else that takes your eyes off the road
  • Yield to motorcyclists, especially while turning at intersections.
  • Wear high-visibility personal protective gear and DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets. NHTSA data estimates that helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists’ lives in 2017, and that 749 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn their helmets.