Death by Motorcycle: Background, Behavioral, and Situational Correlates of Fatal Motorcycle Collisions


  • Samuel Nunn Ph.D.

    1. Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA); Director, Center for Criminal Justice Research (CCJR); and Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI), 334 North Senate Avenue, Suite 300, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
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  • An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety, State and Local Policy Program, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, October 12, 2009, in St. Paul, MN.

  • Funded by annual traffic safety research grant awards from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute and Center for Criminal Justice Research.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Samuel Nunn, Ph.D.
Center for Criminal Justice Research
Indiana University Public Policy Institute
334 North Senate Avenue, Suite 300
Indianapolis, IN 46204


Abstract:  Motorcycle fatalities in the United States continue to increase on both crude and adjusted bases. This paper examines fatal motorcycle accidents as a cause of death, using a retrospective analysis of motorcycle operator fatalities from 2003 to 2008 in the state of Indiana. During these six years, out of more than 18,000 motorcycle operators in crashes, 601 were killed. Based on police report data, motorcycle operators during this period are examined to reveal key factors that are in place when a motorcyclist is killed in a collision. The major correlates of death identified were objects of impact, risky behaviors, and speed. The largest positive effects on the chances of death were linked to trees, posts-signs-poles, bridge-guardrail-median, and other motor vehicles. In conjunction with speed, these objects were the primary mechanisms by which fatal injuries were sustained by motorcyclists. Various types of risky behavior were also major correlates of death by motorcycle.