How can we reduce motorcycle fatalities in Arizona?

By David Schlinkert
December 12, 2019

As blood poured out of him onto the street, we scrambled to call 911 and check to see if he had a pulse. This tragedy, which I witnessed last month, is seared into my mind. 

Police and fire arrived at the intersection within minutes, but realistically, there is nothing they could’ve done. A collision between a car and motorcycle sent the motorcyclist flying through the air.

That evening, I looked up the accident on the internet, it was a fatality. As I scrolled, I was startled by the number of motor vehicle fatalities near my home in Phoenix.

Even more shocking, this is not just a trend in my community: Arizona had the fifth-highest rate of motorcycle fatalities per registered motorcycle in the U.S. in 2017, according to LendingTree, which analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2017, Arizona had almost 10 fatalities per 100,000 registered motorcycles. 

What is to blame? Oblivious, distracted or intoxicated drivers, the fact that helmets are not required in Arizona, traffic congestion? Probably all of those play some role, along with many other factors.

Whatever the reasons for Arizona's high motorcycle fatality rate, things may get worse before they get better. According to LendingTree, by 2017 the number of registered motorcycles in the U.S. had increased by more than 20% over the last decade. 

Now that a few weeks have passed, as I reflect on the death of that motorcyclist, who succumbed tragically, violently in front of dozens of people, I hope that our policymakers begin examining ways that we can make our roads safer for motorcyclists.

Morrison Institute blogs are intended to further public discourse regarding key and timely issues via diverse voices, expertise and experiences – including, when appropriate, in pro-and-con format. Blogs do not represent any official position of Morrison Institute for Public Policy or Arizona State University.