WOMEN HAVE BEEN RIDING MOTORCYCLES FOR A LONG TIME. But in the last decade or two, I have observed many more female riders on the road than I had observed in earlier decades. And that’s not only here in California, but also on roads across North America.
But what I haven’t observed are crazy female motorcycle riders.
I’m not suggesting women motorcycle riders have not made mistakes. All riders make mistakes.
It’s just that when I see a motorcyclist doing crazy things on public roadways, it’s usually a guy. I say “usually” because I can’t always tell whether a rider is male or female underneath the gear. But anytime I can tell, it has always been a guy.
Now, since some people consider riding any motorcycle to be “crazy,” and others consider those who specifically ride certain types of bikes (example: fastest) to be “crazy,” how am I defining this behavior?
For me, crazy riding would include high-speed swerving in and out of traffic, doing wheelies in traffic, standing upright on one’s seat while ‘not’ holding the handlebars in traffic, or any other stunts in traffic. Personally, I emphasize the “in traffic” qualifier because I have different standards for roadways without traffic.
And by the way, I’m not moralizing on the subject. I have done a lot of crazy things myself as a younger rider.
The point is simple: I haven’t personally observed women operating motorcycles in an unsafe manner. (Women in cars, however, is a different story — although I can’t say it’s more or less than men).
I don’t suppose that the safest women riders are any safer than the safest men riders, but it does seem that men, and perhaps, more specifically, younger guys, are just crazier on motorbikes than women of any age.
It would be interesting to see some statistics comparing single-vehicle motorcycle crashes between men and women on a per capita basis. Even though multi-vehicle crash comparisons could be interesting, some of those events are caused by car drivers and some are caused by the motorcyclist. So those statistics wouldn’t be as accurate as single-vehicle accidents, which imply it’s the rider’s fault.
Having said that, I did find some statistics that are more general in nature: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compiled some charts from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
If you click the above link, you can scroll down to see a number of charts (the most recent I could find). One of them compares men and women motorcycle fatalities and cites that “Ninety-one percent of motorcyclists killed in 2013 were males.” It also notes that “Sixty-one percent of the female motorcyclists who died in crashes in 2013 were passengers.”
If we subtract those 61% of female passenger deaths from the overall 9% of female fatalities, we end up with less than 4% of 2013 motorcycle fatalities who were women “riders.”
On another page, associated with the same study, but not exclusive to motorcycles since it includes all motor vehicles, it states the following: “Many more men than women die each year in motor vehicle crashes. Men typically drive more miles than women and more often engage in risky driving practices including not using safety belts, driving while impaired by alcohol, and speeding. Crashes involving male drivers often are more severe than those involving female drivers.”
To emphasize the obvious, those statistics do not represent single-vehicle motorcycle accidents. They don’t even represent male riders vs. female riders, since they include passengers. And more importantly, those percentages don’t even take into account how many male riders there are vs. female riders. So, those numbers have to be appreciated within their limited parameters.
Regardless, as poorly as those numbers accurately reflect motorcycle safety for males vs females, they are lopsided enough to consider that women are doing something right. Although I’m an optimist by nature and I’m glad to see the increasing percentage of women riders, I wonder if the majority of men will be seeking motorcycle safety advice from women….