Are Women Safer Riders Than Men?

Woman MotorcyclistWOMEN 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….

22 thoughts on “Are Women Safer Riders Than Men?

  • If we’re including passengers in this comparison, I have to mention the many, many women I’ve seen holding a guy’s waist wearing a tank top and no gloves. I usually can’t see what’s on the feet, but considering what’s on the upper body, probably nothing extremely safe. Those soft, defenseless arms shouldn’t be exposed to the possibility of unexpected, severe contact with the pavement. Life-long scarring is likely. No gloves leave a rider or passenger open to the possibility of having their hand de-gloved. It is what it sounds like. Your skin is your natural glove, and de-gloving is the removal of the skin on the entire hand.

  • It’s the same old story of machismo. Which is why men are many times more dangerous than women (generally speaking) as leaders of countries. They are far more likely to do something stupid to preserve their masculine image.

  • Men tend to feel invincible until something life-shattering happens to them. I think men also tend to over-estimate their abilities. Certain male personality types feel the need to show off or use fast bikes as an extension of their manhood. I know guys in their 50s who won’t ride because they don’t trust themselves with bikes. They would want to find out what it will do. As a guy approaching 60 in two years my perspective is a lot different than when I was a teen motorcyclist. Now I want to ride as long as I can/ am able and simply enjoy being on two wheels. Don’t know how fast my Concours or K100RT will go, nor am I interested in finding out. For driver’s to respect me (and other motorcyclists) I have to ride like the vehicle that I am. Save the high end and wheelies for track days, folks. We’ll all be better off!

  • I am a woman rider. I don’t think women (generally speaking, of course) have any desire to do wheelies, show off and take risks, no matter their age. I think they tend to be more cautious, perhaps due to lack of testosterone. Neither do I have any need for speed. I don’t believe I’ve ever had my bike (Harley Sportster 1200) past 90 mph, a confession that causes men to raise their eyebrows. Why would I WANT to go any faster? Men and women are NOT the same, though some women try to dispel that idea. We are simply wired differently and that different ‘wiring’ translates into different ways of riding. I must say though that my brother used to race bikes…back in the Bridgestone Motorcycle days…he is now in his early 70’s and is the safest rider I know. He suits up like he’s going to war…maybe b/c he has seen what CAN happen. So, as men mature, they do think more about safety and are much less likely to act crazy…unless they are!

  • If you want to outlaw something, make it the stupid attitude of the bad boy Harley Boys and their Clown Suits. I’m almost 66 years old now and l know how weak these old men are getting and at what age, and most have had no fight training.

  • Men and women ARE different and those differences show up in riding styles. I am a woman rider and I have never felt the need or desire to go over 85 mph…a confession that causes eyebrows to raise. Also, I have never revved the throttle just to draw attention to myself. … and yet I hear/see guys doing that ALL the time. When I first started learning to ride…I thought: is THAT something I’m supposed to be doing?? LOL There are fewer women dying in bike crashes b/c there are fewer women out there riding. But on the whole, I do think women are much less driven by the need for excitement at the expense of safety. And I have also noticed that crazy behavior is pretty much the domain of young male riders. Older riders know better…they’ve had their close calls and have learned.

  • I am a female rider and even though I love the throttle, I do it with some common sense. I am also a rider coach and teach beginning riders and it is certainly true we put more men through the school than women. It is also obvious that women tend to respect the bike and have an innate fear of riding which gives them a much different attitude when they are riding. I think that it is healthy and that helps them to not push pass their limits. I think a more interesting statistic is who wears more gear or gear more often? My husband (also a rider and coach) and I comment often when seeing a driver and passenger on a bike. It seems to be fairly common that the husband (driver) isn’t wearing a helmet, long sleeves, or gloves, while the wife/girlfriend is wearing helmet, gloves, long sleeves, etc. Are women more safety conscious too?

  • Doesn’t surprise me at all. I think there are far fewer female “riders”, but they tend to do less risky riding anyway. Only exception are scooter riders. Lots of female scooter riders and almost all fail to use safety gear, helmets, gloves etc. Also scooters are frequently grossly underpowered and fail to keep up with traffic making auto drivers impatient and aggressive. I live in a University city in Florida and have had a few scooter fatalities recently, interestingly all female. Not sure if these make the motorcycle statistics. My wife usually makes her opinion obvious when we ride 2-up if she thinks I’m doing something wrong!

  • I imagine it’s the same for cars & street racing, drifting, etc. Guys are just dumber than girls when it comes to those types of activities.

  • I started riding at twenty four, loved my bike and really didn’t want to hurt either of us – also lived in a top floor flat and no way did I fancy crutches etc, especially with my husband’s business to run, so I rode carefully and thoughtfully. Lack of testosterone helped for sure. When a good mate, an excellent rider, died I realized how much men push against each other’s limits and push their own luck. My partner would nag me for not overtaking after he had, but I stuck to my guns and am still here aged 63. Love my bike, love the road – love my mobility! Safe riding and long lives to you all 🙂

  • As a general rule, I would say that far fewer womwn than men engage in risky behavior of any kind. Seems to me that this would go back to our hunter-gatherer days when us guys were out killing animals and fighting other guys and women were tending home and hearth, and nurturing children. If we aren’t out killing large animals and making war, then we gotta do something with that testosterone, eh? Riding Stupid is an outlet for that, I guess.

  • In Australia fem scooter riders are the scariest. … 50cc no bike license required just car license. 99% of them ride in high heels mini skirts and tube tops….. at least they smart enough to wear a helmet tho having nice head and no skin on body dont help.

  • what is the matter with all you people,its simply called testostrogen in men,nothing more nothing less,wise up you people.

  • I still do not see a lot of woman drivers on the road. Please dont think that there are not a lot of woman drivers on the road. But I think most riders are males. This is not saying that we still do stupid things behind the wheels.

  • Here in Australia we have increasing number of female riders. I believe they ride safer than most blokes. From what i seen in last 5 years of city riding most accidents between bike and car are the riders fault….. fem bikers are hot. We need lots more of them.

  • I’ve been riding for 60 years and in all the times I’ve been in the company of a female rider only one or two times have I noticed a rider that seem to look only ahead and not all around which in my opinion Most Gals can ride with the big dogs

  • At the risk of getting myself in tons of trouble for noting that women and men are fundamentally different, I think they think differently and I think that difference will generally (not always) make women less likely to do stupid stuff on a bike. Men think in a straight line… “I’m here, I wanna be there, here I go!” Women think in broader, wider terms… they are aware of things that men, in their straight line thinking, are not. A woman may also think “I’m here, I wanna be there, here I go!” but she is also more finely in tuned with things that come up and might need to be dealt with along the way and that makes her more prepared. Of course, any male biker with a brain thinks that way, too, but for him, it’s a learned skill. For her, it’s an instinct.

    I think that fundamental difference in thinking between thinking styles of men and women is generally (not always) true in most aspects of life. I think there are many ways in life. I think that’s why in many ways, men provide the driving force and women provide the force that keeps things together,

    Of course, it’s a changing world these days. It’s practically against the law to believe that men are men and women are women, so, I guess I’m in tons of trouble for thinking there really are differences in how they think and that those differences can make women safer on a bike. (Not withstanding, the person most likely to ride on your back bumper at highway speeds in a car is an over weight woman who never moves fast anywhere else but thinks she owns the highway when she gets in a car)

    Go ahead people. Hit me.

  • I suspect that testosterone is probably the biggest factor, as well as youth coupled with it. I’ve managed 375,000 miles without either a totaled motorcycle or even a sprain, but I started at age 23. Pretty much wore a risk management hat from the get-go even though I did indulge in a bit of canyon carving long ago. Still enjoy the sensation of motion but at lower speeds. I DO NOT drink or use drugs so that part is covered too.

  • I’ve seen both genders do stupid stuff. I’ve been known to make mistakes myself, but never on purpose.

  • I would venture a guess that women don’t bar hop and drink like many men do while they ride either.

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