October 5, 2017

Motorcycles: Deadly Danger on New York Roads

By Jonathan Damashek

Posted in

Go to the main Motorcycle Accidents page

New York City streets and roads can be very deadly places for motorcyclists. According to New York police records, 15 motorcyclists have been killed in accidents so far in 2017, up from 10 during the same time period in 2016. As reported in the New York Daily News, three motorcyclists were killed in separate accidents on a recent July weekend.

Nathan Johnson, 35, died in Bedford-Stuyvesant when he hit a column supporting train tracks, flew off his bike, landed on the street directly in front of a fellow cyclist, and his friend ran over him. The friend was not charged and did not suffer serious injuries. In the Bronx, Danny Cornejo, 31, died when he lost control of his bike on Pelham Parkway, flew off it, and slid under a car that was stopped at a red light. The car driver was arrested, not because he caused the accident, but because he was intoxicated. Slavik Avagyan, 23, died in Brooklyn when his bike crashed into a car. A witness said Avagyan was speeding.

Disturbing Nationwide Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,976 people died in motorcycle crashes in 2015, the last year for which national statistics are available. This was an 8.3 percent increase from 2014. Motorcyclists were 29 times more likely to die in a crash and nearly five times more likely to be injured than passenger car occupants. Approximately 40 percent of the motorcyclist fatalities were riders not wearing a helmet.

Fifty-four percent of the fatalities were riders over the age of 40. While motorcycle fatalities overall rose by three percent between 2005 and 2015, the number of older rider fatalities rose by 17 percent. In addition, older riders suffered more serious injuries than their younger counterparts.

Alcohol Use

Alcohol usage played a significant role in motorcycle fatalities. In 2015, the  blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 27 percent of the cyclists involved in a fatal crash was 0.08 percent or higher. Those between the ages of 35 and 39 accounted for 37 percent of these riders, and people between the ages of 45 and 49 accounted for another 36 percent.


Speeding likewise played a significant role. Thirty-three percent of cyclists involved in a fatal crash in 2015 were speeding. In comparison, speeders accounted for 19 percent of passenger car drivers, 15 percent of light truck drivers, and seven percent of large truck drivers.

Motorcycle Crash Costs

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) estimates that in 2010, the direct costs of motorcycle crashes nationwide was $16 billion. These costs included such things as:

  • Emergency services
  • Short-term medical and rehabilitation expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Lost household and business productivity
  • Insurance claims

New York Motorcycle Laws

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee explains that New York motorcycle laws are covered by Article 9, Article 15, and Article 34-A of New York’s vehicle and traffic laws. The things motorcyclists must and must not do include the following:

  • Must ride only on the permanent regular seat attached to the motorcycle
  • Must sit astride the seat facing forward, with one leg on each side of the motorcycle
  • Must wear a protective helmet and goggles or a face shield
  • Must not carry another person unless the motorcycle is designed to carry more than one person
  • Must not carry a package or anything else that prevents him or her from keeping both hands on the handlebars
  • Must not ride between traffic lanes and/or between adjacent rows or lines of vehicles

Motorcycle Safety Courses

While the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) works with the NHTSA, state governments, motorcycle manufacturers, and other organizations to provide motorcycle safety courses, only about 6 million cyclists have taken such a course since 1974.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that there were 8,410,255 registered motorcycles in the U.S. in 2011, the last year for which such records are available. This means that one out of every 36 Americans owned a cycle six years ago.

According to lohud.com, which is part of the USA Today Network, much of the problem is the cost of such courses. In New York, that cost is about $400 and the motorcyclist must pay it himself or herself. Nevertheless, nearly 17,000 New Yorkers took the intensive MSF safety course in 2016. Completion of this course allows motorcycle permit holders to forego the basic road test that the New York Department of Motor Vehicles requires for motorcycle licensure.