Motorcycle riders overrepresented in traffic fatalities

Last year in Ohio, 230 people were killed in motorcycle-related crashes.

Ohio drivers should expect to see more motorcycles on the road as peak riding season gets underway.

Law enforcement across the state and Motorcycle Ohio, a division of the Ohio Traffic Safety Office, are raising awareness about motorcycle safety for National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in May.

“There are over 500,000 registered motorcycles on Ohio’s roadways and safety is everyone’s responsibility,” said Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Andy Wilson. “All drivers must look twice on the highway, at intersections, and any time they are changing lanes — you may just save someone’s life.”

Last year, 230 people were killed in motorcycle-related crashes across the state, which is a 47% increase from five years ago, according to Motorcycle Ohio.

As of Monday there were 512 motorcycle-related crashes in Ohio that killed 27 people, Ohio State Highway Patrol data show.

Four of those deaths were in the Miami Valley, with two each in Butler and Montgomery counties.

The most recent was April 16 in the city of Dayton.

A 2017 Timpte semitrailer driven by a 62-year-old Clark County man was headed east on Needmore Road when at about 1:40 p.m. turned into a private business drive near the Brentlinger Drive intersection and into the path of a 2000 Harley-Davison Low Rider, according to a Dayton Police Department crash report.

The motorcyclist, identified as 65-year-old Benjamin Alvin Ernst of Dayton by Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent Harshbarger, was pronounced dead at the scene.

“A lot of people are dying on motorcycles and a lot of these could be prevented if we just use some basic motorcycle safety,” Sgt. Gordon Cairns, Dayton Police Department Traffic Services Unit supervisor, said during a Wednesday afternoon media briefing. “Another big issue when it comes to motorcycle safety is not just the motorcyclists themselves, but the car drivers, truck drivers. Everyone needs to be aware of what the motorcycles can and can’t do and how they perform.”



One factor is that a motorcycle can stop much faster than other vehicles.

“So if you’re following too close to a motorcycle and they have to employ their brakes, they’re going to stop a lot faster than a car or a truck can, potentially causing an accident,” he said.

Also, motorcycles tend to be hard for motorists to see, so motorists need to be aware of their surroundings.

That is what happened in the April 16 crash, the sergeant said.

“Ultimately, it was the semi driver did not see the motorcycle coming and it turned into a fatal accident because of that,” Cairns said. “Make sure that you’re paying attention to them and just give them the space and the area they need so they can operate safely.”

Motorcycle riders should remember the acronym SMART — sober, motorcycle-endorsed, alert, with the right gear and trained, the sergeant said.

“What that means is most importantly, don’t drive or ride a motorcycle drunk, have your license, have your endorsement, have the right gear, wear that helmet. It’s not the law, but it’s strongly recommended to wear that helmet,” he said.

Anyone operating a motorcycle or motor scooter on public roadways in Ohio must have a valid motorcycle or motor scooter license or endorsement. A rider can apply for a motorcycle or motor scooter-only license or for a motorcycle or motor scooter endorsement for his or her driver license, according to Motorcycle Ohio.

Of the deadly crashes last year in Ohio, 82% happened between May and October, with speed a leading cause, according to Motorcycle Ohio.

32% of riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 25% of passenger car drivers;

27% of all fatal motorcycle crashes in 2023 involved alcohol or drugs, up from 16% in 2022;

78% of motorcycle fatalities in 2023 involved riders were were untrained.

Motorcycle Ohio offers courses for all riders, from the beginning level to advanced courses for the more experienced rider at

Each year, about 12,000 riders complete a Motorcycle Ohio training course, said Michele Piko, program coordinator.

“This year more riders are signing up to get trained, and we are experiencing near-record course registration. Courses are underway now at training sites in 33 counties across the state,” she said.

Motorcycle-related crashes by county through April 2024CrashesFatalities

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