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Are Black Bikers at Higher Risk for Fatal Injuries?

A new study from prestigious John’s Hopkins University suggests that black motorcycle riders are dying at a higher rate than whites.

The study, published in the American Journal of Surgery analyzed data from the National Trauma Data Bank between 2002 and 2006 and showed that black riders were 50% more likely to die than white riders, despite the fact that African Americans were more likely to be wearing helmets at the time of the crash. The disparity held up even after controlling for the severity of the accident, the biker’s gender and insurance status.

The study did not allow for any difference in types of motorcycles, whether cruiser or sportbike, which some observers say could account for the higher fatality rate for blacks, which are more likely to ride fast sportbikes.

8 thoughts on “Are Black Bikers at Higher Risk for Fatal Injuries?


  1. @SZQ “How badly I want to open my car door when I see one riding stupid”

    And you ride a sportster (the most inaptly named motorcycle in the world). “The introduction of the crotch rocket” as you describe it has done more for motorcycle safety than every HD ever made. ABS, effective brakes, low COG, low weight, good lights, high-performance engines and suspension all result in a safer, more nimble and easier to handle unit than the overweight, underperforming POS you ride.

    Face it fat Bob, you couldn’t weave in traffic unless you have had your obligatory four beers and your idea of spirited riding is half a bottle of Jack.

    The problem has nothing to do with what you ride, but how. Are you from the Harley school that thinks hammering the rear brake and ‘throwing it down’ is the safe way to stop in an emergency – that heaving hard on your front brake will throw you over the bars?

    I have been riding for most of 40 years now, with very few breaks. I would never consider as an option, let alone consider actually performing an act such as opening a car door on a motorcycle.

    No doubt you are a weekend warrior, with all his HD highly-priced tat, that thinks you have somehow got some sort of brotherhood thing going on.

    The fact is, motorcycles are dangerous. If you aren’t careful you will get hurt. No amount of safety equipment can help when you go under the wheels of an 18-wheeler or wrap around a bridge support. Inner-city and urban youth are inherently more at risk due to road furniture, traffic, structures, road quality than is someone riding down a rural road.

    Add to this the lack of education, lack of licensing and lack of role models and you have a recipe for disaster – Young ronny buys himself a Gixxer thou for a few grand, slips on his favourite flip-flops and drops his half-helmet on his head (but doesn’t do it up) and heads out to hang with his homies.

    When he dies after hitting a fire hydrant at 110mph (and still accelerating) we will all proclaim ‘how sad’ and the statistics will read he died while wearing (ostensibly) a helmet.

    Nothing will be recorded about his level of protective gear other than a helmet, his experience, his level of training, his previous bike owning history.

    I grew up with a tiered licencing system. I was restricted to a 250cc for two years as a 15 year old. Then I could go and show the nice policeman how skilled I was – or not. In addition to the skills test, you were expected to be correctly attired.

    The data used in this report is limited to ethnicity, injuries, age, insurance and helmet use. You will not be able to ascertain anything other than ethnicity, age, insurance and helmet use. You can surmise, but you can’t make any firm conclusions.

    As to people who think that “The introduction of the ‘crotch rocket’” is the reason, I suggest they spend more time on their bike skills and less time putting forward an opinion that ensures we continue the stereotype of the low-brow Harley rider.


  2. Where is the outrage of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Motorcycles are obviously racist!

    I also think the Feds are intentially planting motorcycles in the inner city trying to get young black males addicted to them and ultimately killing them.

    This has to stop!

    Oh yeah, and HD riders are amazing and skillful as they maneuver the twists and turns of the interstate. I especially love when they get on an actual twisty backroad, how they are able to maintain a string of 50 bikes with leather faced female passengers going 10 under the speed limit so no one can get by.

    To their credit though, 98% of HD’s are still on the road. The other 2% actually kept running and made it home.


  3. I haven't riding long ,but I have noticed that when it comes to riding, crotch rockets are almost exclusively marketed toward the youth of America, especially young African-Americans. It's in the media. The movies and ESPECIALLY the music videos! The excepted perception is that cruisers and choppers are for their elders, Whites and outlaw motorcycle gangs (Sons Of Anarchy, anyone?) What is shown as being "cool" is driving at high speeds ala movies like Biker Boyz, Torque and music videos in which "stuntin'" is prevelant.

    Granted, it's not the responsibility of manufactures to appeal to anyone other than their proven or target markets, but it's no real wonder that any negative influence on any population will have more severe ramifications on some minority (minorities) contained therein.

    I wish that the color of the potential victim"s skin wasn"t a factor, but as a Black man over 40 who has followed his father into a fondness of biking, this recent report concerns me more directly. I want all riders, young and old, old hands and newbys to be careful and enjoy this lifestyle to the hilt for as long as they should choose. Avoid foolishness as best you can and as often as well. I care more about how "cool with me" a rider is than I care about the color of a rider's skin. I hope others do the same. It's equally important that we all consider the ramifications of our actions when we're out on the road. We should consider safety and the risk that avoiding it ensues. Really, image ISN'T everything! I kind of hope that some young guy or gal see's me go by on my bike and says to themselves, "…That's the way you do it!". I don"t care what color, ethnicity, religion or creed the observer may be.


    • The problem is that that young riders in the US get more safety information from movies and music videos than they do from a requirement to complete a skills training and testing program.

      Young men of all ethnicities die in greater numbers than nearly any other Western country – the reason is the same. Lack of effective training, lack of effective testing, lack of effective policing.


  4. I live in a town that is over 60% black and most of the black riders are on Honda, Kawasaki or Yamaha speedsters ranging from 600 to over 1000 cc's. At night we can hear the rice rockets speeding around the back-streets. I've also seen many white and black kids riding together on their rice rockets, doing the same things – popping wheelies, weaving in the traffic, and speeding sometimes well over 100 mph.

    I ride an HD Heritage Classic with both black and white cruisers most of the time and the black riders skills and safety are the same. We all tend to be older, more conservative, and when we do get it on, we tend to do it in a straight line, and in lighter traffic. I believe the black population of riders is less diluted with cruisers than the whites, and the average rider age is younger, hence the higher injury and death rates for the group.

    I believe a more fair comparison is just what the insurance companies use – age, gender, type of bike, and past driving history. Younger, testosterone saturated riders, mixed with high power to weight rice rockets, are just going to have more accidents, regardless of race, whether white, black, brown – or pink with purple poke-a-dots (even with helmets).


  5. The introduction of the 'crotch rocket' is a red flag to reckless riding. Race is a moot point. Also riding w/o protective gear is just plain insane. Weaving in/out of traffic @ high rates of speed whether city or rural/country, popping wheelies on 2 lanes or 6, especially with a passenger who is typically sitting higher than the driver?

    I have a H-D sporty & I see much less recklessness with cruisers than the rice burner. How badly I want to open my car door when I see one riding stupid w/o ANY consideration for traffic, pedestrians or other bikers. I love my bike & hope to ride it safely for many years to come.


    • I am sorry but that is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard. You have to be an idiot to believe that it is the “crotch rockets” that are causing the issues.

      It is plan and simple. Wear your damn gear and follow the traffic laws. I have been riding sport bikes for years and I don’t care if it is 110 degrees outside. I always wear my jacket/helmet/gloves/boots.

      This is all based upon people not wearing gear. I see more cruiser guys riding without gear than anyone. I wish they would, I wish everyone would. Anyone that does not wear a helmet reflects bad on all of the safe riders. If you want to go fast, take it to the track.

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