black cruiser motorcycle
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South Carolina has the nation’s eighth highest fatality rate for motorcycle riders, according to a recent study using 2021 data.

The report, Most Dangerous States for Motorcycle Riders published by QuoteWizard on July 24, shows 167 motorcycle riders were killed in 2021 in South Carolina — a fatality rate of 11.2 deaths per 10,000 registered motorcycle owners. 

Across the country, states recorded 5,636 motorcycle fatalities in 2021. Results from the report show Texas, Arkansas and Missouri have the highest rates of motorcycle fatalities. 

Data for the report came from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration traffic safety statistics and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data from 2020 and 2021.  

3 risk factors: Alcohol, climate and helmets

According to the research, motorcycle accidents are heavily influenced by three factors — alcohol, climate and helmet use. 

In 2021, alcohol was involved in 36% of all motorcycle fatalities. Alaska, Idaho and Rhode Island had the highest numbers of fatal crashes where someone was severely intoxicated. 

As for climate, states with warmer temperatures recorded the highest accident rates. Southern states had four times the number of motorcycle fatality rates as northern states. 

But, helmet use might be one of the most important factors in surviving a motorcycle accident. Recent studies show that wearing a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved helmet reduced the risk of head injury by 69% and the risk of death by 42%. 

According to the report, 67% of riders wore a helmet in 2021, a decline of 4% nationwide from 2020. The study also found riders were significantly less likely to wear a helmet when they had a passenger. 

Motorcycle helmet laws vary from state-to-state. There are 18 states where all riders are required to wear a helmet, 29 that require wearing them depending on age and three with no helmet laws at all, according to QuoteWizard. 

In South Carolina, of the 167 motorcycle deaths in 2021, 112 of the drivers were not wearing a helmet. The state’s current helmet law only applied to those 20 and younger. 

Overall highway deaths dropped slightly in 2022

While the report paints a bleak picture, the Charleston City Paper reported earlier this year on state data that was released in January

State highway data for 2022 showed 1,056 people died in highway accidents, according to the state Department of Public Safety. This number represented a drop from 2021, when 1,198 were killed. 

According to the same state data, 137 motorcyclists died on highways in 2022, down from 160 in 2021. 

While motorcycles are considered more dangerous than other forms of transportation, South Carolinians face risks when riding their bicycles. A recent City Paper story highlights the state’s ranking as the second riskiest state to ride a bike in. 

South Carolina had the second-highest pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 people in 2020, per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The 2021 data show that of 433 bike collisions reported statewide, 171 happened in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties — representing nearly 40% of all collisions in the state. 

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