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Does What Kind of Bike You Ride Determine Your Safety? The Statistics Say Yes

Clearly, the choice you make of what kind of motorcycle to ride is a determining factor as to how safe you are on the road, and it’s probably no surprise that those who choose sport bikes a slightly more prone to hang it out over the edge.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), riders of “supersports”  or sportbike motorcycles have driver death rates per 10,000 registered vehicles nearly four times higher than for drivers of other types of motorcycles.

Should you be shocked by that number? I think not. Today’s sportbikes are capable of truly astonishing speeds and their handling encourages hard riding.

Your basic Superbike has more horsepower than most conventional motorcycles and can reach speeds of up to 190 mph. Built on finely-tuned, race tested platforms, most sportbikes are then lightly modified for street use and are most popular with riders under the age of 30.

These light-weight and aerodynamically styled machines totaled 22.5 driver deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles compared with 10.7 deaths for lesser sport models .

Standards and cruisers and touring bikes, with upright handlebars, have death rates of 5.7 and 6.5 per 10,000 vehicles, and as of 2005, superbikes accounted for 9 percent of total registrations. Standards and cruisers made up 51 percent of all bikes registered.

Among those fatally injured while riding, the IIHS says that drivers of superbikes were the youngest and had an average age of just 27.

Again, hardly surprising, touring motorcycle riders had the highest average age at 51 years old.

Fatally injured riders of lesser sports models were 34, on average, and standard and cruiser drivers were 44 years old.

Speeding and driver error were bigger factors in superbike and sport bike fatal crashes.

Speed was cited as a major determining factor in 57 percent of superbike riders’ fatal crashes in 2005 and in 46 percent for sport model riders.

Speed was a determining factor in 27 percent of fatal crashes of riders of cruisers and standards, and for 22 percent of riders on touring models.

Where Do All the Insurance Payouts Go?

The IIHS says that superbikes have the overall highest insurance losses under collision coverage among the motorcycle classes, and that’s nearly  four times higher than payouts for touring models and more than six times higher than payouts for cruisers.

Accordingly, nine of the ten motorcycles with the highest insurance losses were classified as “superbikes.”

Claim frequency is the driving force pushing up high losses for superbikes. The hottest models are involved in more collisions than other types of motorcycles  and added up to  9 claims per 100 insured vehicle years for superbike models,  and that does not compare favorably to the 2.3 claims filed on average out of a 100 for all other models.

The models surveyed were all 2002-2006 models.

Touring motorcycles accounted for the most expensive claims due to a high initial purchase price, but superbike models are the most popular with thieves and averaged loss payments for theft losses per insured vehicle years of $246 for 2002-2006 models, seven times higher than the average for all motorcycles.

Superbike models also had the highest frequency of thefts at 31.8 per insured vehicle year, compared with cruisers and touring models that had the lowest rates of theft at 1.1 claims per insured vehicle year.

Touring models had the highest average insurance loss payments at nearly $16,000 per, and that number reflects their the high purchase prices and upgrades common to the larger class of bikes.

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