Riding a motorcycle involves inevitable risk, but you may be able to mitigate your risks to some extent by wearing a helmet whenever you ride on one. Wearing a helmet reduces head injury risks for motorcycle drivers as well as passengers, but studies show that motorcycle passengers are more likely to suffer head injuries than drivers even when wearing helmets.
How much higher is your head injury risk as a motorcycle passenger, and what is it that makes it higher?
Motorcycle head injury statistics
According to Reuters, motorcycle passengers suffer serious head injuries in about 40% of motorcycle crashes, while those steering the bikes suffer them in about 36% of instances. It is true that passengers wear helmets less frequently than drivers, with passengers wearing them 57.5% of the time and drivers wearing them two-thirds of the time. However, the rate of head injuries among passengers is higher even when passengers have helmets on.
When you wear a helmet while riding on the back of a bike, your head injury risk is still 5% higher than the motorcycle driver. Your risk of a serious head injury in a crash is 36%, while the person driving the bike suffers a serious head injury in 31% of cases.
Why is your head injury risk higher when you ride on the back of the motorcycle, rather than drive it, even when you both have helmets on? For starters, the motorcycle driver has the windshield in front of him or her, which may offer some degree of protection between the driver and the roadway.
When you steer the bike, you may also have a better grip on it than you would while riding in the back. This may make you more likely to be able to hang on to the bike during a motorcycle crash than you would be while riding on the back.