Born to Ride? Bikers Should Consider Safety and Insurance

About 8.6 million motorcycles are registered in the United States.1 Some bikers have a passion for touring the back roads, while others seek the excitement of an off-road race. Many riders rely on their motorcycles or scooters to get where they need to go.

With the arrival of summer, more riders will be climbing on their bikes for regular use or weekend fun. Before revving your engine, it’s important to know how to safely operate a motorcycle and make sure you have appropriate insurance coverage.

Motorcyclist rounds a curve on a country highway.

Safer Cruising

Unfortunately, the fun of riding a motorcycle comes with added danger. The fatality rate for motorcyclists is six times the rate for passenger car occupants and nine times the rate for light-truck occupants. More than 5,000 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2019, and about 84,000 were injured (most recent statistics available).2

Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind.

  • Always wear a brain bucket. It’s estimated that motorcycle helmets saved nearly 1,900 motorcyclists’ lives in 2017 (latest data), yet about 30% of riders don’t take advantage of this important form of protection. Even if your state doesn’t require helmets, it’s wise to wear one. Be sure your helmet has a valid Department of Transportation label (DOT FMVSS No. 218 CERTIFIED) indicating that the helmet meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.3
  • Dress the part. Wear protective gear such as a riding suit or motorcycle jacket, face shield, goggles, gloves, and boots. Bright colors or reflective tape may help increase visibility.
  • Avoid reckless riding. Dangerous behavior by motorcycle operators contributes to many fatal crashes. In 2019, about 29% of all riders killed in motorcycle crashes were alcohol impaired, and 33% were speeding.4
  • Learn (or relearn) to ride well. Completing a motorcycle training course could help strengthen your skills and might provide a discount on your insurance policy.
  • Be aware of your limitations. All riders should assess their capabilities, but older riders might benefit from extra caution. The fatality rate for riders ages 55 and older increased by 40% from 2010 to 2019 and accounted for 28% of all fatalities. Be sure you have the reflexes to ride.5

Covering Your Ride

Most states have minimum liability coverage requirements similar to those for automobiles, but owners of expensive motorcycles might want additional coverage to help protect their investment. The following types of motorcycle insurance typically pay for covered expenses (up to policy limits), subject to policy deductibles and certain exclusions.

  • Liability coverage. This core coverage helps pay for injuries and property damage that you may cause to others in the event of a motorcycle accident; it does not cover damage to your own vehicle. If your liability insurance does not cover bodily injury to passengers, consider purchasing guest passenger liability coverage.
  • Medical payments or personal injury protection (PIP). This coverage helps pay for medical bills if you and/or your passenger (or pedestrians) are injured in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. (Rules vary by state; PIP can cover more, such as lost wages.)
  • Collision coverage. This covers repairs to your bike if you are involved in an accident with another vehicle or a collision with a stationary object, such as a tree, fence, or building.
  • Comprehensive coverage. This helps pay for theft and damage resulting from events other than collisions, such as fire, floods, and vandalism.
  • Custom parts and equipment coverage. If you have special upgrades or accessories such as a side car, chrome parts, or a custom paint job, you may want to obtain this additional coverage to repair or replace custom parts.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This helps pay for damage to you or your property by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Insurance premiums typically depend on the type of motorcycle you own, your age, where you live, where you store and ride your bike, how often you ride, and your driving record. Sport models that are built for speed often cost more to insure than cruisers. If you ride only during certain months, you may be able to save money with a lay-up coverage option that suspends collision and liability coverage during off-season months.

Motorcycle insurance may be available as a separate policy or as a rider (endorsement) to your auto policy. Your insurance agent can help you determine the type and amount of coverage needed based on your personal situation and lifestyle.