In 2012, 50 motorcyclists died and a further 1,138 were injured in road crashes. This was 16 percent of all deaths and 9 percent of all reported injuries on our roads.

Motorcyclist casualties

Motorcyclists killed and injured (1980–2012)


The number of motorcyclist casualties dropped markedly during the 1990s to a minimum between 2000 and 2004. Numbers have increased between 2004 to 2008, but have dropped again since then. Motorcyclists now make up 9 percent of all road users injured, compared to 21 percent in the early and mid-1980s.

Time series

Deaths and injuries of motorcycle riders and pillion passengers, 1980–2012


As shown in the graph below, the drop in motorcyclist deaths and injuries during the 1990s was particularly marked among the young, while the recent increase has occurred in the over 40s age group. 

Motorcyclist deaths and injuries by age group

Motorcyclist deaths and injuries — selected age groups

Note: columns do not necessarily add up to the totals, due to unknown ages for some riders.


Percentage of crash involved motorcycles by cc rating (2004–2012)

Engine size, in cubic centimetres (cc), is currently not recorded on crash reports for 13 percent of crash-involved motorcycles. The graph above is based only on those motorcycles with recorded engine sizes.

Motorcycle size

The proportion of crashes that result in death is higher for large motorcycles than for small motorcycles — riders of large (500cc or bigger) motorcycles make up 42 percent of all casualties but 69 percent of deaths. This is, at least partly, a result of riding patterns. Small motorcycles and scooters tend to be used for ‘around-town’ riding, where speeds are low, whereas large bikes spend a much greater proportion of time on the open road and travelling at higher speeds3. For bikes 500cc or bigger, over half (54 percent) of all reported injuries are on the open road. This compares to only 17 percent for small bikes with an engine size under 250cc, and about a third (36 percent) for bikes with engine sizes of 250–499cc.

Who was at fault?

Motorcyclist fault in crashes (2008–2012)

Percentage of motorcycle crashes in which a motorcyclist had the primary responsibility for the crash (2008–2012)

A motorcyclist has the primary responsibility for 55 percent of fatal and injury crashes involving motorcycles. For more serious crashes, the motorcyclist is more likely to have the primary responsibility for the crash. The motorcycle rider has the primary responsibility for 67 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes, but the comparable figure for minor injury crashes is 51 percent. In about two-thirds (66 percent) of the crashes that involve a collision with another vehicle, it is the other vehicle that has the primary responsibility for the crash.

Motorcyclist alcohol/drugs and speed involvement in fatal crashes (2008–2012)

Of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes, 27 percent are affected by alcohol/drugs; 30 percent are travelling too fast for the conditions; and 44 percent are travelling too fast for the conditions and/or are affected by alcohol/drugs.

Types of crash

Type of crash by speed limit area and crash severity (2008–2012)

The rider losing control of the vehicle is a major feature in motorcycle crashes. As well as those shown in the ’Lost control/run off road’ category in the table above, 30 percent of head-on crashes result from a rider losing control of the motorcycle.

Percentage of motorcycle crashes where the motorcyclist had the primary responsibility for the crash (2008–2012)

Specific crash movements that account for more than 8 percent of all reported motorcycle crashes:

When do crashes happen?

Fatal and injury motorcycle crashes (2008–2012)

The peak times for motorcycle crashes are between 12 noon and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays.

Where do crashes happen?

Motorcycle crashes on urban roads (speed limit of 70km/h or less) and open roads (2008–2012)

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of all motorcycle injury crashes occur on urban (speed limit of 70km/h or less) roads, but nearly three quarters (71 percent) of fatal crashes are on the open road.

Most casualties are male

• 81 percent of all injured motorcyclists, and 94 percent of motorcyclist deaths, are males.

Licence status of motorcyclists in crashes

Licence status of riders in crashes (2008–2012)


Fatal injuries: injuries that result in death within 30 days of the crash.

Serious injuries: fractures, concussions, internal injuries, crushings, severe cuts and lacerations, severe general shock necessitating medical treatment and any other injury involving removal to and detention in hospital.

Minor injuries: injuries of a minor nature such as sprains and bruises.

Social cost: a measure of the total cost of road crashes to the nation. It includes: loss of life and life quality; loss of productivity; and medical, legal, court, and property damage costs.

A selection of fact sheets are available via the research section of the Ministry of Transport website.


All reasonable endeavours are made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this report. However, the information is provided without warranties of any kind including accuracy, completeness, timeliness or fitness for any particular purpose.

This data has been obtained from The Ministry of Transport