In 1986, 85 deaths occurred for every 100,000 motorcycles registered. That compares to 16 deaths per 100,000 cars registered.

Twenty-five percent of motorcycle incidents are single-vehicle accidents, such as a motorcycle striking a tree or a sign. The remaining 75 percent involve multiple vehicles (i.e., motorcycle vs. car).Most motorcycle accidents occur directly in front of the cyclist, within his vision, in both single- and multiple-vehicle accidents. Virtually none occur from behind the cyclist's vision. Nearly 70 percent of multiple-vehicle accidents are head-on.

Seventy-five percent of accidents occur during daylight hours. Ninety-four percent occur on clear roads that are free of oil slicks, ice and gravel.

The most common accident occurs when the car and the motorcycle are traveling in opposite directions. The car driver doesn't see the cyclist coming and makes a left turn and the motorcycle broadsides the car.

The majority of injuries occur to the extremities (legs and arms). The typical injured motorcyclist will sustain three to four significant injuries.

The helmet question

One of the most controversial elements of motorcycling has been helmet laws. Two types of laws exist: mandatory and modified. Mandatory helmet laws require helmets, regardless of rider age or position on a bike. Modified laws depend on the rider's age, position and existence of license or learner's permit. Requirements vary from state to state. Utah's law fits the modified classification.

The helmet-use question has been debated since its inception. Some people believe that helmet legislation should be avoided and, instead, rider-education programs initiated; other assert that stiffer helmet laws will lower the risk of injury and death.

When states passed a mandatory helmet law in the 1950s, there was a dramatic reduction in deaths per number of motorcycles registered. The decline persisted until the mid-1970s, when the laws were repealed. Twenty-eight states repealing their laws experienced an increase in the number of motorcycle deaths. Four of those states examined their data and found that the increase in deaths was directly related to non-helmet use.

Since states have been given a choice about mandatory helmet laws, a 10-33 percent increase in the death rates in those states have repealed or weakened their helmet laws has been seen.

Regardless of helmet laws, it's vitally important that cyclists wear a helmet.