At one point, motorcycles were the domain of a few thrill seekers or enthusiasts. However, the vehicles hold an appeal to a growing number of older and wealthier riders. The numbers are growing and in 2010 there were 8.2 million licensed motorcyclists riding across America. The percentage of households owning a motorcycle is also on a steady uptick. However, the number of motorcycle accidents is also on the rise with about 82,000 injured and 4,500 killed in 2010 alone.

According to the numbers, a person riding a motorcycle is 30 times more likely to crash than a person in a car or truck. They are five times more likely to be injured if they do crash. The average accident is projected to cost about $1.2 million depending on the severity and if the victim survives. A motorcycle rider is 39 percent more likely to survive if wearing a helmet, but not all states require helmets by law due to the efforts of motorcycle lobbyists.

States that do enforce universal helmet laws prevent the loss of revenue and save lives. It doesn’t stop there. Helmets also save the economy about $3 billion according to the Centers for Disease Control. The combined costs of medical care, insurance, legal fees, lost productivity and other expenses all add up. So while the crash could cost individuals a literal arm and leg, the economy takes an even greater hit.

Possibly due to the increasing popularity of motorcycles with those 40 years and older, the fatality rate for accidents in that demographic has risen. In 2009, the older age group accounted for 54 percent of the deaths following motorcycle accidents. In contrast, the rate of younger riders in a fatal motorcycle crash has decreased. The percentage of 30 years-old and younger fell to 27 percent and 39 years-old and younger fell to 19 percent.

All of these statistics demonstrate the staggering loss following an accident and don’t account for the causes beyond failing to wear a helmet. The data available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that motorcycle crashes are caused by further negligence of safety. 37 percent had alcohol in their system and older riders were the strong majority of drunk drivers. In addition, 25 percent of motorcycle crashes involved an unlicensed driver. 35 percent were speeding before the accident.

It’s a trend that can’t be ignored by insurance companies that end up raising rates to compensate for the frequency and cost of claims. Most commonly, the super sport models of motorcycles are claimed and require a policy three times as expensive as the average.  The average motorcycle repair is at least $5,000, but customized vehicles can be double. Popular chopper motorcycles have unique and rare parts that require an average of $10,723 to repair.

Despite the romance of hitting the open road with two wheels, the consequences of ignoring motorcycle safety are quite high. The obvious pain and suffering resulting from an accident is just a drop in the bucket compared to the rising numbers of deaths. At the same time, insurance rates are rising along with the costs of repair and the economic blow. Before climbing on a motorcycle, make sure to wear a helmet, get proper licensing and drive responsibly.