Macroeconomic fluctuations and motorcycle fatalities in the U.S.

Michael T. French, Gulcin Gumus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The effects of business cycles on health outcomes in general, and on traffic fatalities in particular, have received much attention recently. In this paper, we focus on motorcycle safety and examine the impact of changing levels of economic activity on fatal crashes by motorcyclists in the United States. We analyze state-level longitudinal data with 1,104 state/year observations from the 1988-2010 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Using the extensive motorcycle crash characteristics available in FARS, we examine not only total fatality rates but also rates decomposed by crash type, day, time, and the level of the motorcycle operator's blood alcohol content. Our results are consistent with much of the existing literature showing that traffic fatality rates are pro-cyclical. The estimates suggest that a 10% increase in real income per capita is associated with a 10.4% rise in the total motorcycle fatality rate. Along with potential mechanisms, policymakers and public health officials should consider the effects of business cycles on motorcycle safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-193
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014


  • Business cycles
  • Motorcycle safety
  • Traffic fatalities
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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