A look at Oregon’s training, registration and fatality stats

Oregon and Idaho are the only two states that have never used the BRC curriculum (beyond a limited field-test). Looking at Oregon, then, offers a comparison to Idaho just as Illinois was a comparison to Pennsylvannia.

However, it’s not apples to apples: Oregon has a universal helmet law and the number of unhelmeted fatalities is miniscule. In this way it differs from Idaho—but does offer an additional data point to compare the years before Pennsylvania changed its helmet law.

So some basic stats:

  • Training increased by 221.1% with an total of 53,565 students trained from 1997-2007.
  • Oregon’s motorcycle registration increased by 33,620 total (54.2%).
  • Using MIC’s formula, that translates to 63,763 owners.
  • There was a 112.5% increase in the fatality rate (but see below).

Oregon trained 19,945 more riders than there were increased motorcycle registrations—and that was just the basic trained riders.

Unlike Pennsylvania and Idaho, Oregon does not track “dropped” students.


MC fatalities


Passed %

% Failed/Did not finish course
























































In Oregon the Pass rate was higher and then dropped. This is in direct contrast to the experience in Pennsylvania and Illinois. However, Oregon’s pass rate is higher than Pennsylvania’s.

Motorcycle Registration v. fatalities

Fatalities did more than double over the 11 years however the number of fatalities per year look more like a bouncing ball going up and down year by year—though rising overall. In this way, it’s more like Idaho where fatalities also showed more variance year by year while Illinois and Pennsylvania’s fatality numbers seem to be more similar. There’s many reasons why this may be and is yet another thing that deserves study.

Motorcycle registrations show a very different pattern than in any of the other three states. This much is similar though: in none of the states was there a unilateral increase from year to year. While we know that nationally motorcycle sales went up year by year and it was assumed that motorcycle registrations did as well, on the individual state level it’s more dynamic.

The rise and fall of both fatalities and registrations seen in these four states change that popular notion that there’s been an unrelenting rise of both over the past 11 years—while that may be true as a nation, it breaks down on the state level. It also emphasizes the need to look at longer term trends than a year or two—or even three.

However, as in the other three states, there appears to be no correlation between increases in motorcycle registrations and fatalities:Fatalities v mc regs

Instead, when motorcycle fatalities jumped, motorcycle registrations went down and they only drew together again during the last two years of available data.

What’s perhaps most remarkable is that this same pattern now can be seen in all four states to a lesser degree: not only isn’t there a positive correlation between increased registrations and fatalities but in all four states to one degree or another the exact same pattern can be seen—registrations go down and fatalities go up.

In the motorcycling community, there’s the belief that registration and fatalities went together like bread and butter, horse and carriage: more motorcycles naturally mean more deaths. Four states in, this particular correlation doesn’t appear to be true on the states level—and NHTSA has been saying for years now that it isn’t true on the national level. However, a correlation no one’s talked about might be true on the state level: less motorcycles, more deaths. There is, actually, research that does link the lack of motorcycles with more deaths—but we’ll get to that in another entry.

Training v. registration

As in the other three states, training has dramatically increased over the 11 years and have consistently increased year after year.

OR increases mc reg trained

However there’s even less correlation between training in and increased registrations than there was in the other three states.

What is most significant, perhaps, is potentially how many of Oregon’s riders have taken training: If absolutely no other motorcycle owners in Oregon had been trained prior to 1997 or in another state and if no students took the course more than once and there was no attrition—all of which we know is false—then up to 84% of Oregon’s owners are trained. And it means they have been trained in the past 11 years.

And that makes that the fourth state where there’s a profound correspondence between numbers trained and registrations:

In Illinois, we found that using MIC’s owner’s formula, more riders were trained than there were owners—and that Illinois trained just 30% less riders than the increases in motorcycle registrations. In Pennsylvania, the numbers trained were just 214 less than the increase in motorcycle registration. And, in Idaho, the data suggests that just 19% of riders registered a motorcycle but didn’t take training.

Training v. fatalities

Like Pennsylvania and Illinois, there appears to be some correspondence or correlation between training and fatalities—though not as pronounced as in Illinois or Pennsylvania. In Idaho, we know exactly how many riders trained in that state have died.

OR trained passed

And here’s the comparison between those who failed and fatalities:

OR Trained failed

In Oregon, as in Pennsylvania and Illinois, we see that odd correspondence—when failure rates go down, fatalities go up and when failure rates go up, fatalities go down. It’s a correspondence that’s not evident in the numbers passing and fatalities. This may be just a odd little coincidence and not mean anything at all—still it would be an odd little coincidence found in three out of four states.

Fatalities v. Helmet Use

Oregon is a universal helmet law state—and we see the number of unhelmeted fatalities is between 1-3 all years but one when 4 unhelmeted riders died. The rise in fatalities in Oregon, then, cannot be blamed on non-helmet use.

OR fatalities helmeted unhelmeted

Explore posts in the same categories: History, Motorcycle helmet use, Motorcycle Safety, State Motorcycle Safety Programs, Uncategorized

4 Comments on “A look at Oregon’s training, registration and fatality stats”

  1. mac Says:

    I’m interested in where you got the OR data. Can you provide a URL or source document. Thanks.

  2. wmoon Says:

    Mac, I got it from several sources. What information precisely are you interested in?

  3. Maximus Says:

    I know this response/post is WAY after the fact. Sorry about that. But, is it worth considering a comparison with a lag effect to the fatality rate? This allows some time to pass from course completion to actually getting out on the road. For many, that might be the reality. Not everyone completes training and has immediate access to a motorcycle. Perhaps that lag better explains why when failure rates go down, fatalities go up and vice versa.

  4. wmoon Says:

    Maximus (thank you for the kind words in the e-mail, btw), I agree that there could be a lag effect between training and getting on the road–but not sure whether that would be significant since my guess is that there’s probably and equal number who rode before taking the course nor how many ride right away. Nor is there any data (or anyone willing to do/pay for a study) that would find out what percentage ride before or immediately after or take a while to ride. Nor how many never ride after the course, which as Billheimer says, is one of the best things about the course.

    Of course, we don’t know much about who is dying out there nor how soon after they take the course. There is some evidence from a Midwest state that a much higher percentage of BRC-trained riders died than RSS-trained riders within a couple years of taking the course. But much more data would be needed to see if that has any significance.

    What we do know is that the rate of students killed and seriously injured from injuries suffered in training has skyrocketed–and it’s beyond random happening.

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