Hundreds of motorcycle crashes happen every day on U.S. roadways. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 106,417 motorcycle crashes occurred in 2020 alone. Not only is this figure not unusual, but it is, in fact, lower than most other years. When broken down to a daily average, approximately 290 motorcycle accidents happen daily.
While the annual accident rate for motorcycles is not nearly as high as that of passenger vehicles, it is alarming, especially considering that most motorcycle accidents result in far more catastrophic injuries than car crashes. Moreover, because of bikers’ vulnerability, it is not uncommon for motorcycle accidents to be fatal. Statistics back these assertions. Per the NHTSA, motorcycle accidents account for just 3% of all crashes in the U.S. annually. However, they are responsible for 14% of all traffic deaths and an estimated 84,000 serious injuries.
If you ride a motorcycle, you are likely familiar with all the risks associated with doing so. However, you may not be entirely familiar with the reasons for those risks — and if you are, it does not hurt to brush up on them. By becoming intimately familiar with the causes of most motorcycle crashes, you can take steps to avoid certain situations and stay safe while out on the open road.
Accidents are called accidents for a reason — you cannot prepare for them and, therefore, you cannot entirely avoid them. That said, by knowing how and why crashes occur, you may be able to do your part to stay safe while in the saddle. Below are the top causes of motorcycle crashes in the U.S.
Collisions between vehicles and motorcycles account for 56% of all annual motorcycle-related deaths. Head-on collisions are a major contributor to this high mortality rate, accounting for as much as 78% of those 56% of crashes.
Head-on collisions can be catastrophic for the occupants of two passenger vehicles. However, for motorcyclists, they can be downright deadly. Depending on how the accident occurs and at what speed, a head-on collision between a motorcycle and passenger vehicle typically results in one of two outcomes:
Neither outcome is good, with the second scenario almost always resulting in death. When head-on collisions occur at higher speeds, the consequences become even more severe.
Nearly one in five traffic accidents that occur annually are single-vehicle accidents between fixed objects. While any type of vehicle is at risk of colliding with a stationary object, such crashes can be far more catastrophic for motorcyclists than the occupants of any other vehicle type. Per the data, 23% of all fatal motorcycle crashes involved a fixed object. This is compared to 16% of all passenger vehicle accidents, 13% of accidents involving lighter trucks and 4% of accidents involving large trucks.
Sadly, alcohol use is one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents and fatalities. Per the NHTSA, nearly one-third of bikers involved in fatal motorcycle crashes had a BAC of .08% or higher at the time of the crash. More startling, at least 45% had some traces of alcohol in their system by the time first responders arrived at the scene. These figures only take into account the percentage of motorcyclists that had alcohol in their system, and not the percentage of involved impaired passenger vehicle drivers.
While, in many situations, the adage, “with age comes wisdom” truly does apply, that data suggests that it may not when it comes to motorcycle riders and alcohol. An additional study revealed the demographic with the highest percentage of motorcycle-alcohol-related deaths was the 40 to 44 crowd, at 34%. The 45 to 49 and 35 to 39 age groups had the second highest percentages of alcohol-related fatalities, at 33% each.
Because of its adverse effects on all aspects of the body, alcohol use is a leading contributor of all types of accidents. However, due to its effects on balance and coordination, it proves particularly deadly for motorcycle riders.
Speeding seems to be the second leading cause of motorcycle crashes and related fatalities. Another NHTSA study revealed that as many as 31% of all fatal motorcycle crashes involved a rider that was speeding. Speed-related motorcycle accidents can occur in a number of ways, including riding too fast for roadway features (such as speeding on gravel roads or around tight bends), riding too fast for weather conditions, riding too fast for personal skill level and riding at a speed that is faster than surrounding drivers’ response times.
Though vehicles turning left is an everyday and seemingly innocent occurrence, they pose a major threat to motorcycles on the road. Per the data, as many as 42% of all motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle making a left-hand turn. While left-hand turn accidents are common — especially those that involve smaller, non-turning vehicles — they are particularly prevalent among motorcyclists, as motorcycles’ frames are so small they remain virtually invisible until it is too late.
In many left-hand turn situations, the turning vehicle is at-fault. However, there are a few instances in which the motorcyclist may assume fault, such as if the biker was speeding, in the wrong lane or ran a red light.
While it may be common sense to most people to not ride a motorcycle without first gaining some experience and skill, the alarming truth is that nearly one-third of traffic-related fatalities involve a motorcyclist that did not have a license. Not only should all riders obtain a license before getting in the saddle and hitting the road but also, they should seriously consider enrolling in motorcycle driving courses and obtaining one-on-one coaching. In addition to covering the basics, such courses also equip riders with the skills they need to react in tight situations and respond appropriately to common, potentially hazardous events.
Inattention — on behalf of both riders and drivers — is a final major contributing cause of motorcycle accidents. Distracted driving is a major concern for drivers of all types of vehicles and is the number one cause of all traffic-related incidences in the world. It alone accounts for over 3,000 lost lives annually and hundreds of thousands of injuries. When a distracted driver hits a motorcyclist, the outcome can be far more catastrophic than had it involved another passenger vehicle. Likewise, when a motorcyclist hits a vehicle, the consequences can be disastrous.
At Fielding Law, we strive to protect our clients and the communities we serve by educating them on the dangers of the road. However, many people turn to us when it is already too late. If you or a loved one sustained severe or fatal injuries in a motorcycle crash, entrust your case to our team. We competently handle a wide variety of motor vehicle accident cases, including those involving motorcycles, and deploy the full extent of our resources to help clients secure the maximum amount of compensation. Whether you are ready to file your claim or simply want to explore your legal options, schedule your free initial consultation with us today.