What are the Main Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?

It’s no surprise that motorcycle accidents are more dangerous than car accidents. Without a cage of protection around the rider, not to mention the added safety of airbags, motorcycle riders are 29 times more likely to be killed than automobile passengers. However, many of the accidents can be avoided with the proper knowledge beforehand. As such, here are the main causes of most motorcycle accidents.

Motorcycles getting into head-on collisions with cars is more common than you think

A broken car and a destroyed motorcycle are standing on the Berlin city motorway A100 near the exit Alboinstraße.
A broken car and a destroyed motorcycle are standing on the Berlin city motorway A100 near the exit Alboinstraße. | (Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

According to NHTSA, 74% of motorcycle accidents in 2021 alone were from frontal collisions. That might be a surprising fact to digest but bear in mind that many motorists that share the road with motorcyclists fail to recognize bikes on the road, even if it’s in their line of sight. Factors like poor visibility and distracted driving can be the blame for a majority of these types of accidents.

But in either case, if you ride a motorcycle, it can be a lifesaver to wear noticeable colors, use a good headlight to make yourself more visible, and stay out of the blind spot when riding near cars.

Cars that turn left are hazardous to motorcycles

A sheriff deputy on a motorcycle was killed in a collision with a vehicle at the intersection of Del Amo and Paramount in Lakewood
A sheriff deputy on a motorcycle was killed in a collision with a vehicle at the intersection of Del Amo and Paramount in Lakewood on Thursday, February 25, 2021. | (Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images)

Believe it or not, cars that are turning left are common causes of motorcycle accidents. According to this blog, 42% of all motorcycle collisions occur when the vehicular driver is making a left-hand turn. In that event, the turning car can strike the motorcycle if the cyclist is proceeding forward or tries to overtake the car by passing it.

In these cases, it’s important for motorcycle riders to be on alert for the cars that they share the road with. This means using caution when making left-hand turns and when riding through an intersection as many drivers may not see a motorcycle in their blind spot.

Lane splitting is efficient but risky

A motorcyclist rides between the lanes during the afternoon commute on southbound highway 99
A motorcyclist rides between the lanes during the afternoon commute on southbound highway 99 in Sacramento, California, Tuesday, February 5, 2013. | (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

Lane-splitting is when a motorcycle rider rides in between two lanes in order to get ahead of traffic. Lane-splitting is illegal in many places, however, some states are now allowing it. No matter where you do it, lane-splitting is highly dangerous and has even led to 17% of motorcycle crashes. That might not sound like much in comparison to head-on collisions, however, it’s still important that motorcycle riders stay extra vigilant when riding in between lanes filled with cars.

Most drivers don’t expect there to be a bike when changing lanes and can easily get over without looking. In that case, if you’re the type that likes to lane split to get where they’re going faster, it’s important to keep an eye out for those pesky driver blind spots, it could mean the difference between crashing and not.

Alcohol and drug use is a major cause of motorcycle accidents

An 80-year-old man ran his car into the opposite lane and seriously injured a motorcyclist.
North Rhine-Westphalia, Mettmann: An 80-year-old man ran his car into the opposite lane and seriously injured a motorcyclist. | (David Young/picture alliance via Getty Images)

While we’re all well aware that many motorists like to drink and drive, we don’t tend to hear about it too much when it comes to motorcycle riders. However, NHTSA reports that 39% of motorcycle fatalities during Labor Day weekend in 2019 were due to alcohol-impaired riding. Again, that might sound like a small figure, but keep in mind that it’s accounting for a smaller subset of riders in the U.S. and at a specific time period.

And while we can throw statistics and facts about riding while under the influence, it goes without saying that you should never drink and ride. Whether you get a D.U.I or in a fatal crash, it will most likely never end well.

Many riders crash into fixed objects

This photograph was taken on May 12, 2020, shows Grab motorcycle rider Pham Quoc Viet (R) riding his motorcycle during a night patrol to help traffic accident victims on the streets of Hanoi.
This photograph was taken on May 12, 2020, shows Grab motorcycle rider Pham Quoc Viet (R) riding his motorcycle during a night patrol to help traffic accident victims on the streets of Hanoi. | (MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images)

It might sound absurd that many motorcycle accidents are caused by riders running into stationary objects, but it happens. In fact, 25% of motorcycle accidents are caused by riders crashing into parked cars, poles, or even trees. These types of accidents are easily fatal as the rider can be thrown onto the ground and sustain head injuries. Even with a helmet on, a concussion is not uncommon in these circumstances.

In order to prevent these types of accidents, it’s important to also look farther down the road and make sure to pay attention to any stationary objects in your path. Also, staying at a safe speed can keep you safer on the road and out of harm’s way.

It’s safe to say that motorcycle accidents are common

With all of these statistics, we can see that motorcycle accidents – in general – are indeed very common. And while you might not be able to pay attention to every little detail on the road when riding your motorcycle, being extra vigilant and careful can mean the difference between safely riding away or becoming another statistic.

RELATED: How Much More Dangerous Are Motorcycles Than Cars?