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How Dangerous Are Motorcycles: Accident Statistics Explained

May 4, 2023 by Steven M. Gursten

How Dangerous are Motorcycles?

Riding motorcycles is dangerous. Motorcyclists account for 14% of all crash-related fatalities in the U.S., even though they are only 3.5% of the vehicles on the road. Motorcyclists are 24 times more likely than passenger-vehicle occupants to die in a car crash and 40 times more likely than light-truck occupants.

Fatalities

In 2021, 5,932 motorcyclists lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. Unfortunately, this shows that motorcycles are getting more – rather than less – dangerous because this was the highest number of motorcyclist deaths in one year since 1975.

Fatality rate for motorcyclists versus motorists

NHTSA reports that in 2021 in the U.S., “the fatality rate for motorcyclists” was “24 times the passenger car occupant fatality rate” and “40 times the fatality rate for light-truck occupants” (based on vehicle miles traveled).

How dangerous are motorcycles and cars and trucks?

More than 50% of fatal crashes involve collisions between motorbikes and motor vehicles such as cars and trucks. Specifically, 57% of the motorbikes “involved in fatal crashes were collisions with motor vehicles in transport.”

Importantly, 75% of fatal motorbike/car accidents involve a car or truck striking the motorcyclist head-on. Only 8% of these fatal types of accidents involve a car or truck colliding with the rear of the motorbike.

How dangerous are motorcycles and cars making left-hand turns?

Cars and trucks making left hand turns are particularly dangerous for motorcyclists. In fact, 43% of fatal motorbike-car accidents involve a car or truck turning left while a motorcyclist is going straight or passing or overtaking the car or truck.

Why does this continue to happen? As I explained in my blog post, “Are motorists at fault in the majority of motorbike accidents?”:

“In my experience as an attorney litigating motorbike accident lawsuits for the past 20 years, I see the majority of these cases being caused by drivers who never see the motorbike operator – even when the motorcyclist is plainly there to be seen. Often people don’t “process” the motorbike operator that’s visible and in plain sight because the brain isn’t expecting to see it. And so drivers hit the motorbike operator.”

As part of its “Get Up To Speed On Motorcycles” safety campaign, NHTSA offered a similar explanation, stating that this type of motorbike-car accident happens “because drivers don’t see” the motorcyclists.

How does speeding increase the danger for motorcyclists?

Speeding plays an outsized role as a cause of motorbike accidents and in the cause of death of the rider/operator of a motorbike than with the death of a driver of a passenger car or a truck. Specifically, 33% of motorcyclist drivers involved in a fatal motorbike-car accident also involved speeding, compared to only 22% of drivers of passenger cars, and only 15% for drivers of light-trucks and 7% of drivers for large trucks.

How dangerous are motorcycles when alcohol is involved?

Twenty nine percent of the motorcyclist drivers killed in motorbike-related crashes in the U.S. in 2021 were alcohol-impaired with a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher. Significantly, in fatal single-vehicle motorbike accidents, 43% of the motorbike drivers who were killed were alcohol-impaired. However, in fatal multiple-vehicle motorbike accidents, only 20% of the motorbike riders who were killed were alcohol-impaired.

How dangerous are motorcycles if you’re wearing a helmet?

Helmets are 37% and 41% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorbike drivers and passengers, respectively. That means that for every 100 unhelmeted motorcyclists killed in motorcyclist accidents, 37 drivers and 41 passengers would have been saved if all 100 had worn helmets.

It is estimated that helmets saved the lives 1,872 of motorcyclists in 2017 (the most current year for which data is available) and could have saved 749 more if all motorcyclists had been wearing helmets.

How dangerous are motorcycles in Michigan?

Motorcycles are dangerous in Michigan. Crashes have dropped 9% between 2012 and 2021 from 3,600 to 3,271. But fatal crashes involving motorcyclists have increased more than 29.5% over the same period from 132 to 171.

Michigan motorcyclists were more than 21 times more likely than passenger-vehicle occupants to die in a car crash in 2021, based on vehicle miles traveled.

Of the motorcyclists killed in 2021, 78% “were reported by police as ‘going straight ahead’ just prior to the crash.”

More than 31% of the motorcyclist fatalities in Michigan in 2021 “were the result of a had-been-drinking crash.”

Injured In A Motorcycle Accident In Michigan? Call now!

As the statistics indicate, motorcycles are dangerous. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident in Michigan, call now (855) 781-7747 for a free consultation with one of our experienced motorcycle accident lawyers. There is no cost or obligation. You can also visit our contact page or use the chat feature on our website.

Michigan Auto Law is Michigan’s largest and most successful law firm that specializes exclusively in helping people who have been injured in auto accidents.

Our secret? Our motorcycle accident lawyers deliberately handle fewer cases than other personal injury law firms.  This allows us to focus more time and attention on our cases.

Unlike other law firms, our attorneys are never too busy to promptly return phone calls and answer questions. 

We have more than 2,000 5-Star Reviews that reflect this care and attention to detail.

More importantly, this client-focused approach leads to better and faster settlements for our clients. Michigan Auto Law has recovered more million-dollar settlements and trial verdicts for motor vehicle accidents than any other lawyer or law firm in Michigan. We’ve also recovered the highest ever reported truck accident and car accident settlement in the state.

Call now so we can start making a real difference for you.

(Sources: NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts, 2021 Data, “Motorcycles,” published June 2023; Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, 2021, Statewide, Historical Information, “10 Year Summary,” “Motorcycles”; Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, Fact Sheets, “Motorcycles,” 2021)

How Dangerous Are Motorcycles: Accident Statistics Explained

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