Motorcycle Accidents vs. Car Accidents: Facts, Statistics & Trends

Motorcycles and passenger cars have two things in common: They are both designed to be used on the road, and you need a license to operate them. Beyond that, they have more differences than similarities. These vehicles don’t handle the same, and they offer vastly different levels of protection to those who ride them.

Nowhere is the difference between motorcycles and cars more apparent than when examining accident statistics. While there are more car accidents than motorcycle accidents in the United States, raw numbers do not tell the full story of the risks of these vehicles.

How Dangerous Are Motorcycles?

A total of 6,084 people died in motorcycle wrecks in 2021, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

That figure is a small fraction of the number of people killed in car accidents. However, it does not mean cars are more dangerous than motorcycles. For each mile they are on the road, motorcyclists are at a significantly higher risk of serious injury and death in a crash.

Specifically, motorcyclists are 24 times more likely to die in a crash than passenger car occupants, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Eight out of every ten motorcyclists involved in a wreck will either be injured or killed. 

Another way to measure the danger of a particular vehicle is to consider its fatality rate. This rate is the number of deaths per 100,000 registered motorcyclists. The Insurance Information Institute shows that there are almost 60 motorcyclist deaths per 100,000 registered bikes. In contrast, the fatality rate was just 10.5 for every 100,000 registered cars.

Why Motorcycle Wrecks Happen

Just as car drivers who speed, drive while intoxicated, or get distracted behind the wheel can cause an accident, motorcyclists who engage in these behaviors are also more likely to crash. However, other behaviors and circumstances unique to motorcycles make crashes more likely.

First, motorcyclists who do not understand how to operate a low-visibility bike can be hurt in an accident caused by a driver who does not see them. Bikes are not as large as even the smallest passenger vehicle on the road, and as a result, drivers who are not looking closely for motorcyclists on the road can miss seeing them.

Second, lane splitting has been identified as a common cause of motorcycle wrecks. Lane splitting is the practice of riding a motorcycle down the centerline that divides two lanes of traffic going in the same direction, effectively creating a third lane of travel. Unless a car driver is vigilant, they can easily crash into a motorcyclist who is lane splitting.

What Do Statistics Say About Car Accidents?

In each of the past two years, the NHTSA has counted over 42,000 total fatalities due to accidents on U.S. roadways. However, this figure represents a smaller fraction of the millions of car accidents that happen each year. 

In any given car accident, a driver or passenger has only about a 20% chance of being hurt or killed. This is good news because those who travel by car are at high risk of being involved in a car wreck. 

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that a driver will experience a close call or near-accident approximately twice per month and an accident of some type every six months. Still, the NHTSA study shows only about 6% of all passenger car occupants who are involved in a car wreck sustain severe or fatal injuries.

Common Causes of Car Accidents

Driver error accounts for a significant number of car accidents every year. For instance, the NHTSA reports that approximately 10,000 individuals died in car accidents in 2018 because a driver chose to speed. 

Another 3,000 people lost their lives because of distracted driving in that year. Still more perished in car accidents due to a driver’s poor choices, such as drinking and driving. Another example of a poor choice that leads to death in car accidents is refusing to wear a seat belt. Nearly half of all car occupants who died in wrecks involving excessive speed were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the accident.

What the Statistics Show

When you view the available statistics as a whole, you can see that neither motorcyclists nor car occupants are immune from the threat of injury or fatal crashes. While more car accidents resulting in death happen every year than fatal motorcycle wrecks, a motorcycle accident is more likely to lead to serious or fatal injuries.

Statistics also show that many of the injuries that affect car occupants and motorcyclists are caused by poor decisions, including the choice to forgo safety equipment like seat belts. This illustrates how important it is to operate any motor vehicle carefully, whether it’s a motorcycle or a car.

Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including cartruck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!