Motorcycle and car accidents happen regularly in the United States, and both types of crashes can result in injuries and deaths. There are common characteristics that motorcycle accidents and car crashes share, and yet there are other ways in which these two types of incidents differ markedly.
Likelihood of Being Involved in an Injury Accident
Citing U.S. Department of Transportation and National Safety Council statistics, J.D. Power reports that there are approximately 12 million auto accidents every year in the United States. The average person will be involved in a car crash about once every six years but will come close to having a wreck about twice a month.
When a crash does occur, there is about a twenty percent chance that a motor vehicle occupant will suffer a severe injury. Out of the twelve million annual auto accidents in the United States, over two million individuals sustain a disabling injury every year.
J.D. Power goes on to say that motorcyclists face a nearly 80 percent injury rate in crashes. That is, out of every ten motorcycle crashes, eight will involve some injury to the motorcyclist or a motorcycle’s passenger.
Motorcyclists over the age of 40 are about 20 times more likely to be injured in a wreck than an occupant of a passenger car who is the same age.
Motorcycle Deaths vs. Car Deaths: Statistics
Not only is the risk of injury to motorcyclists greater, but so is the risk of motorcycle deaths vs. car deaths. In 2017, the Insurance Information Institute (III) recorded 5,226 motorcycle fatalities.
That same year, there were just over 37,000 people killed in passenger car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. By these numbers alone, in comparing motorcycle deaths vs. car deaths, you might conclude that you are more likely to die in a car accident than in a motorcycle wreck.
However, the III’s statistics delved deeper, looking at the fatality rate of motorcycles and passenger vehicles, both per 100,000 registered vehicles and per 1000 million vehicle miles traveled.
For passenger cars, the 2017 fatality rate per 100,000 registered passenger cars was 10.05. The fatality rate from that year per 100 million car miles traveled was 0.94.
The 2017 fatality rates for motorcycles were significantly higher. Motorcycles saw a fatality rate of 59.34 per 100,000 registered vehicles, nearly six times greater than the corresponding rate for passenger cars. Similarly, the fatality rate for motorcycles per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 25.67, nearly 26 times greater than the corresponding rate for passenger cars.
The statistics, therefore, clearly show that in the question of motorcycle deaths vs. car deaths, raw numbers do not tell the whole story. When one looks at the total number of deaths in proportion to each vehicle’s prevalence and use, there is a much higher likelihood that individuals will experience motorcycle deaths vs. car deaths.
J.D. Power concludes that the risk of dying in a motorcycle crash is about 30 times greater than the risk of dying in a car accident. Although motorcycles represent only three percent of all registered vehicles in the United States, they represent about five percent of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes.
Causes of Motorcycle Deaths vs. Car Accident Deaths
While there is a difference in the likelihood of suffering severe or fatal injuries in a motorcycle crash versus a car wreck, the reasons for motorcycle deaths and car deaths are remarkably similar. For both motorcyclists and motorists, drunk driving is a leading cause of fatal crashes, according to J.D. Power.
When you are impaired by alcohol or other intoxicating substances, your mind and your body suffer. You lose critical coordination skills, which are essential to safely operating a motorcycle and a car.
Your judgment is also impaired, as is your ability to recognize dangers and react in an appropriate manner. Not being able to assess a situation and take decisive action makes a crash that results in injury or death more likely.
Speeding is another common factor in both motorcycle and car crashes that lead to death. Speeding not only makes it more difficult to avoid hazards like fixed objects and other traffic, but it increases the energy present at the time of impact. The greater the amount of energy present in a collision, the greater the risk of serious injury and death.
Motorcycles lack the protective shell of a car, which puts riders in danger of experiencing an extreme bodily injury in a crash. Some different factors can make an injury or fatal collision more likely for motorcyclists, such as:
- Not wearing an approved helmet
- Failing to wear protective gear and appropriate footwear
- Not wearing reflective clothing to make yourself more visible to other drivers
- Risky behaviors like lane-splitting
For motorists, the following unique factors and careless behaviors can lead to an accident:
- Not using a seat belt, which significantly increases the risk of injury or death
- Driving while distracted by text messages, phone calls, or social media updates
- Failing to look for traffic before turning or proceeding through intersections
Many of these common and unique factors are within the control of the individual driver or motorcyclist. This means that if you act reasonably and carefully, you can reduce your risk of injury or death, regardless of whether you are on a motorcycle or in a car.
Trends in Motorcycle and Car Safety
Unfortunately, after a slight drop in the number of motorcycle fatalities in 2018 and 2019, the number of motorcyclists killed in 2020 jumped to 5,579, according to III’s records. Similarly, the number of motorists killed in car crashes jumped from over 37,000 in 2017 to almost 39,000 in 2020.
Understanding the common and unique dangers of motorcycles and passenger cars and how to mitigate them can lead you and others on the road to engage in safer practices and reduce the risk of being involved in a dangerous accident.
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 car, truck, 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!
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines