Why Are Motorcycle Crashes So Serious?

Approximately eight million Americans ride approximately 20 billion miles on motorcycles annually. All that riding results in approximately 90,000 injuries and 5,000 deaths from crashes each year. Compared to the roughly 30,000 non-motorcycle vehicle fatalities a year, those statistics might not seem concerning. But looking at the numbers a little more closely reveals that motorcycle crashes are significantly more dangerous than other vehicle accidents.

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Motorcycle Fatality Rates Per Mile Traveled

When you break down the numbers, it is clear that there are roughly 25 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled on motorcycles. Comparatively, light trucks and passenger cars are associated with slightly less than one fatality per 100 million miles traveled. In other words, a motorcyclist is 30 times more likely than a car occupant to be in a fatal accident.

Characteristics of a Motorcycle

The average motorcycle weighs 200 to 400 lbs, is seven feet long, is two to three feet wide, carries one or two passengers, and has the storage capacity of an average purse. In general, motorcycles can accelerate and stop faster than cars and have better maneuverability.

This almost makes motorcycles sound safer than cars. So why are motorcycle crashes so serious? The answer to that question is based on the characteristics motorcycles lack.

A Small Size

While small size improves maneuverability, it also makes a motorcycle difficult to see. Motorcycles lack a reflective roof and windows. Drivers often get into accidents with motorcycles simply because they don’t see them.

And when an accident occurs between a motorcycle and a car, the lower weight of the motorcycle becomes problematic. Most cars weigh one to two tons. The weight disparity makes it more likely that the motorcycle takes the brunt of any collision.

Only Two Wheels

Motorcycles are also lacking two extra wheels. Four wheels create much more stability than a two-wheeled vehicle can achieve. Unless a car is extremely topheavy, it takes a significant hit or extreme weather conditions to make it fully lose control. A motorcycle is likely to roll over after less powerful impact forces and in less fierce weather.

A Lack of Safety Features

Modern cars are built with tons of safety features. Assuming your car was built in the 90s or later, it likely has:

  • Seat belts
  • Windshields (and wipers)
  • Airbags
  • Crumple zones
  • Anti-lock brakes

Few motorcycles have any of those safety features, for reasons of both cost and effectiveness. For most motorcyclists, the only meaningful safety features they have are the protective clothing and helmets they wear while riding. This gear needs to protect riders when they are thrown from or fall off their motorcycle. That is minimal protection compared to a car, especially since almost 30% of motorcyclists don’t wear helmets while riding.

The Importance of Helmets

According to the NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities decreased by 15% to 37% in six states after they implemented mandatory helmet laws. While helmets don’t prevent all motorcycle fatalities, multiple studies show that they are highly effective at reducing injuries and fatalities when used correctly.

In addition to the safety benefits of wearing a helmet, there are legal ramifications. California state law requires all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, regardless of age. Additionally, your maximum recovery will likely be reduced if you are involved in a motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet.


When answering the question “Why are motorcycle crashes so serious?” there is one more important factor: the negligence of other drivers. When other drivers aren’t careful, motorcyclists are put in danger. If that happens to you, a personal injury attorney can help you pursue the compensation to which you are entitled.

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!