Top Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

There’s no doubt that riding a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience. But with excitement also comes risk. The truth is that motorcycles are inherently dangerous by nature. There aren’t any seatbelts and there are no protective structures.

Plus, motorcycles are far smaller and thus less visible than motor vehicles. Riding a motorcycle is very risky when it comes to personal safety and yet there are about 8.5 million motorcycles on the road according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), people are riding motorcycles now more than ever before.

It’s important to note that in many cases, motorcycle accidents are caused by a compounding number of factors. As motorcycle accident attorneys, we urge all riders to be especially cautious. Accidents do occur and when they do, they are often catastrophic. Please be careful.

Top Causes of Motorcycle Accidents on the Road

Some of the leading causes and compounding factors of motorcycle crashes include:

  1. Weather
  2. Rider Age
  3. Traffic
  4. Speeding
  5. Alcohol
  6. Lack of Licensing & Experience
  7. Reckless Riding
  8. Lack of Antilock Brakes


Motorcycles are no match against rain, sleet and ice. Although statistics don’t point to weather as a predominant factor in motorcycle crashes, weather is nevertheless a compounding factor in many motorcycle accidents.  Collisions often occur due to slippery roadways, most likely from light drizzle or unexpected rainfall.

Rider Age

Surprisingly, older riders pose a greater risk for motorcycle-related fatalities according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Statistics reveal that 56 percent of riders killed in accidents were age 40 or older in 2011. In NHTSA statistics dated 2011, 42 years of age is the average age for individuals killed in motorcycle accidents. In contrast, fatalities among younger riders have declined according to the NHTSA. However, when considering both fatality and injury, young riders are still at high risk. The CDC says that death and injury is most prevalent among riders between the ages of 20 and 29.

There’s no doubt that skill and risk are each significant contributors as to why age plays a role in the top causes of motorcycle accidents. With older riders, the ability to maneuver a motorcycle may become more difficult over time. Also, if an accident does occur, an older body may not be as pliant when it comes to healing and recovery. Sadly, older riders may be more prone to fatalities simply due to an aging and less resilient body.

On the other hand, young riders may participate in far riskier activity than older drivers and thus be more prone to more injury, with some injuries resulting in fatality. Younger riders may also be new at riding a motorcycle and thus less experienced with how to react to changing roadway conditions.


It goes without saying that cars could pose as a motorcycle’s nemesis. After all, with far greater size and weight, a motor vehicle could cause catastrophic damage to the motorcycle not to mention grave injury to the person onboard. An illuminating and yet harrowing 2012 statistic reveals that traffic – precisely rush hour traffic – is a largely contributing factor to motorcycle accidents. On any given weekday, 3pm to 6pm is the riskiest time for motorcycle riding. Rush hour accounts for just over 23 percent of motorcycle-related fatalities according to the NHTSA. The second riskiest time of day for motorcycle riding is between 6pm and 9pm, dovetailing on rush hour statistics. As for injuries, rush hour is still the riskiest time to travel, accounting for just over 25 percent of all injuries by way of motorcycle travel. Second to that, injuries are also prevalent among the noon to 3pm hours with just over 20 percent of all injuries occurring during that time.

There’s no doubt that weaving in and out of stop-and-go traffic plays a huge role in the top causes of motorcycle accidents. Although it may sound convenient to bypass stopped traffic with a motorcycle, riders are strongly cautioned to proceed with caution considering rush hour statistics.


Perhaps a rider would say it’s irresistible, but our take is that speeding is plain irresponsible. In 2012, 34 percent of motorcycle fatalities were attributed to speeding. That’s the highest percentage and largest group of speeding-related fatalities compared to all other types of motorists.


Alcohol and the operation of any vehicle just don’t mix. When it comes to riding a motorcycle, every single last bit of attention should be dedicated to the safe operation of the bike. Nevertheless, alcohol plays a role in the top causes of motorcycle accidents. According to the NHTSA, 27 percent of riders involved in fatal accidents had a blood alcohol concentration of over 0.08 while operating a motorcycle. That’s alarming, to say the least. That’s the highest prevalence of intoxicated drivers from all other motorist groups.

When considering age and alcohol, individuals between the ages 40 and 44 had the highest incidence of alcohol-related motorcycle crash fatalities. For those who were fatally injured at night, riders were 3.4 times more likely to have had a BAC of over 0.08. That’s about 47 percent of all night-riding motorcyclists.

Lack of Licensing & Experience

Unfortunately, too many riders are not even licensed to operate a motorcycle. Inexperience combined with a lack of formal training can lead to disastrous results for motorcyclists who ride without a license. Nearly a quarter of all motorcycle riders fatally injured in 2012 were unlicensed. That’s simply an unwise move for any rider.

It goes without saying that all motorcyclists should be currently licensed when operating a bike. There’s a reason that California law dictates licensure for all motor vehicle operators including those aboard a motorcycle. It’s common sense and it’s the law.

Reckless Riding

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued a report in 2007 that said bikers who ride a “super sport” motorcycle have higher death rates – nearly four times higher – than other types of motorcycles. Riders of these types of super sport motorcycles are often known for driving at excessive speeds (up to 190 mph) in addition to engaging in road tricks such as wheelies or standing atop the motorcycle seat while traveling at excess speeds.

Individuals with super sport bikes are likely to be younger with an average age of 27 according to the IIHS.  In addition to speeding, rider error and recklessness were also compounding factors in this category.

Lack of Antilock Brakes

The braking of a motorcycle occurs twofold: the pressure is applied to both the front and rear wheels, depending on the choice of the rider. In other words, the two braking systems operate independently. It goes without saying that maneuvering and braking a bike is more difficult than braking a car. When a motorcycle is equipped with an antilock braking system (ABS), the risk of a fatal crash is reduced by 37 percent according to the IIHS. However, when motorcycles lack ABS, the risk for injury and death are considerably higher.

Good to Know

One of the best ways to prevent motorcycle injury and death is to wear a helmet. Choosing to go without one is simply too risky and irresponsible when considering how easy it is to wear a helmet and how effective it is at preventing injury and death.

According to the CDC, helmets are irrefutably effective at preventing injury and death. According to the source, helmets are scientifically proven to be effective at reducing the risk of brain injury. When considering helmet use, it’s just common sense and a good protective measure against the potential of injury and death.

California law mandates helmet use regardless of age. Surprisingly, 28 other states have only partial law dictating the use of helmets. Three states had no laws in place regarding helmet use. That’s an alarming fact considering how important a helmet is in preventing head injuries not to mention saving someone’s life.

Regardless where you live, we urge all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet. Get licensed. Take a safety course. Be proactive about your safety and the safety of others.

Helpful resources for motorcycle safety:

Ride safely.

Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people. Now, when those injured in car accidents or 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!