Car vs. Motorcycle Accidents [Latest Stats & Fatality Rates]

When comparing car vs. motorcycle accidents, the difference in survival rates is alarming. Motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in a crash than those driving cars. The passenger death rate is nearly 6 times higher in motorcycle crashes than in auto accidents. For every 100 million vehicle miles traveled, there are over 25 people killed who are riding a motorcycle each year.

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Emma Williams, originally from London, has been published in the London Evening Standard, The Telegraph, London Loves Business, and Country Living. She has a keen interest in property, U.S. politics, and law but also enjoys writing lifestyle-focused pieces.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jan 26, 2021

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Whether you’re driving a car or riding a motorcycle, nobody wants to get into an accident. But unfortunately, accidents happen, and they’re no walk in the park — even with the best insurance company on your side.

Accidents can be as insignificant fender benders, or as serious as fatality causing crashes.

But when you compare car vs. motorcycle accidents, statistics overwhelmingly point to motorcycles carrying more risk.

Remember, motorcycles don’t have seat belts or airbags, and they are much smaller than cars. Plus, the rider is exposed to the external world, rather than being enclosed in a passenger vehicle.

Right now, we’re digging deeper into the car and motorcycle accident statistics that matter most, including which mode of transportation has the highest fatality rates. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re also listing out must-know tips on what you can do to stay safe on the road.

Car or motorcycle, you need good insurance. Begin comparing rates now by plugging your ZIP code into our free insurance comparison tool.

blurred view of street from motorcycle, yellow taxi, black road, speedometer

Car vs. Motorcycle Accidents: What are the most common causes?

As different as cars and motorcycles are, there are still many similarities in the types of accidents drivers can be involved in. Some of the most common causes? Drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) breaks these down:

  • Drunk Driving. Nearly 30 people die daily in drunk-driving crashes. This amounts to one person every 50 minutes. In 2018, 10,511 lives were claimed in drunk-driving crashes.
  • Speeding. Nearly 10,000 people were killed as a result of speeding in 2018. Forty-nine percent of speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2017 were not wearing seat belts.
  • Distracted Driving. More than 2,800 people died in crashes caused by distracted driving in 2018.

Clearly, these numbers speak for themselves. But just what do the statistics look like when examining car vs. motorcycle accidents? We’re revealing more, beginning with fatality rates.

Related: How to Choose an Auto Insurance Company (Simple, Fast Steps)

Car vs. Motorcycle Accidents: Fatality Rates

Year after year, statistics reveal that more people are killed in car crashes than they are in motorcycle crashes. However, when it comes to the rate at which people are dying in these crashes, there’s no question about it: the fatality rates are much higher with motorcycles. You can see the latest data from the Insurance Information Institute (III):

Car vs. Motorcycle Fatality Rates

Fatality Rate, 2017MotorcyclesPassenger cars
Per 100,000 registered vehicles59.3410.05
Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled25.670.94
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The III reports that in 2017, the occupant fatality rate per 100,000 registered vehicles was 59.34 for motorcycles and 10.05 for passenger cars. In other words, the occupant fatality rate per 100,000 registered vehicles was nearly six times higher among motorcycle crashes.

When comparing the car vs. motorcycle fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, the statistics become even more shocking. The fatality rate with motorcycles was 25.67, compared to a fatality rate of 0.94 for passenger cars. Bottom line?

These statistics reveal that the occupant fatality rate with motorcycles was 27 times higher than that of cars.

Without question, this data should give drivers all the more reason to do their research: whether that’s in understanding safe behaviors on the road, or simply having a better understanding of the motorcycle and auto insurance laws that are meant to protect drivers.

Car Accidents: Statistics and Causes

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) regularly gathers car crash statistics specific to passenger vehicles, which includes cars, minivans, pickups, and SUVs. According to the IIHS:

  • Of the 36,560 motor vehicle crash deaths that occurred in 2018, 63 percent were occupants in passengers
  • Thirty-nine percent of those deaths occurred in single-vehicle crashes, and 61 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes
  • In terms of age, the IIHS reports that 23 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed that year were under 25
  • Just over 6,500 died in rollover crashes

Generally speaking, car accidents can be grouped into two categories: driver error and other causes. “Other causes” often refers to unpredictable circumstances, such as weather (like heavy rain or ice) or mechanical failure.

However, “driver error” can be best describe as preventable actions such as drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving. This powerful PSA from the NHTSA further highlights the importance of taking distracted driving seriously:

Of course, the dangers associated with this reckless behavior goes beyond typical four-door vehicles. Keep reading as we examine the statistics surrounding motorcycle accidents and fatalities.

See Also: The How-To Car Insurance Guide for Different Driver Types

Motorcycle Accidents: Statistics and Causes

The latest data from the NHTSA reveals the following about traffic crashes involving motorcycles:

  • In 2017, a total of 5,172 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes
  • Of those motorcyclists killed, 94 percent were riders and 6 percent were passengers.
  • A majority of the motorcycles involved in fatal crashes (91 percent) were two-wheeled motorcycles
  • Motorcyclists made up 14 percent of all traffic fatalities, and 17 percent of all occupant (driver and passenger) fatalities

It’s common knowledge that drinking and driving is a terrible combination. But for those riding motorcycles, the risk of fatality is even higher. Here’s a startling fact from the NHTSA from 2016:

Motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were found to have the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers than any other vehicle types (25% for motorcycles, 21% for passenger cars, 20% for light trucks, and 2% for large trucks).

Accidents involving motorcycles occur for different reasons. Here are some of the common causes according to legal experts with Nolo:

  • Low Visibility of Motorcycles. Motorcycle accidents are most often caused by drivers failing to see a motorcycle. Cars turning left are especially prone to hitting motorcycles.
  • Lane Splitting. This occurs when a motorcycle drives down the centerline of a road. It is not illegal in every state. However, it does increase the chance of accidents.
  • Hitting a Fixed Object. Colliding with a fixed object occurs more often than you may think. Experts estimate that 25% of motorcycle accident fatalities happen because of striking a fixed object. This is higher than the 18% of fatalities in similar car accidents.
  • Unmarked Road Hazards. This can be especially deadly for motorcycles. While cars can navigate wet or snowy roads relatively well, motorcycles struggle. Accidents, where the biker loses control because of dangerous road conditions or hazards, are all too frequent.

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Car vs. Motorcycle Accidents: What are the consequences?

Road accidents of any type will have consequences. For example, your vehicle could be totaled or undervalued. It is likely that your auto insurance rates will rise. Yet these outcomes are nothing compared with the injuries or fatalities that can occur. In short,

Motorcyclists are far more likely to be injured or killed in an accident than car drivers.

Remember, when we consider car vs. motorcycle accidents, motorcycles are inherently riskier than automobiles. Consider the size of an SUV or truck compared with a motorcycle. It’s no wonder that motorcycle accidents have more serious outcomes.

Additionally, in the US, there are still states where motorcyclists are not required by law to wear a helmet: Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire are three of them. According to Biker Justice USA, Idaho only requires a helmet if you’re under the age of 18.

Wearing a helmet is primarily for safety reasons, though Biker Justice USA goes on to state that not wearing a helmet can also impact fault for accident injuries. This will certainly impact your insurance:

“Motorist(s) can raise in their defense that you, the motorcyclist, were at least partially responsible (for a crash) due to your failure to wear a helmet.”

When they are not fatal, motorcycle accidents can result in serious injuries. Head, neck, and spine injuries are common. Brain injuries and spinal injuries can both cause permanent, lifelong disabilities. While these injuries can and do occur in car accidents, they are far more common in motorcycle accidents.

Check Here: Temporary Auto Insurance (Is it even worth it? We’ve got answers)

Staying Safe When Riding a Motorcycle

Motorcycles carry risk, but they don’t have to be dangerous. Here are a few things that you can do to keep yourself safe:

  • Always wear a helmet and protective clothing. Not all states require a motorcycle helmet, but they are proven to save lives and reduce the risk of serious injuries.
  • Do not drink and drive. This goes for every driver, but it’s even more crucial for the motorcyclist.
  • Don’t lane split. While it can be tempting in a traffic jam, lane splitting greatly increases your chance for an accident.
  • Make sure you have great motorcycle insurance. While insurance will not keep you safe from an accident, it can help you after an accident. Whether you need a new bike, have an injury, or need long-term disability support, the right motorcycle insurance can help. Do your research by finding out what how much motorcycle insurance will cost you, and more importantly, what it covers.

Of course, inspecting your motorcycle can lead to better safety and fewer crashes or hazardous situations.

Finally, if you do get in an accident, contact a lawyer familiar with motorcycles. Many jurors are biased against motorcycles and some lawyers are not familiar with motorcycle law. That is why it is important to have a specialist motorcycle attorney on your side in case of an accident or injury.

All that said, it can be easy to look at all the hazards of riding a motorcycle and forget about the enjoyment. Riding a motorcycle is just fun, and for that reason, we’ve compiled the 12 best cities for motorcycle riders.

Car vs. Motorcycle Accidents: Final Thoughts

Whether you’re in a car or on a motorcycle, nobody wants to be in an accident. However, being aware of these car vs. motorcycle accident statistics can be the difference between a clean driving or biking record, as well as a trip to the hospital. So stay safe, drive wise, and ride smart.

Whether you’re on four wheels or two, getting the best insurance rates will make for a better ride. Start comparing rates now by entering your ZIP code into our free insurance comparison tool.

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