Car vs. Motorcycle Accidents: What do the statistics say?

Motorcycles only represent 3% of traffic accidents in the U.S., but when a motorcycle is involved, 56% of traffic accidents involve someone dying.

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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...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 3, 2020

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No one wants to get into any kind of vehicle accident. Unfortunately, they are a fact of life, and it doesn’t matter whether you have the best motorcycle or car insurance or not. You’re going to need help when you get in an accident.

Accidents can be as insignificant fender benders, or as serious as fatality causing crashes. In general, motorcycles tend to be more dangerous than cars when it comes to accidents. Motorcycles only represent 3% of traffic accidents in the United States. However, if a motorcycle is involved, 56% of accidents involve accidental deaths.

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 enclosed in a car.

The inherent differences between a car and a motorcycle create the disparity between their severity levels.

So let’s take a look at motorcycle and car accident statistics, then take note of some tips on how to stay safe on the road, whether you’re riding or driving.

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

What are the most common causes of accidents?

Motorcycles and cars do have some things in common when it comes to accidents. These include alcohol-impairment, distracted driving, and speeding. Between 2004 and 2013, 58% of fatal traffic accidents involving any type of vehicle occurred because of speeding, distracted driving (such as texting while driving), and/or alcohol. Alcohol use and speeding both accounted for 31% of those fatal accidents. Distracted driving made up the other 18%.

Clearly, distracted driving, speeding, and alcohol are primary factors in most motor vehicle accidents. But the other causes of accidents for cars and motorcycles vary significantly.

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The Common Causes of Car Accidents

Car accidents can be grouped into two categories: driver error and other causes. Other causes can be things like weather, emergencies, or mechanical failure.

Most often, car drivers get into accidents because of:

  • Alcohol, distracted driving, and speeding – as we said above, these cover the vast majority of car accidents.
  • Fatigue – Around 2.5-3% of fatalities in car accidents were caused by driver fatigue or falling asleep at the wheel.
  • Road rage – Road rage, also known as aggressive driving, will result in a driver speeding, tailgating, or using other unsafe driving tactics.

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

The Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Accidents involving motorcycles often occur for different reasons.

  • Low Visibility of Motorcycles – “start seeing motorcycles,” is a common sign for a reason. Motorcycle accidents are most often caused by drivers failing to see a motorcycle. Cars turning left are especially prone to hitting motorcycles.
  • Lane Splitting – lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle drives down the center line of a road. It is not illegal in every state. However, it does increase the chance of accidents for the motorcycle.
  • Hitting a Fixed Object – colliding with a fixed object occurs more often than you may think. About 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 – road hazards can be deadly for motorcycles. While cars can navigate wet or snowy roads relatively well, especially if they have four-wheel drive or all-season tires, motorcycles struggle. Accidents, where the biker loses control because of dangerous road conditions or hazards, are all too frequent.

yellow motorcycle, scenic highway, black pants, boots, black jacket, black helmet

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What are some of the consequences of car and motorcycle accidents?

Road accidents of any type have consequences. After an accident, your vehicle could be totaled or undervalued. Your insurance rates will probably increase as well. That includes both your car insurance and your motorcycle insurance. Yet these outcomes are nothing compared with the injuries that can occur because of a vehicle accident.

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

As mentioned above, 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.

These statistics illustrate the major differences in consequences for motorcyclists and car drivers. Motorcycle riders under the age of forty are 36 times more likely to be killed in an accident than other drivers in the same age range. Similarly, motorcycle riders over forty are 20 times more likely to be injured in an accident than drivers of the same age.

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

Staying Safe When Riding a Motorcycle

Motorcycles can be dangerous, but they don’t have to be. 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 because of the risks of that vehicle.
  • Don’t lane split. While it can be tempting in a traffic jam, lane splitting greatly increases your chance for an accident.
    While it’s not fair, many drivers do not see motorcycles. That means you need to drive defensively. Anticipate potential accident scenarios, and you will keep yourself safe.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Don’t Become a Statistic

At the end of the day, whether you’re in a car or on a motorcycle, nobody wants to be in an accident. Following these simple steps and being aware of the statistics can be the difference between a clean driving or biking record and a trip to the hospital. So stay safe, drive wise, and ride smart!

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