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How Do Most Motorcycle Crashes Happen? The Top 5 Causes

It’s no secret that motorcyclists are the most at-risk individuals on the road. Compared to other drivers in cars, trucks, and other vehicles, motorcyclists are far less protected, are more difficult to see, and can have different road laws that can make them unpredictable.

Unfortunately, the result is countless motorcycle accidents that occur each year.

So how do most motorcycle crashes happen? Despite many online opinions, there is not a single factor that causes motorcycle crashes. The 5 top causes are weather and road conditions, speed of the driver, alcohol or drug impairment, reckless motorcycle driving behavior and failure to be seen by other drivers on the road.

Although motorcyclists typically only make up 3% of registered vehicles in the United States, they contribute to 14% of vehicle-related deaths according to the NSC!

Let’s discuss these top five causes of motorcycle accidents on the road, their resulting injuries, and how to prevent them.

Driving Under The Influence

Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated or unfortunately encountering an impaired driver on the road remains one of the primary causes of all motorcycle accidents, with at least 127 million impaired drivers on the road in 2020 according to the CDC.

Whether the motorcyclist is intoxicated or another driver is driving under the influence proves to be one of the deadliest causes of all forms of motorcycle accidents.

As described by the NHTSA, in 2018, 39% of fatal single-vehicle motorcycle accidents saw the motorcyclist under the influence, and that doesn’t even involve any other drivers.

When you include other drivers, both inebriated and not, this number increases substantially, making driving under the influence one of the most common causes of motorcycle crashes.

Weather Conditions

motorcycle crashes bad weather conditions

When visibility is low, the roads are slick and there is often debris on the streets due to inclement weather. The likelihood of a motorcycle crash obviously increases. Unfortunately, in harsh weather conditions such as this, motorcyclists once again find themselves at the top of the list of the motorists most in danger on the road.

This is primarily because without having the protection that the interior of a vehicle provides, motorcyclists are subjected to the elements. With nothing but a helmet and clothing to protect them from wind, rain, and other elements, they are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Not only does this decrease a rider’s visibility, but it can also make it difficult for them to control their motorcycle effectively because they may be wet, cold, uncomfortable, or several other reasons. In addition, most motorcycles only have two tires, which makes it much more difficult to control during already threatening weather conditions.

Excessive Speed

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As is the case with all vehicles, speeding is a major cause of accidents across the world. However, speeding has proven to be particularly dangerous for motorcyclists.

Compared to speeding-related accidents and fatalities from cars, trucks, and other automobiles, more motorcycle deaths were caused by speeding than by any others.

This is primarily the case because motorcycles are far less stable on two wheels, which can prove to be disastrous at high speeds.

In addition, with limited protection, motorcyclists that crash going above the speed limit are likely to sustain serious injuries, or worse. It also doesn’t help that most motorcycles have an impressive acceleration rate when compared to other vehicles, making sudden stops safely nearly impossible.

Lane Splitting

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Although not legal in all states, the American Motorcyclist Association describes lane splitting as “a motorcycle’s narrow width which can allow it to pass between lanes of stopped or slow-moving cars on roadways where the lanes are wide enough to offer an adequate gap.

This option can provide an escape route for motorcyclists who would otherwise be trapped or struck from behind.” Since being in stop-and-go or congested traffic has proven to be increasingly dangerous for motorcyclists, lane splitting is a solution that has proven to be beneficial to motorcyclists, however, it does not come without hazards.

Driving a motorcycle in between lines of stopped or slow-moving cars puts them at the mercy of other drivers.

If a motorcyclist is lane-splitting and a car suddenly attempts to merge in front of them and doesn’t see the motorcyclist, this can result in a type of accident that happens all too often.

Hopefully, the motorcyclist is driving slowly enough to either stop or maneuver around the merging vehicle, although this is not always the case.

Failure to be seen by other drivers

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Motorcycles are convenient to drive because they are small, can weave through traffic, and are quick. Yet, this is also what makes them so dangerous. Ironically, all these benefits of a motorcycle also make them less visible to other drivers and is what causes many motorcycle accidents.

Almost all vehicles have blind spots of some kind whether they be small cars or large trucks. At times, that blind spot can completely block a motorcyclist from view, leading a driver to believe that no one is there, causing an accident. In addition to blind spots, most vehicle drivers also don’t always have the safety of motorcyclists at the forefront of their minds.

This is because motorcyclists are the minority on the road. Vehicle drivers are constantly encountering other vehicles and watching for them when changing lanes, merging onto highways, etc.

They encounter motorcycles much less frequently and often do not take the extra time to check their blind spots for them, which often results in an untimely motorcycle accident.

Common Injuries From Motorcycle Accidents

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Unfortunately, not all motorcycle accidents are preventable, and people do get hurt in a variety of ways.

Motorcycle crashes and their resulting injuries are unique compared to other vehicle accidents.

Motorcycle accident attorneys Ciccarelli Law Offices stated that the most common injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents are:

  • TBI (traumatic brain injury): Even if the rider is wearing a helmet, brain injuries are one of the most common injuries associated with motorcycle accidents. Because the rider does not have the safety of a seatbelt, they can easily fly over their handlebars and into other vehicles obstacles or the road, resulting in traumatic brain injuries.
  • Spinal cord injuries: Often associated with brain injuries, spinal cord injuries are another common motorcycle accident injury. With nothing but their own body to brace the impact, it is not unusual for the victim of a crash to suffer a head and spinal cord injury at the same time.
  • Road rash: Because motorcyclists only have their clothing and helmet to protect them from the pavement, road rash is a very common injury in motorcycle accidents. It can range from mild to severe and occurs when a motorcyclist’s body skids across the pavement at high speeds.

How To Prevent Motorcycle Accidents

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Thankfully, most motorcycle accidents are preventable, as long as motorcyclists and drivers take extra precautions on the roads.

Some of the things motorcyclists can do to prevent an accident are:

  • Wear bright clothing to make yourself seen
  • Avoid riding your motorcycle in inclement weather
  • Never speed
  • Never drink and drive
  • Don’t share lanes with cars
  • Regularly check your motorcycle for maintenance issues, especially tires

If you are an automobile driver you can:

  • Double-check mirrors before merging
  • Avoid merging in slow traffic
  • Avoid opening your doors when sitting in slow or stopped traffic
  • Follow the rules of the road
  • Always assume a motorcyclist is near


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