Top 8 Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years

UPDATED: Jun 21, 2021

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What You Should Know

  • Motorcycles made up 3% of the vehicle registrations but accounted for 14% vehicle related fatalities in the US
  • 28% of motorcycle accidents or crashes involved drivers that did not possess a valid motorcycle license
  • 26% of motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2018 were alcohol-impaired

Once you learn how to get a motorcycle license, nothing quite compares to the feeling of cruising down the open road on a motorcycle—as long as you do it safely. But driving a motor vehicle of any kind carries risk, and that is certainly true of motorcycles. 

To keep yourself and others safe, it’s vital to understand the risks involved with piloting a motorbike and how to avoid them.

What Causes Motorcycle Accidents?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycles made up just 3% of all 2018 vehicle registrations in the US but accounted for 14% of vehicle-related fatalities.1 Another 82,000 riders were injured that same year.

These numbers may be startling, but they shouldn’t discourage you from taking your bike out for a spin. Instead, they should motivate you to understand the causes of motorcycle accidents and how to stop them. 

After all, most vehicular accidents are preventable.

To help you stay safe and informed, here are the top eight causes of motorcycle accidents in the US.

#1 Unprepared Motorcyclists

So, what is the main cause of motorcycle accidents? Statistically speaking, ill-prepared drivers cause the most accidents. In fact, 28% of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes did not possess valid motorcycle licenses.2

Unprepared driving shows up in other ways, including:

  • Lack of confidence in driving skills
  • Not enough practice
  • Misunderstanding or not learning the rules of the road

The process of obtaining a motorcycle license is designed to give riders a thorough understanding of motorcycle rules and safety. The completion of this process—coupled with lessons and practice in controlled environments—is the best way to be prepared and avoid crashes.

#2 Impaired Driving

The NHTSA reports that 26% of motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2018 were alcohol-impaired, meaning they had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Another 8% had some amount of alcohol in their system.

Whether you’re driving a motorcycle, car, or truck, impaired driving is reckless and should be avoided at all costs. If you decide to consume alcohol, always ensure you have a safe ride home from a designated driver, taxi, or rideshare.

#3 Distracted Driving

Distracted driving (the practice of driving while looking at a mobile device, putting on makeup, or performing other distracting tasks while driving) is a problem that affects many of us. It is estimated that 400,000 vehicle-related injuries in 2018 were caused by distracted driving.2 Distracted driving can also lead to not only personal injury but a possible catastrophic injury or fatality. 

If you’re driving a motorcycle, stay focused on the road, keep your hands on the handlebars at all times, and remain alert to avoid an unnecessary motorcycle crash followed by serious motorcycle injuries.

In addition to personally avoiding distracted driving, watch out for signs of other distracted drivers. Pay attention to drivers that glance down at their phones at traffic lights and steer clear of motorists that seem inattentive. It’s the best way to stay safe and avoid a fatal motorcycle accident.

#4 Other Drivers

The actions of other drivers can lead to motorcycle accidents—even if the rider is doing everything correctly. While out on your bike, watch out for the following:

  • Sudden lane changes
  • Large trucks or cars turning left (never pass on the inside)
  • Drivers running stop signs or red lights
  • Aggressive motorists

#5 Speeding

Driving faster than the legally enforced limit is a recipe for accidents, especially when combined with other factors. 31% of 2018’s motorcycle fatalities involved racing, driving too fast for the conditions, or exceeding the posted limit.1

Always follow speed limits while riding—they exist to keep you safe.

#6 Poor Road Conditions

Motorcyclists are specifically prone to crashes related to poor road conditions. Potholes, uneven pavement, loose gravel, and other hazards on the road can cause motorcycle accidents. Always heed road signs, especially ones for construction and dips in the road. 

#7 Bad Weather

While the vast majority of motorcycle accidents occur in clear or cloudy conditions, you should take extra care when riding in the rain, fog, or other inclement weather. Fog and rain can reduce visibility, increasing the chance of a collision. Roads become slippery when wet or icy, making it harder to brake and take sharp turns.

Always dress for the weather and consider staying in or taking public transit when weather conditions are unsafe for riding.

#8 Lane Splitting

Driving between two lanes is called lane splitting. The practice is commonly seen when traffic is at a standstill. The narrow profile of a motorcycle allows it to be driven along the lines that divide roads.

Lane splitting is a dangerous practice, as it places the motorcyclist too close to other vehicles. There is less room for error in the narrow space between lanes. Furthermore, if a driver were to suddenly open their door or change lanes, the motorcyclist is at risk of being knocked from their bike.

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Ride Safe, Ride Smart—Be Prepared with Insurance

Many motorcycle accidents caused by the above factors are preventable, but some are not. And while no one ever plans to get in an accident, they do happen—and they can be costly. But do you need motorcycle insurance? We recommend motorcycle insurance to every new and experienced rider in case accidents happen.

So, how much is motorcycle insurance? For more information on motorcycle insurance, enter your ZIP code in our free quote tool.

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