How Willing Are You to Share the Road? Now’s the Time to Check.

The Top 7 Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

By Bobbie R. Byrd

As the summer driving season approaches, more travelers will be on the roads—including more motorcyclists. And, they’re doing so in growing numbers. 

The American Motorcyclist Association sponsors Motorcycle Awareness Month in May, a tradition that’s been carried out for more than 30 years. Spring and summer is the time of the year to remind drivers that sharing the road with motorcycles is the key to safe, fun summer driving. (And the same can be said for motorcyclists, too!)

Safety by the Numbers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says only about 3% of all registered vehicles in the U.S. are motorcycles. In contrast, motorcyclists accounted for 14% of traffic fatalities in 2017. This means motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a crash than passengers in a car and are five times more likely to sustain injuries.

A sobering number: 5,172 motorcyclists died as a direct result of crashes in 2017. The early 1980s saw a decline in the number of bikers killed in crashes. This began to change in 1998 when the rate of motorcyclists dying in crashes increased. The number of biker deaths in crashes in 2017 more than doubled the number from 1997.

What do the numbers tell us about motorcycle safety? They remind us that motorcycle safety is a serious issue for both bikers and other drivers.

The Top 7 Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

There are myriad causes for accidents involving motorcycles. The main cause is the automobile drivers failing to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic. 

Other more prevalent causes:

  1. Collisions with another vehicle—usually a passenger automobile—accounts for three-fourths of motorcycle accidents.

  2. One-fourth of motorcycle accidents result from bike riders’ impact with the road or hitting a fixed object in the environment, like a guardrail.

  3. Failure of the vehicle, such as a puncture flat, does cause collisions, however, they account for less than 3% of all motorcycle accidents.

  4. In two-thirds of single motorcycle accidents, rider error was the precipitating factor. The most common errors were sliding out and falling because of over-braking or running wide on a curve due to excess speed or under-cornering.

  5. The most likely location for a motorcycle accident is an intersection. Collisions most often occur here when the driver of the other vehicle fails to honor the motorcycle's right-of-way or violates traffic controls. 

  6. The vast majority of riders involved in motorcycle accidents lack formal training of any kind. A full 92% of motorcyclists say they learned to ride from family or friends or were self-taught. Accident involvement and injuries, as a result of a collision, greatly reduce in number when the rider has motorcycle training.

  7. Sixty percent of bikers involved in accidents were not wearing a safety helmet at the time. Those who wore helmets suffered fewer neck injuries than those without. Helmets prevented critical or possibly fatal head injuries.

Must-dos for Drivers, Sharing the Road with Motorcycles

The Top 7 Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

All persons on the road should be willing to treat other motorists, motorcyclists, and cyclists fairly. Motorists need to keep the following points in mind when behind the wheel. 

  • Regardless of what you're driving, be aware of your surroundings at all times.

  • Check blind spots and use mirrors.

  • Be sure to use turn signals when changing lanes or passing.

  • Driving while distracted, such as texting, changing radio stations, and using hands-free devices makes it easier to miss the motorcyclist that’s approaching your vehicle. Stay focused when driving.

When everyone on the road is paying attention and driving defensively, everyone's chances of making it home safe dramatically improve.

Must-dos for Motorcyclists, Sharing the Road with Automobiles

While motorcyclists are right to expect drivers to be aware of them, they too must be aware of nearby vehicles. Motorcyclists must be the good neighbor they expect others to be. Here's how.

  • Make certain you're road legal before getting on the bike. In 2016, 27 percent of bikers involved in fatal crashes were riding without a valid motorcycle license. 

  • Use reflective strips at all times to make sure you're visible. 

  • Drive with headlights on, both day and night.

  • Be aware of vehicle blind spots, especially with semi-trucks.

  • Wear a helmet, bright clothing, and eye protection for safety.

  • Know how to properly operate your motorcycle, including how it functions and how to do basic troubleshooting, before you hit the open road.

  • Check the tire pressure and tread depth before your ride. Make certain the hand and foot brakes are working properly.

  • Make certain your headlights, signal lights, and brake lights are all working.

  • Ride with the flow of traffic and make certain you leave ample room between your motorcycle and other vehicles. 

  • Always signal and check behind you before changing lanes.

  • Get your motorcycle endorsement for your license

The best way to make certain you and your motorcycle are safe on the road is to complete a motorcycle rider education course. Find the course you need at

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