How common are motorcycle accidents? | Motorcycle Legal Foundation

How common are motorcycle accidents?

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Key Takeaways

  • Most motorcycle accidents are likely to be front impact crashes, with the biggest scenario being left turn collisions and side swipes.
  • Motorcycle riders have 6x the fatality rate and 4x the injury rate of passenger car occupants.
  • Alcohol causes a disproportionate share of motorcycle deaths, whether it’s above the legal limit or below.
  • Wednesdays and weekends saw the most motorcycle accidents.
  • On weekdays, most accidents happen between noon to 6 pm, with 3-6 pm being the most accident-prone.
  • On weekends, accidents are more likely to occur between 9 pm to midnight.

Motorcycles are one of the most thrilling rides on the road… however, they are also one of the most risk-prone.

Motorcycles make up 3% of all registered vehicles in the US. And yet they account for a disproportionate share of various types of accidents, in both single-vehicle and multiple-vehicle crashes. The figures below show how common motorcycle accidents are based on different factors.

Unless otherwise noted, all data is taken from the NHTSA’s 2018 Traffic Safety Facts.

Motorcycle Accident Frequency

  • Among single-vehicle crashes, motorcycles had more fatal collisions with fixed objects compared to all other vehicles.
  • Among two-vehicle crashes involving motorcycles, 76% are front impacts, and only 8% were rear impacts.
  • The most common type of motorcycle accidents are:
  1. Left turn collisions: 43% 
  2. Side swipe or lane change collisions: 21%

Motorcycle Accidents by Type

Based on a study by the NTSB’s Federal Highway Administration, street bikes accounted for more motorcycle accidents than sport and racing models.

Motorcycle Accident Deaths

  • Motorcycles account for 14% of all road accident deaths among all types of vehicles.
  • Motorcycles account for 17% of all occupant fatalities (meaning both driver and passenger died).
  • The deadliest type of accident for motorcycle riders is collision with another vehicle, which accounted for 56% of the 5,115 fatal cases in 2018.
  • The fatality rate for riders is 6x higher compared to passenger car motorists.

Motorcycle Accident Injuries

  • There were 82,000 motorcycle accident injuries in 2018.
  • Motorcyclists are 4x more likely to be injured than passenger car occupants.
Injury Rate Motorcycles Passenger cars Light trucks
Per 100,000 registered vehicles 1,017 1,151 691
Per 100 million miles traveled 440 107 64

Motorcycle Crash Frequency by Location

  • 61% of fatal motorcycle accidents occur in urban areas, versus 39% in rural locations.
  • Intersections account for 35% of deadly motorcycle accidents.
  • In terms of roadway, principal road arteries saw the most accidents.

Frequency of Motorcycle Accidents due to Alcohol Intoxication

  • 32% of motorcycle riders killed in 2018 had a substantial amount of alcohol in their bloodstream.
  • 26% were found to be alcohol impaired, defined as having a BAC of .08 g/dL up.
  • 8% had lower alcohol levels between .01 to 0.7 g/dL.
  • There were more alcohol-impaired motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes than any other vehicle driver.

Frequency of Motorcycle Accidents by Day and Time

More than half of deadly motorcycle accidents occur during the daytime, particularly in the period between noon to 6 pm.

By Date and Time

By Day

*Based on the NTSB’s Select Risk Factors Associated with Motorcycle Crash Causes study