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15 Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

most common causes of motorcycle accidents
Written by Willie F Brodson
Last Update: November 18, 2022

No matter where you live, there is no doubt that motorcycle crashes are often the most dangerous accidents that you can get caught up in. In fact, motorcycle accidents cause the highest number of fatalities compared to other automobile accidents.

If you’re wondering what the most common causes of motorcycle accidents are, we’ve rounded up 15 leading causes that’ll help you ride safer if you always keep them in mind.

Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

1. Alcohol & drug use

This is one of the main reasons behind most injuries and fatalities. Intoxication reduces the brain’s capability to function properly and impairs its major functions like decision making, alertness, reflexes, and responses.

According to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), 27% of the riders who had fatal injuries in 2020 were alcohol-impaired (.08 g/dL BAC or higher) and 41% of all the riders who died in a single vehicle accident were alcohol-impared.

2. Speeding

It is easy to lose control at high speeds. Overspeed gives you less time to make quick decisions and narrows down your essential vision, which makes it hard to react to oncoming obstacles.

However, a bike hitting a car or any obstacle even at a low speed can cause severe damage to the rider and the consequences are deadly at ultra high speeds. NHTSA reports that in 2020, 34% of serious motorcycle accidents occurred due to speeding.

3. Breaking traffic rules

Some basic traffic rules that cause serious damage are skipping traffic lights, overspeeding, and not using turn signals.

The purpose of the yellow traffic lights is to slow down the speed but many of us tend to speed up when a traffic light changes from green to yellow. Violating this rule can result in you hitting a pedestrian or a car.

4. Lack of experience and licensing

The combination of inexperience and a lack of formal training can lead to terrible consequences for the unlicensed motorcycle riders.

Inexperienced riders may not know all the traffic rules and speed limit, and can make risky moves that may put others in danger along with themselves.

NHTSA reported that in 2020, 36% of all the motorcycle riders involved in fatal accidents didn’t have a valid license.

5. Overtaking tendency

Some irresponsible bikers often try to overtake other vehicles in front of them, which puts them in danger. In the course of overtaking, they may lose control and hit another car or an obstacle.

6. Mechanical problems

Any mechanical issue during a ride presents danger e.g. the brake may stop working if it’s not serviced or maintained on a regular basis.

You also need to take care of your tires so there is no defective tread or high air pressure  that may cause tire blowouts.

7. Weather elements

Rainfall, fog, and snow often cause visibility problems and it’s hard to keep control of a bike during a storm or when facing strong wind.

8. Cars making left hand turns

The main reasons behind this type of accidents are driver distraction, low visibility, and speeding. According to NHTSA in 2020, 42% of fatal car-motorcycle crashes involved a car taking a left turn while the motorbike was passing by, going straight, or overtaking.

Even if the car driver checks the mirror before turning, it’s hard to spot a bike behind because it could be in the driver’s blindspot. The driver and the rider both must be careful when a road turn approaches nearby.

8. Roadway Hazard

Dangerous road conditions like uneven surfaces, potholes, debris, slippery surface, loose gravel, and railway tracks are very threatening to a motorcycle.

Just little contact with any of these hazards can cause an accident since motorcycles are less stable than four wheelers. The rider should remain fully focused while driving to keep themselves safe and sound.

Areas where animals cross regularly can be another factor that bikers should be careful about. In fact, 1% of the total motorcycle accidents occur due to animal involvements.

10. Distracted drivers

You may be fully focused whenever you hit the road but there are those who may not pay attention like you. This is very unfortunate but a common scenario.

Listening to music, texting, calling or talking to other passengers, and smoking while driving are some of the reasons that may distract you. A distracted rider or driver may not see a car stopped ahead or signal when changing lanes.

11. Unsafe lane changes

If you attempt to change lanes without signaling or checking your blindspot there is a possibility that you will collide with another vehicle.

12. Sudden stops

Following the vehicle ahead too closely or an abrupt stop can result in an accident. You should give a signal before a sudden stop; otherwise, the car behind may hit your bike.

13. Roadway users & traffic threats

Unexpected stops, lane changing, and sudden opening of car doors pose a significant threat to bikers and cause a lot of accidents every year.

Due to smaller size their visibility is blocked by other cars and for this reason, many motorists fail to recognise them in traffic.

14. Collision

Motorcycles are very unprotected when they collide with other cars or fixed objects. Head-on collisions are the most threatening type of collision due to the opposing amount of force involved between the two vehicles.

Colliding with a fixed object like a tree or a fence can also cause fatal injuries. According to NHTSA in 2019, 23% of all deadly motorcycle accidents occurred hitting fixed objects.

15. Lane splitting

A lane split occurs when a rider rides between two lanes in heavy traffic and attempts to move forward through slow-moving traffic. The car drivers may be unaware of the motorcycle, which can lead to an accident.

How to Prevent Motorcycle Accidents?

Unfortunately, there is no surety that motorcycle accidents can be fully prevented. But some basic safety precautions can help minimize the risk to a great extent.

  • Follow the traffic rules
  • Never drink before you ride
  • Obey the speed limits
  • Have proper training
  • Be attentive and fully focused
  • Maintain your motorcycle properly
  • Be careful at intersections
  • Learn to deal with the common road hazards
  • Be visible
  • Wear safety equipment

What to Do if You’ve Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?

What to Do if You’ve Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident

  • Call emergency services

In case you are caught in an accident, the first thing you should do is move to a safe spot nearby and ask for help. Try to call 911 by yourself if you can or ask a bystander if you are hurt badly.

  •  Keep your gear on

If any part of your body is already injured then putting off your safety gear may make it worse.

Most try to take off their helmets immediately after an accident which can cause head, neck and spine damage. So it’s better to keep your gear on.

  • Seek medical help

Motorcycle accidents often lead to serious injuries. Visit a hospital immediately for proper care.

  • Collect information

After hitting a motorcycle the car driver may try to run away from the spot. So, take note of the license plate number if you can.

Also, take photos of the spot and gather information from the witnesses if they are willing to provide any so that there is valid evidence of the factors related to the incident

  • Report to the police

Tell the police about your side of the story and all the injuries you suffered. Provide them all the information that you gathered so that the person at fault can be punished.

However, don’t say anything that can put you at fault if that’s not the case.

  • Call your insurance company

You should notify your insurance company that you have been in an accident. Give them all the evidence but never admit your fault to insurance adjusters.

  • Contact a lawyer

You should consult an experienced attorney to ensure that your legal insurance rights and medical cost benefits are protected. With thorough investigation, the motorcycle accident lawyer can protect you if you’re wrongly accused by the other party.

About the author

Willie F Brodson

Certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and a master of Science in Occupational Safety Management from Indiana State University, Willie F Brodson is an occupational safety expert who believes in the age-old saying – “It is better to be safe than sorry.”

Willie’s areas of expertise include legal guidelines for health and safety, coding and construction safety, fire prevention and theft, and environmental technology. Over a span of four decades, he has provided safety training and consultation and developed safety manuals for a number of state-owned and private organizations.

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