The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) releases national motorcycle crash data each year, but the reports are delayed by a few years. The most NHTSA recent data is from 2020. The most recent data from the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) is from 2021. We have compiled motorcycle crash statistics to help you understand the risks, types of collisions, and steps you can take to reduce your chances of being involved in a motorcycle accident.
Fatalities: Motorcycles vs. Passenger Cars and Light Trucks
The Insurance Information Institute reported that in 2020, motorcyclists had a fatality crash rate of 31.64 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. By comparison, the fatality crash rate of passenger cars was 1.15 per 100 million vehicle miles and for light trucks, it was 0.67 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This equates to a nearly 30 times greater risk of being killed in a crash when riding on a motorcycle than while riding in a passenger vehicle. A second comparison between motorcycle and passenger vehicle fatalities during that year also is illustrative. There were 67.8 motorcycle crash fatalities for every 100,000 registered vehicles in 2020 as compared to 10.79 for passenger cars and 6.90 for light trucks.
In addition to not having a protective steel cage surrounding motorcyclists, motorcycles also don’t have other safety features, including airbags and seat belts. This means that motorcyclists absorb the physical forces of collisions with their bodies instead of some of the force being directed around them through an exterior cab. They are also much likelier to be thrown from their bikes, crushed between their bikes and the cars that hit them, or pinned underneath their bikes after being thrown off.
By the Numbers: Total Injury and Fatality Statistics
The NHTSA reports that 5,579 motorcyclists were killed in accidents in 2020, which accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities during that year. This was an 11% year-over-year increase from 2019 and was the highest number of motorcycle fatalities since the NHTSA first began reporting crash data through the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) in 1975. According to the NHTSA, an estimated 82,528 motorcyclists sustained injuries in accidents in 2020, which was a 2% year-over-year decrease from 2019.
The NHTSA reports that an estimated 80% of motorcycle crashes result in injuries or deaths. By comparison, 20% of car accidents result in injuries or deaths.
California: Total Injury and Fatality Statistics
According to the California Highway Patrol’s SWITRS data for 2021, a total of 13,381 injury and fatality motorcycle crashes occurred in the state. In 2020, 539 motorcyclists were killed in California accidents.
Los Angeles County had the greatest number of motorcycle accidents in 2021 with 2,803. Out of those, 133 people were killed and 3,068 were injured. Among those who were injured in Los Angeles County motorcycle crashes, 837, or 29.86%, sustained severe injuries. In the City of Los Angeles, a total of 942 injury and fatality motorcycle crashes were reported in 2021, resulting in 53 deaths and 346 severe injuries.
Alcohol Involvement in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents
Alcohol impairment by either the vehicle driver or the motorcyclist is a major contributing factor in motorcycle collisions. The NHTSA reports that 27% of motorcyclists involved in fatal accidents in 2020 were impaired by alcohol. Among passenger vehicle drivers, 23% involved in fatal collisions during that year were under the influence. The NHTSA reports that 41% of motorcyclists who were involved in fatal single-vehicle accidents were impaired by alcohol. Those whose fatal accidents occurred at night were three times likelier to be under the influence than those who were killed in motorcycle accidents during the day.
Out of the 539 motorcyclists who were killed in California in 2020, the NHTSA reports that 175 had BACs above 0.01%. Out of those, 122 had BACs of 0.08% or higher, and 75 had BACs of 0.15% or higher. Anyone with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is considered to be intoxicated in California, but people might be impaired with lower limits.
Speeding and Fatal Motorcycle Accidents
The NHTSA reports that 34% of the motorcycle riders who were killed in accidents in 2020 were speeding at the time of their collisions. The age group with the highest percentage of speeding was those between the ages of 25 and 29 at 45%. Those between the ages of 35 and 39 had the second highest percentage of speeding at 43%, followed by those between the ages of 15 and 20 at 41%.
Helmet Use in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents
Department of Transportation (DOT) approved helmets can help prevent deaths in motorcycle accidents. The NHTSA reports that DOT-approved helmets are 37% effective in preventing deaths among motorcycle riders and 41% in preventing deaths among motorcycle passengers.
A greater percentage of motorcyclists who were killed while not wearing helmets crashed in states without helmet laws. Overall, in states that did not have universal helmet laws, 57% of the motorcyclists who died in accidents were not wearing helmets. In states with universal helmet laws, 11% of the motorcyclists who were killed in accidents were not wearing helmets. in California, 7% of motorcyclists who were killed were known to be unhelmeted at the time of their crashes in 2020.
Fatal Accidents by Day of Week and Age Group
According to data from the NHTSA, fatal motorcycle accidents occurred more frequently on weekends vs. weekdays. Out of the 5,579 fatal accidents that happened in the U.S. in 2020, 2806 happened over the 36 hours between Fridays at 6 pm and Mondays at 5:59 am. The remaining 2,765 fatal motorcycle accidents happened over the 54 hours between Mondays at 6 am and Fridays at 5:59 pm.
Among those who were killed, 706 were between the ages of 25 and 29, the age group with the highest number of fatalities. The second-highest number of fatalities occurred with motorcyclists between the ages of 30 and 34 with 690 deaths. Riders aged 65 and over had the third-highest number of crash fatalities with 530.
Primary Contributing Factors and Crash Types in California Motorcycle Crashes
The University of California, Berkeley reports the following factors were the top five that contributed to motorcycle collisions resulting in serious injuries and fatalities in 2020:
- Speeding – 30.9%
- Improper turning – 22.2%
- Automobiles failing to yield the right-of-way – 16.1%
- Impairment by alcohol or drugs by either the motorcyclist or the driver- 8.9%
- Failing to obey traffic lights or stop signs – 4.4%
The five most common crash types among California motorcycle accidents involving serious injuries or fatalities in 2020 included the following:
- Broadside collisions – 25.1%
- Overturn accidents – 21%
- Striking objects – 18.8%
- Rear-end accidents – 12.5%
- Sideswipe accidents – 11.5%
Tips for Remaining Safe While Riding on Motorcycles
As the statistics demonstrate, riding on motorcycles comes with substantial danger. However, there are some tips you can follow to mitigate your risk of being involved in a motorcycle collision.
1. Check your motorcycle before you ride – Before you take your motorcycle out on the road, walk around and inspect it. Check the lights, tires, brakes, and fluids to ensure everything is in good working order.
2. Wear a helmet and safety gear at all times – Wearing a helmet and using safety gear whenever you ride might save your life. Don’t risk it, and always wear a DOT-approved helmet, riding boots, motorcycle chaps, and gloves when you ride.
3. Don’t during and drive – Never ride your motorcycle after you have drunk alcohol or used any impairing substances.
4. Increase your visibility – Many motorcycle accidents happen because drivers fail to see motorcycles around them. Make yourself more visible to motorists by wearing brightly colored clothing and using reflective tape on your clothes and bike when riding at night.
5. Follow all traffic laws – Make sure to know the traffic laws and always comply with them, including obeying posted speed limits and obeying reckless driving. Remain alert, and watch what motorists around you are doing. Try to anticipate potential dangers ahead so that you can react appropriately.
Talk to an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorney
If you sustained injuries in a motorcycle collision, you should not wait to speak to an experienced attorney to learn about your rights. An attorney can quickly take action to gather and preserve important evidence to support your compensation claim. Contact the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC today for a free case evaluation at 866.966.5240.