Top Motorcycle Crash Causes

There are many different risk factors and causes for motorcycle crashes. Some collision types are unique to motorcyclists. Unfortunately, motorcycle crashes tend to result in serious injuries and fatalities because motorcyclists have little to protect them from the impact. In fact, motorcyclists make up 3% of all road users, but 14% of all traffic-involved fatalities. Clearly, riding a motorcycle involves a certain degree of risk.

However, we hope that some of this risk can be lessened through awareness and education. Whether you’re a motorcyclist or driver, it’s important to understand some of the common dangers riders face every day. By keeping these dangers in mind and working to avoid them, you can help make the roads safer for all users.

Motorcycle Crash Risk Factors

Sometimes, a motorcyclist’s choices can increase the likelihood of a crash. It’s well established that the following risky behaviors up a biker’s chances of getting hurt:

  • Speed. Speeding was a factor in 32% of all fatal motorcycle accidents in 2021. The more you speed, the less control you have of your bike and less time you have to react to a hazard.
  • Alcohol. 35% of fatal motorcycle accidents in 2021 involved a rider under the influence of alcohol.
  • Inexperience. New riders should make sure to take a motorcycle safety course and get plenty of practice in a variety of conditions. More experienced riders shouldn’t get complacent. It’s a good idea to stay up on skills.
  • Helmet usage. Roughly 60% of motorcyclist fatalities are due to head and brain injuries. While helmet usage won’t prevent every death, it will lower a rider’s risk.

As we move on to discuss some of the more common crash scenarios, keep these risk factors in mind. Adding any of the risk factors above could increase a rider’s chances of being seriously injured or killed.

Road Hazards Can be Tragic for Motorcyclists

Unexpected bumps, dips, turns, or debris can cause an unsuspecting motorcyclist to crash. Some of these hazards may be only minor nuisances for a car. In fact, many road hazards that could cause trouble for a motorcyclist wouldn’t even register as an issue for the driver of a car.

Here are some examples of road conditions that could pose a threat for a motorcyclist:

  • Potholes
  • Construction sites
  • Standing water/slick surfaces
  • Debris
  • Unmarked train tracks
  • Hidden driveways

There is not always going to be a warning for every hazard. Motorcyclists should stay alert and ride defensively.

Car Doors Opening into Traffic

Car doors can be a risk for motorcyclists. For example, imagine a driver tries to exit her vehicle while it’s parallel parked on a busy road. If she does not check before opening her door, it could swing into the path of a motorcyclist.

Washington State has a law that requires those exiting a vehicle to check before opening their door into traffic (RCW 46.61.620). Put another way, it’s not just a good idea to use caution when opening doors – it’s the law.

Left-Hand Turns are a Common Motorcycle Crash Scenario

A common crash scenario is when a car makes a left-hand turn, striking a motorcyclist. Intersections are particularly dangerous. It’s not uncommon for a driver to later claim they just didn’t see the motorcyclist.

As drivers, what we expect to watch for are other cars. It takes full attention to really look for all the other road users who may be crossing our path. This includes motorcyclists, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists.

Motorcycle Crash Causes Infographic

Collisions with Fixed Objects

Motorcyclists are more likely to have a crash with a fixed object such as a guardrail, light pole, or tree. Of 5,114 fatal crashes that occurred in 2019, 23% involved objects. By comparison, only 16% involved a vehicle.

What could cause a motorcycle to strike a fixed object? There are several possible explanations:

  • Loss of control of bike
  • Sudden swerving or stopping maneuver
  • Loss of traction, such as on a sharp turn or slippery surface
  • Risky behaviors, such as speeding or alcohol

Motorcycle Defects Can Cause Accidents

While not as common, motorcycle defects can trigger a crash. This could include defects in the design itself, or a modification made to a bike. Faulty tires can also be dangerous.

Crash Types Where Motorcyclists Could File a Compensation Claim

As you’ve seen from our list, some crashes causes result from a motorcyclist’s risky behavior or choices. However, there are many times when a motorcyclist is not at fault! If you can prove that someone else was negligent and caused your crash, you could pursue a compensation claim.

For example:

  • A driver failed to yield the right-of-way and struck you making a turn.
  • A city failed to warn of hazards at a road construction site.
  • A motorcycle manufacturer sold you a defective bike.

Each of these scenarios is different and would require different types of evidence to build a case. We recommend that you call an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer who can help learn the facts of what happened and guide you through the process.

Our lawyers offer free case evaluations and will only charge you a fee if we’re able to win you a settlement. We understand the unique concerns about motorcycle claims and can take the legal stress off your shoulders. Call us or fill out the short form on our website to get started.

Additional Reading

We have written additional content about motorcycle crashes previously:

    Get a Free Case Evaluation