Proving Fault in Your Motorcycle Crash

The number of motorcycle accidents and fatalities in California is on the rise, with a 23 percent increase from 2003 to 2012, according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. In LA County, fatalities went up an astounding 59 percent in a two-year period from 2010 to 2012. It may seem like these accidents occur suddenly, without warning, and that there are no answers for families grieving the loss of loved ones. Yet, there is much to learn from the statistics available to us – and also much significance in holding individuals accountable for their negligence.

If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury in a motorcycle accident, let an experienced personal injury attorney review your case for free. The Salamati Law Firm serves all of California and has experience fighting for maximum compensation through trials when necessary. Call 888-259-4060 at any time for a free, no-obligation case assessment from an experienced Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyer.

What percentage of motorcyclists crash?

California has the most registered motorcycles of any state in America, with 8.4 million bikes on the road in 2014 (the last year for which Department of Transportation data is available). Of the motorcyclists out there, about 1% will become seriously injured. While that may not seem like a large percentage, it equates to about 92,000 motorcyclist injuries per year.

Worse yet, among drivers 40 and older, there was a 14 percent increase in fatalities from 2005 to 2014 (compared to a 1 percent increase among other cohorts). The fatality rate per registered motorcycle was six times the fatality rate for passenger vehicle registrants, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2014, motorcycle drivers were 27 times more likely to die in a crash than passenger car occupants and nearly five times more likely to be injured.

Do most motorcycle crashes occur on freeways or intersections?

  • Most motorcycle accidents happen at intersections. The most dangerous situation for motorcycle drivers is approaching an intersection where cars are making left-hand turns. This type of collision accounts for 42 percent of all accidents involving a passenger car and motorcycle. Most often, the turning car strikes the motorcycle as the driver passes straight through the intersection.
  • Most crashes occur on major NON-INTERSTATE roads. Fifty-seven percent of motorcycle crashes (2,436) were on major NON-INTERSTATE roads in 2014, compared to 14 percent of accidents (621) occurring on interstates and freeways. Of the accidents occurring on major thoroughfares, they were split almost evenly among rural (1,275) and urban (1,161) crashes. Another 27 percent of accidents (1,154) happened on minor roads.

Top causes of motorcycle accidents

Statistics suggest there are many factors believed to play a role in motorcycle collisions and fatalities. Some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents include:

  • Age: Older motorcyclists account for more than half of all fatalities, with 40 percent of deaths afflicting drivers aged 40+. Researchers from Brown University found that declines in vision and reaction time, along with increasing body fragility and the larger sized bikes driven by older riders have created a perfect storm. Those aged 60+ were 2.5 times more likely to sustain serious injuries and 3 times more likely to require hospital care than the youngest riders. Fractures, dislocations, and brain damage were more common injuries for older riders.
  • Alcohol use: The NHTSA reports that 29 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes had blood alcohol concentrations at or above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. This percentage is slightly higher than passenger car drivers (22%). Motorcycle drivers who abused alcohol were often between the ages of 35-39, traveling at night and not wearing helmets.
  • Speed: A third of motorcyclists (33%) killed in crashes were speeding at the time of the collision. This is much higher than drivers of passenger cars (20%), light truck drivers (17%) and large truck drivers (7%). Speed was a factor in 57 percent of “super sport” motorcycle owner crashes.
  • Week and time of day: The largest percentage of motorcyclists (24%) are killed or injured during rush hour between 3 and 6 pm on weekdays. The most dangerous time to ride on the weekends is during the afternoons from 3 to 6 pm, when 25.2 percent of injuries occur — or the early evening hours of 6 to 9 pm, when 22.9 percent of fatalities and 20.9 percent of injuries occur. Travel tends to be safest during the early morning hours before 9 am, when fewer vehicles are on the roads.
  • Licensing: While most motorcyclists have a valid driver’s license to operate their vehicles, 28 percent of those involved in fatal crashes did not meet the necessary licensing requirements.
  • Type of Motorcycle: A 2007 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that drivers of lightweight “super sport” racing bikes were nearly four times more likely to die than those driving other types of motorcycles. These bikes account for about 9 percent of all registrations compared to the more popular “cruiser” or “touring” style bikes favored by older riders. The rate of mortality was 22.5 deaths for every 10,000 registered vehicles.

What percentage of motorcycle accidents are caused by cars?

The data suggests passenger car drivers are largely responsible for most motorcycle accidents. Car drivers were responsible for 60 percent of collisions with motorcycles, according to research conducted by the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research who assessed 10 years of crash reports in their state. They also found that 34 percent of motorcycle crashes only involve one vehicle with no other driver to blame.

Hurt Report findings on motorcycle accidents  

The “Hurt Report” assembled by the University of Southern California Traffic Safety Center offers the most telling information about motorcycle accidents in our state. The information, published in 1981, still resonates today and has been described as “the most comprehensive motorcycle safety study of the 20th century.” A team of investigators (all motorcyclists themselves) looked at 1,000 data elements for each accident that occurred from 1976-1977. More than 900 on-scene accident investigations and 3,600 police report assessments were done, including photographs, environmental surveys, rider interviews, hospital records and crash damage measurements were deconstructed as part of the study.

Here’s what Professor Harry Hurt and colleagues found:

  • 75 percent of California accidents involved collision with another vehicle, usually a passing automobile.
  • Roadway defects were present in 2 percent of crashes.
  • Animals running into the road caused 1 percent of crashes.
  • Weather is a factor in 2 percent of crashes.
  • Vehicle failure accounted for 3 percent of accidents
  • Two-thirds of accidents involved motorcycle rider error (like slide-outs from over-braking or spills from taking the turn too wide as a result of speeding or under-cornering).
  • Two-thirds of multiple vehicle accidents involved a car driver who violated the motorcyclist’s right-of-way.
  • Deliberate aggressive driving is rarely a cause of motorcycle accidents.
  • Most motorcyclists crash while on very short trips shopping, running errands, or out for entertainment.
  • Glare or view obstruction from other vehicles is a factor in almost half of multiple vehicle accidents.
  • The pre-crash speed of most motorcycles is just 29.8 miles per hour.
  • One in 1,000 accidents involve unusually high speeds with an average of 86 mph.
  • Though the media focuses on young driver accidents, the study found most victims were between 30 and 50.
  • Most motorcycle riders have had no formal training. More than half of victims had less than 5 months experience on the accident bike, though total street riding experience was almost 3 years.
  • Almost half of fatal accidents show some alcohol use.
  • A significant number of motorcycle riders were unlicensed or had revoked licenses.
  • Injury in motorcycle accidents is extremely likely, with 45 percent of those injuries considered “severe.”
  • Head and chest injuries caused most fatalities. Sixty percent of motorcyclists were not wearing helmets.
  • Less than 10% of the motorcycle riders had insurance to cover medical or property expenses from the crash.

Need help finding the cause of a motorcycle accident in California?

The Salamati Law Firm is happy to assist with a thorough investigation of your motorcycle accident. We will put our knowledge, experience and resources to work to help you achieve the best possible outcome and the compensation you deserve. Filing suit can never bring back a lost loved one or undo the physical damage that has been done, but it can at least hold those liable accountable and provide some relief from financial hardship during this challenging period. Call 888-259-4060 for a complimentary, no-obligation case review with a Los Angeles attorney.

Motorcycle accident causes: resources