Motorcycle Accident Statistics: Key Facts and Figures You Need to Know

Motorcycle Accident Statistics: Key Facts and Figures You Need to KnowThe history of the motorcycle is more stop-and-start than full-throttle. The first internal combustion motorbike was introduced by Daimler Reitwagen in Germany in 1885. Inventors in a few countries were making progress on types of self-propelled cycles all around the same time, but the Reitwagen was the first that resembled the motorcycles we know today. In 1894, the German Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first motorcycle that was mass-produced for the public. Nine years later, the first Harley-Davidson was introduced across the pond in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Indian Motorcycle was the precursor to the Harley by two years, but the brand is not as well-known as the iconic Harley.

No matter what they ride, today’s motorcyclists are passionate about riding and like to spend time with other bikers. Hundreds of motorcycle clubs are peppered across the United States. The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) is the largest Motorcycle Association in the United States. Founded in 1924, the association works to protect the motorcycling lifestyle and promote the safety of all riders. The AMA promotes certain voluntary safety measures, such as going through safety training and wearing proper safety gear to ride.

Rider safety is important. Even the most skilled and experienced motorcyclist can’t control dangers like other drivers, the weather, and road conditions – and accidents can happen. Here’s what you need to know about motorcycle accidents.

How dangerous is riding a motorcycle?

The act of riding a motorcycle itself does not affect your life expectancy per se. However, accidents involving motorcycles can be catastrophic. Most head-on crashes with another motor vehicle such as a car, truck, or SUV are deadly. Your best bet is to obey all safety regulations in order to prevent an accident.

Only motorcyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet by law in Oklahoma.  Riders who do choose to wear a helmet can increase their chances of surviving a motorcycle crash. Helmets prevent fatalities about 37 percent of the time for motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. The NHTSA classifies a motorcyclist as either a passenger or the “motorcycle rider”, aka the driver. Drivers are more likely to wear a helmet if they had not been drinking (66%) versus if they had consumed alcohol (52%). This is according to data published in 2023 by the NHTSA in its most recent Traffic Safety Facts report.

How many motorcycle deaths are there in the USA per year?

Motorcycle deaths are on the rise in the United States. The U.S. NHTSA reported 5,932 deaths of motorcyclists in the country for the year 2021. This was an increase over the 5,579 motorcycle fatalities recorded in 2020. That’s 353 additional fatalities.

Oklahoma also has its fair share of deadly motorcycle accidents. According to KFOR, “each year in Oklahoma, an average of 76 motorcycle riders and passengers are killed in traffic accidents” and another 991 riders and passengers sustain injuries. The news also reported that “70% of motorcyclists killed in OK [in 2021] were not wearing helmets.”

Oklahoma County has the most motorcycle accidents in the state, per the data reported by the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. Most of the crashes occurred on city streets (41%). Fifty-three percent involved a second vehicle.

What are the most frequent conditions for motorcycle accident fatalities?

The U.S. National Safety Council (NSC) has identified a few common trends in motorcycle fatalities – and some of them will surprise you. The top trends for fatalities in 2021 involved the following five conditions:

  1. In good weather (83%). Only 17 percent of motorcycle fatalities occur in bad weather, contrary to popular belief.
  2. With non-alcohol-impaired drivers (72%). Only 28 percent of motorcyclists are under the influence of alcohol at the time of their fatal crash.
  3. On urban roads (67%). 33 percent of motorcycle fatalities actually take place on rural roadways. Rural roadways are less populated, and drivers may let their guard down.
  4. In crashes involving two vehicles (53%). About 38 percent of motorcycle fatalities were single-vehicle accidents, and 8 percent were multi-vehicle accidents involving more than two vehicles.
  5. During the nighttime (50%). Riding a motorcycle in the daytime is just as dangerous as riding a motorcycle at night when visibility is lower across the board.

This data challenges some of the commonly held notions about motorcycle accidents, such as the tendency to blame the weather or an intoxicated operator.

What happens in motorcycle accidents as compared to cars?

Riding on a motorcycle is more dangerous than driving in a car as a general rule. Motorcycles are responsible for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. But they only make up three percent of all vehicles registered in the United States, according to the NSC. This makes motorcycles disproportionately represented among fatalities as compared to cars. Cars provide protection that motorcycles just cannot.

One major difference is that cars have airbags that inflate to protect drivers in an accident. They also have seatbelts, which motorcycles do not. The rationale behind not having seatbelts on motorcycles is that it’s actually safer to be free of the bike in the event of an accident. A driver who is displaced from the bike may nevertheless be injured by impacting the roadway or another object in their trajectory.

Where do most motorcycle accidents occur?

Most commonly, motorcycle accidents occur at intersections. About one-third of all motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle turning in front of the motorcycle. Other drivers may not see the motorcycle or may incorrectly gauge the speed of the bike as it approaches. Motorcycle drivers must be extra-vigilant when passing through intersections.

Blind spots on a multi-lane road or highway are another danger to motorcyclists. Motorcycle drivers must be on the offense around other vehicles that may not be able to see them as they approach from behind. The motorcycle may be struck if the vehicle makes a lane change without physically looking behind them.

Lane splitting is another dangerous practice. Lane splitting is when a motorcycle drives between indicated traffic lanes, essentially making a lane for itself. Car drivers are not expecting any type of vehicle to be traveling in that undesignated area and may inadvertently harm a motorcyclist who is passing through unlawfully.

What causes the most motorcycle accidents in Oklahoma?

The leading cause of motorcycle accidents is negligence. Examples of that negligence include:

  • Failure to yield
  • Following too closely (“tailgating”)
  • Failure to signal
  • Disregarding a warning signal
  • Improper lane use
  • Fatigue
  • Inattention/distraction
  • Speeding and/or recklessness

One thing to remember is that negligence does not equal maliciousness. Imagine a driver who wants to merge into another lane. There’s a motorcycle rider next to that driver. If the driver fails to see the rider and hits that rider during the merge, there’s no malicious intent there – but that does not mean the driver is free from liability. Sharing the road with other people means taking steps to ensure that you are free and safe to merge, such as checking your mirrors, using turn signals, and looking around you before you go.

If you’ve been in any type of motorcycle accident or other vehicular accident, Cunningham & Mears can help. Our motorcycle accident lawyers know the rights of motorcyclists in Oklahoma. We’ll advise you of these rights and fight to get you the maximum compensation for your injuries. Have you lost time from work? We’re here to help you with that, too. Call or contact our Oklahoma City injury lawyers to schedule your free case evaluation.