Riding any kind of vehicle on the roads can be dangerous. Whether a car or a motorcycle, all vehicles come with inherent risks. It’s not uncommon, however, for people to automatically assume that one is more dangerous than the other — typically the motorcycle. But what is the true answer? Are cars safer than motorcycles? Are motorcycles safer than cars?
In this article, our San Francisco motorcycle accident lawyers will dive into car vs. motorcycle accident facts to help you discover the answers for which you are looking.
Is a Motorcycle an Automobile?
First, is a motorcycle an automobile, or is it in a class of its own?
Technically, a motorcycle is not an automobile. The basic definition of an automobile is a road vehicle with four wheels and a combustion engine or electric motor. As a motorcycle typically has only two wheels, it does not fall into the category of an automobile.
However, the definition of a motor vehicle is simple – a road vehicle powered by a combustion engine or other motor. As this definition does not specify the number of wheels, a motorcycle can be considered a type of motor vehicle or simply a vehicle — and the terms motor vehicle and automobile are often used interchangeably.
Car vs. Motorcycle Accident Statistics: Is a Motorcycle Safer Than a Car?
To determine whether a motorcycle is safer than a car or vice versa, it’s necessary to look at the statistics surrounding motorcycle and car accidents.
In 2020, there were 38,824 car accident fatalities, and in that same year, there were 5,506 motorcycle fatalities. If you just look at these two numbers, it would seem that cars are more dangerous because they lead to more fatal accidents. However, this doesn’t account for the fact that there are typically more cars on the road than motorcycles.
To better compare, let’s look at the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. For cars, the rate is only 1.34, but for motorcycles, the rate is 30.68 — that’s a significant difference. This means motorcycle accidents have a higher fatality rate than cars.
If you think about the design of motorcycles, it also makes sense that they would be more dangerous and lead to higher rates of fatal accidents. As motorcyclists are more exposed when riding a motorcycle, they are more prone to sustaining severe injuries in an accident. On the other hand, car occupants are more protected because they are inside the vehicle, which means the car takes the brunt of the impact in a crash.
Motorcycles are also much smaller and thus less visible than larger vehicles, which means they are more likely to get hit by other drivers who can’t see them. For example, when a driver is merging lanes, they can more easily see when another larger car is in their blind spot, but a motorcycle can disappear entirely from view.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents vs. Causes of Car Accidents
Though the causes of motorcycle and car accidents are often the same, such as speeding, running red lights or stop signs, and driving while intoxicated, there are some differences.
Motorcyclists, for example, can lane split, which is an action that can increase their chances of being in an accident. While lane splitting is legal in California, it is still dangerous because other vehicles tend to pay less attention to motorcycles driving up beside them. When motorcycles split lanes, they increase their chances of getting hit when a car decides to change lanes.
Hazards on the road are also more dangerous for motorcyclists than for cars. For example, a pothole might not cause a vehicle to get into an accident as the car can more easily drive over the hole without any issues. A motorcyclist, however, cannot easily maneuver over a pothole and thus could lose control of their bike and get into an accident.
There is something that car drivers do more often than motorcyclists that can cause more car accidents, which is worth noting. Car drivers can more easily get distracted while driving compared to motorcyclists.
In a car, you can take your eyes off the road or even your hands off the wheel, such as when talking to passengers, eating while driving, adjusting the radio, or reaching into the passenger seat to grab something. All of these actions can increase a driver’s chances of causing an accident. Operating a motorcycle, however, requires much more attention, and thus, motorcyclists do not tend to get into accidents as often due to distracted driving.
Car vs. Motorcycle Accident: How Do Lawsuits Differ?
Car accident claims and motorcycle accident claims are generally handled the same, though each case can vary depending on the circumstances. That said, it is not uncommon for there to be prejudice against motorcyclists, which can make it difficult for motorcycle accident victims to argue their case.
Even though motorcycles are technically more dangerous than cars, this does not mean the motorcyclist is automatically the one to blame for what happened. Depending on what exactly occurred, either the car driver or the motorcyclists could be at fault. And in some cases, both the driver and the motorcyclist could share in liability for what happened.
No matter the situation, it is beneficial to consult an attorney after you have been in an accident. Whether you were driving a car or operating a motorcycle, an attorney can help protect your best interests and ensure the right party is held accountable. A lawyer can also help you build a strong case if you were the victim to ensure you are fully and fairly compensated for the damages you have suffered.
California Motorcycle and Car Accident Injury Attorney
At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, our motorcycle and car accident injury attorneys know what it takes to ensure our clients get the full and fair compensation they deserve to help pay for their medical bills and other damages.
For help with your motorcycle or car accident, call us at 877-380-8852 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.